Friday, September 27, 2013

Getting the most out of your candles

Like most people I like to burn candles in my home. It makes a home more inviting while helping to cover the smell of kids and pets :) Also like many people, I like the expensive candles. You know the ones that cost $23 a jar and promise hours upon hours of burn time. My problem is that there's always a good amount of wax left at the bottom of these candles that goes to waste when the wick is spent. I'm paying good money for that wax that gets tossed out with the trash so I decided to do something about it!
I picked up a handful of cheap votive holders and a package of wicks and decided to transfer this still fragrant and usable wax to a smaller container to make new baby candles. Then I decided to invite my girlfriend over with her spent candles and make a fun project out of it. Turns out I got help too :)

Our materials
 Between the 2 of us we had 4 usable candles. One of mine I passed on because it was a failed attempt previously to layer the wax from more than one candle. My intention at the time had been to keep this wick-less candle on the stove top so it would scent my kitchen whenever we used the stove but it never occurred to me that the waxes would all meld together when melted this way (and the resulting smell wasn't harmonious). Duh, I know. Hindsight is always 20/20!

I used a hot water bath to melt the wax rather than microwaving it because I was afraid of scorching the wax (and killing my microwave). This method is easy, quick and almost fool proof.

It's hard to get a picture of steam!
 Once the wax was completely melted I removed the remaining wick stub left at the bottom (except a couple pesky little bastards that got away from me) and CAREFULLY poured the melted wax into my votive holder. I bought pre-waxed wicks with the little metal clip attached. The clip allowed the wicks to stand up straight-ish in the glasses on their own. I just popped a wick into each candle holder and poured the melted wax slowly into the glass.

In case you were wondering, that's a Mickey glove oven mitt :)
 It's damned near impossible to pour off the melted wax without getting some of the soot in the bottom of the used candle too but I tried anyway. This particular candle below had a lot of soot so I got more into the new glass than I wanted. I was hoping it would settle out like it had in the hot water bath but the wax sets up to fast.

The wax hardens from the bottom up which didn't give the soot time to settle out like we were hoping

Ta Da!
The size of our votive holders were slightly different and the large one is a double shot glass so that one held a lot of wax. We each got a new candle from each of the old spent ones plus a little extra to make a layered one (on the end). For the layered candle, I just put the glass in the refrigerator after the first layer to make it set up faster and once that was firm enough I added the second layer of wax. I was worried that pouring melted wax over the first layer would melt it again but it held up with just a few minutes in the fridge.

After they had set up we found that the middles had sunk in each candle. I'm not sure how this will affect total wax usage :/

So now I have all these new candles and a bunch of dirty, empty jars. Hmmmm... I had seen something on Pinterest about how to clean them so I dug it up the Pin and tried it out (see the tutorial here ).
I put one of my jars in the freezer but only left it in there for probably about 30 minutes instead of the "at least an hour" like the tutorial suggests. It was perfectly fine in this case since there really wasnt much wax left in the jar. I also peeled the label of first and much to my surprise found that it came right off with no fight.

Just out of the freezer

The remaining wax shrinks and cracks as it pulls away from the glass. SCIENCE!

This is after using a butter knife to break it up. Lots of wax still clinging to the jar.

I hacked away at it with an old butter knife first, then scraped the inside with a flexible plastic scraper I use for cleaning. Once most of it was out I cleaned it thoroughly with hot soapy water and the rough side of a sponge and finished it off with some citrus based de-gummer to remove the label from the bottom. I ended up with a beautifully clean jar to use around the house!

It reminds me of the apothecary jars I love but never buy because they're expensive.
Lessons Learned

1. Soot transfer is an issue but once the wax cools and sets up it's not very noticeable. I think maybe putting the newly poured candles on a warming plate would allow the wax to stay warm enough so that any transferred soot could at least settle out first. I don't have a warming plate so if someone gives it a try let me know how it goes!

2. Uneven settling of the wax is an issue but I have no idea how to fix that. Research is needed!!

3. An expensive, good quality candle in a nice glass jar is worth the money with a little extra work! This could be a fun project to do with older kids too.

