If I had a hammer

Nearly forgot to take a photo Before After Bye bye wall What we start with Really filthy The coffee table The table all clamped up
Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture The table sanded down Painting the outside wall The inside nearly finished The coffee table back in place The dining area The door frame is finished Big difference

No sun, plenty of sanding

July 2008

Summer has turned out to be pretty miserable again this year. After a glorious 1st of July which I spent out on the battlefields with a US Marines officer and his wife the weather was swift to change. We have had some sunny spells and it hasn't really rained that much but it looks as though we are in for a Belfast summer - grey skies and humid.

Never mind, I have had plenty recently to keep me occupied.

To begin with I was asked by Sandra and Peter if I could take a small wall down for them. The problem being that the owner was looking to save as many bricks as possible for future use. At first glance it looked as though the mortar was pretty rotten and it would come down with a push.

This quickly turned out not to be the case and in local fashion the mix to hold it all together was made up included flint which made trying to clean the bricks up with a metal chisel an interesting experience.

It was a long and laborious task easing each brick off the wall and then getting it cleaned up. Some of the wall had just been thrown together with whatever was at hand so I sometimes found that by the time I had lifted off a layer of mortar it was to no avail as all that was underneath was a pile of rubble between bits of brick.

In the end a compromise was reached. And once I had about 300 off and cleaned up I was given the go ahead to simply knock the rest down. Now that was definitely the fun bit of the job.


The second job was helping to clean up furniture which had been badly damaged by flooding. The dining room chairs had all been badly stained and in some cases their varnish had been washed off all but completely.

The coffee table had expanded badly and it took months of drying out before the sliding tops would even move.

The front door

The front door

The front door was a mess and the sadest object was the dining room table, a large, solid affair which had expanded by centimetres, pushing the panels apart. Initially it was so soaked with water it could hardly be moved at all.

Whilst Sandra and Peter got on with renovating the walls I started on the dining room chairs. They were reasonable straightforward - except for the carved legs which are a pain to try and sand out. The chairs had originally been a golden colour but it was obvious that the stains on some of the chairs was never going to come out completely so they were re-varnished with an antique oak which would help disguise some of the worst areas.

By the time the dozen chairs were done and returned to the house the coffee table was in a much better condition so that was brought back and sanded up. The wood came up really well so it was given a light cherry stain and a clear matt varnish. You would hardly recognise the table after it was finished.

The rest of the work was going to have to be carried out at the house itself so my bag of tools was shipped off for a couple for weeks. It is quite sad to think that I actually have an almost complete sanding kit - and a Lurgan screwdriver !

Whilst I had been working at home Peter had clamped up the table to see if he could convince it that it wanted to be thinner. Glued and re-dowled into place there were still a number of spaces where the expansion had gone beyond fixing. But sure, that's what we have plastic wood for. This is great stuff for sticking your fingers together whilst trying to get a small amount between two pieces of wood. It seems to sand down fast than washes off.

The table took a couple of days to sand down and then, starting from the underside I began the varnishing. Once you start a coat of varnish it has to be finished off and the table was large enough to take over an hour each side.

In between coats of varnish the door was taken off its hinges and sanded down. It looked rubbish to begin with but underneath the old varnish we found a mahogany door. I picked a matching lasure (Exterior varnish) and the door took on a new life.

The final stage was to give Sandra and Peter a hand with a bit of painting inside and out before we could replace all the furniture.

The table had lost a lot of weight in drying out but we were worried that in moving it from the garage where I had been working on it back into the house that all the joints that Peter had cramped back into place would just explode on us.

My worries were unjustified and the table and seats took up pride of place once again in the dining area.


See also

Sanding away

Cassel : Bagpipe festival