I will DEFINITELY be doing this again. I have another one of my jars in the freezer as I type this so that once clean I can use it in my bathroom for cotton swabs. Not only do you get every last drop of yummy smelling wax out of these but you get a beautiful glass jar with a lid when it's all over!! Now THAT'S worth $23!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dumpster Dresser

I have a soft spot in my heart for broken, unwanted things. It explains a hand full of my high school and college friendships and certainly half the furniture in my house so when my neighbor told me there was a dresser in front of one of our dumpsters I couldn't resist. I tossed the kids in the wagon and went to check it out. It was broken and abused. Sad and unwanted. But solid wood with dovetailed drawers. Of its 4 drawers, one was completely missing and another was broken, its front face dislocated completely from the rest of it. I saw through it's rough demeanor and brought the van back to get it. I wrestled it into the back of my van by myself and drove it back to my unit with the hatch open, that's how determined I was to save her from the land fill.

Despite the missing drawer I saw that the ledge where the top drawer had rested was completely flat and level all the way to the back of the dresser and could easily (and fabulously!) be converted into a shelf. The broken drawer was an easy fix as none of the joints were broken, it was just dislocated. I busted out my wood glue and put it back together. There was a big chunk missing from one of the legs which I planned to fix with wood filler and the top sheet of wood was peeling up but that got glued and clamped over night. With her major repairs done, I just needed to clean her up and give her a makeover.

A puzzle that hopefully won't come undone again

I forgot to take the picture with the clamps on but this is the corner where the top board was peeling up- FIXED!
A month or two passed and it hung out in my dining room next to the ill fitting corner hutch (positioned flush against a straight wall) while I worked on smaller projects and generally enjoyed the summer with my kids. It was really quite useful and re-fired my desire for a more fitting dining room storage piece (more about that later). In the meantime I was trying to decide how to refinish this little gem when it hit me one day while looking through my boards on Pinterest. I really like how this dresser re-do looks with a painted and antiqued body and stained top portion. That was it!
It had been storming pretty hard here in New Hampshire but I decided I could safely strip the top of this dresser right in my kitchen while my youngest napped and my oldest was in school (the jug says safe for indoor use). I gooped it on there nice and thick and gave an hour or so before scraping. As I thought, the stain didn't come off completely in the tight little crevices but I like how it looks anyway so I'm not going to worry about getting every scrap of old finish off.

Proof that I did, in fact, apply generously!
Scraped and cleaned up- already a big improvement!
A close up of the result
It continued raining for a couple of days after that so I gave it all weekend to dry out completely before sanding. I did a lot of reading about how to apply stain and polyurethane and like always it was very clear that sanding is a must. I started with a very course grit sand paper (100) and worked lightly with the grain on just the stripped top of the dresser. It took the remaining finish off without any real effort on my part. I finished it off with a fine grit (220) and again lightly worked with the grain. It was super smooth after, like buttah. After that I used the same piece of fine grit and lightly roughed up the rest of the dresser. My goal is to do an antique finish on this so I don't want to loose all that authentic wear in the current finish. I also discovered during sanding that the pink looking blob on the unsanded drawer below was more likely to have been an escaped bit of stripper rather than frosting like I thought. It did eat through the finish a little and left a blob shaped dent which I didn't want to sand down too much partly because I was worried about blending it and partly because I just didn't want to. I'm impatient, we've covered this :)

Yes, this is the actual width of my galley kitchen. And yes, I did this all inside my tiny kitchen. And yes, I did have dust everywhere afterwards.
With the dresser all sanded down it was time to finish her. I wandered around Home Depot for like an hour and a half pondering and picking out paint, stain, polyurethane and brushes. I had a piece of plywood cut by a very nice (and patient) man to my exact dimensions and was lucky enough to find a simple piece of skinny edging that was almost the same exact width as the plywood. Overall it was a very pleasant trip with my 6 year old daughter who was fascinated by the saw and the paint mixing machine and happily played games on my phone while I poked about the rest of the time.
After the kids were in bed that night I started to just check to make sure that the plywood fit where it  was intended to go and although I told my husband I was just going to check it and wouldn't be working on it right then because the kids were in bed and I couldn't be banging nails and stuff like that blah, blah, blah that's exactly what I ended up doing. I laid down some wood glue and put the plywood in place (it fit PERFECT, sliding in place with a couple of taps of the mallet) and then hammered in a few brads just to make sure it was secure.

 I was lucky that the ledge that the drawer slid on went straight all the the way to the back of the dresser which worked perfectly for the support of the shelf.
Tight squeeze. You probably could hear my less than exemplary language from where you were. You can also see the raw edge of the plywood which I needed to cover up with the $2 wood edging I bought.
 Next I measured and cut the edging and then glued and nailed that in place as well.

The use of a brightly colored pencil is not required but definitely adds some flare to your project.

We'll just cover that up...
Missing drawer conversion to shelf: DONE!
Now it's time for COLOR! I dragged it outside, dropped it on my toe (OUCH!) and then vacuumed any remaining dust that may have been on it and taped it up with some large sheets of paper to protect the bottom from getting dripped on. Good thing the painters tape I used is so old that it didn't really hold up the paper! Oh well, good enough.
I was nervous about this part. I've never worked with wood stain before so I didn't know what to expect and honestly I wouldn't have been surprised if the can had grown lips and told me I wasn't qualified to use it when I opened it up. It did no such thing of course and went willingly onto my cheap foam brush. I painted it on slowly and consistently, overlapping my edges slightly as I had read was required for a nice finish. I let it sit for about 5 minutes (the can suggests 5-15 minutes but 5 was all I could stand) and then wiped it down with an old white cloth diaper to spread it out and make sure all the excess was soaked up. Now came the real hard part: waiting the 4-6 hours before doing a second coat!

That front piece of paper was a lost cause at this point.
After one coat of stain
After 2 coats of stain
I stopped at 2 coats as I was totally digging the color it achieved. After a few hours I was ready to start putting on the polyurethane. Just like with the stain, I have never worked with poly before and after reading up on the best way to apply poly for a super shiny finish here I was both prepared and completely intimidated. I hadn't been able to find a brush in all of Home Depot that's package said "natural bristles" so I decided to use one of the cheap foam brushes I bought instead. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the poly was pretty easy to work with; one good dip into the can with the brush was enough to make it close to halfway across the top surface. I got one good coat on it and let it dry overnight.
The next day I planned to second coat it and prime the bottom portion as well. I was not about to mess up my finish by wrestling it outside by myself again so I threw down a drop cloth in my dining room and opened a window (AFTER I wrestled the air conditioner out of the window by myself- RAWR). The can of poly says to use a 220 grit paper between coats so I very lightly sanded the dried first coat and cleaned it up thoroughly afterwards. I was a bit nervous as you could see the scratches the sand paper left in the shiny surface, even though I had sanded very lightly to avoid that very thing. I taped up the bottom (see below) to preserve a clean line between the stained and polyurethaned top and the painted bottom.

You can see the scratches left by the sand paper
I got another coat of poly on the top and started priming. I got to the front and realized I'd forgotten to repair the big chunk that had been broken off one of the legs. Oops. I repaired it using some epoxy for wood repair and once it was dried and cured (about 15 minutes) I just sanded it flat and primed over it. Sweet :)

Stinky play doh for furniture DIY'ers!
I was on a roll so I didn't stop there. After priming (2 coats) and drying I had my husband help me bring it outside and I started painting. I had picked out an off-white color for the dresser, something with a subtle "greige" under tone in a satin finish. It only took one coat. My excitement which was growing all day was peaking out at max levels. This dresser was looking seriously good.

Wow, right?!
I let it dry over the weekend because the next step was to antique it and I wanted to make sure that the paint was completely dry and sandable without peeling like latex paint is want to do. I grabbed my 220 grit sand paper and worked at sanding off areas of the dresser where you would expect to find natural wear over time. My goal with this was a natural antique finish rather than the heavy stuff I've been seeing all over the internet. I like a cleaner look, more chic than shabby. After that I applied the antiquing glaze in the areas where I had sanded and obsessed over this for at least an hour.

Sanded but before antique glaze

After antiquing

Subtle but it gets the point across
I had saved the original hardware which was horribly dirty and tarnished. I cleaned them up with some warm soapy water and then scrubbed them with some steal wool before mounting them to some paper bowls and spray painting them with the oil brushed bronze finish paint I had used on a couple of previous projects. These were handles rather than knobs which presented a challenge as the handles would lay down on the flat surface when drying and that would obviously mess up the final finish. I ended up hanging the bowl with mounted hardware upside down inside my kids' sand buckets and let them dry that way. Brilliant, I know ;)

You'll just have to use your imagination as to what the hardware looks like drying upside down inside the buckets :)
I also got a great tip from my step dad- after the second coat of poly I used steel wool to sand it down instead of the fine grit sandpaper and was relieved to find it worked much better. I got a good sanding and as long as I went with the grain of the piece you can't really see the very fine scuffs left behind. I did some research and found what I was looking for here so that I can go back to the store and get a natural bristled brush for my third and final coat of poly. I found that the foam brushes introduced a lot of tiny bubbles in the surface so I wasn't going to get the super shiny unbroken surface I was after if I kept using those.
I was able to pick up a cheap natural bristled brush at the craft store in town and finished off the last coat of polyurethane. I really am thrilled with how it came out. I'm having a really hard time with the idea of selling this little beauty. I just love it!

The top is so shiny I got a reflection like I was shooting a mirror!

Close up of the distressed and antiqued finish

Lessons Learned

#1: Foam brushes work great for stain but not so much for polyurethane. I was able to pick up a natural bristled brush for a whopping $1.49 so definitely get one if you're planning on using poly.

#2: Skip sanding with a fine grit sand paper on polyurethane. Maybe a finer grit paper would work better? I don't know but steel wool definitely does a good job. Avoid sanding in circular motions though and continue sanding with the grain of the wood for well hidden sanding marks.

#3: One man's trash is another man's treasure! Someone else deemed this dresser a lost cause and tossed it in the trash. I saw it differently and look what I ended up with!

I hope this inspires you to save something from the land fill and restore it to a new found glory. With just a little bit of work you might end up with something fantastic and it's cheaper and more fulfilling than buying particleboard run-of-the-mill McFurniture. Don't be ashamed to dumpster dive!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Crafty little cabinet

A friend of mine picked up this cute little cabinet from his grandmother and immediately thought of me. The inside was a wreck, someone had hot glued croqueted doilies to the shelves and something had spilled on one of the shelves and turned hard and resin-like. The outside looked great though and it was totally unique so I just had to have it!
The fabulous inside

Filthy but cute!
I scrubbed it up and scraped all that awful hot glue off then sanded it lightly. The inside was pretty stained and despite my best efforts to get off that resin-like spill (I even used paint stripper!) it made it apparent that it wasn't going anywhere so I decided to paint the inside a slightly darker color than the outside. I decided right off there was NO WAY I was going to hand paint the inside so I taped it up and used some news paper and spray painted the heck out of the inside. The outside got primed and painted a high gloss sand color I had left over from another project.
Ready to spray!
Already a huge improvement

Reassembled with a new coat of paint

Why yes, there is a school bus and taxi holding my doors open ;)
 It still needed...something. After some Pinterest perusing I decided I really, really, REALLY wanted to try antiquing using tinted glaze and this was just the project to test it out on. I picked up some pre-tinted glaze in a smallish bottle at Lowes and some el cheapo foam brushes and planned on antiquing this bad boy during my little guy's next nap.
It was kind of nice really. It was an overcast rainy day so I spread out my drop cloth in the living room, turned on some cheesy ghost hunting documentary on Netflix (don't judge) and glazed away. I wore gloves because this time I was going to preserve my at-home mani dammit!

Got all my stuff together, why do I not have a glass of wine with this?!

Subtle but it came out great!
I'm really happy with this one. I was going to keep it but it don't have a place or a purpose for it so I've decided to sell it instead. I'm not sure what it's intended purpose is but it would make a great cabinet for a crafter, painter or even in a pantry!

A few notes about antiquing using glaze:
I used this Valspar Antiquing Glaze which is tinted in Asphaltum (black). It only cost a little over $9! The instructions on the bottle say to use a damp cloth and rub in using a circling motion and then wipe off excess. I applied it liberally with a foam brush and then used an old T-shirt rag that I could just throw out afterwards (I'm not big on clean up) that I could rub it down with. I ended up with a somewhat subtle finish which I really like. The glaze landed in all the crevices and stayed as well as slightly tinting the flat surfaces.
A close up of the finish (please excuse my yoga mat :)
 Lessons Learned:
1).  A little bit of antiquing glaze goes a long way so start with the smaller bottle like this. I used maybe a 1/4 cup for this whole project so this bottle will last me a while.

2). Wear gloves! I was so glad I did. This stuff gets messy.

3). Don't be afraid to try this technique. It was surprisingly easy to work with! It has a 15 minute dry time which gives you plenty of time to obsess over how much gets left behind on your project as long as you work in sections.

I am so glad I tried this out, you see it all over Pinterest but for some reason I wasn't into it until I saw this and this. I'm definitely looking forward to trying it out on other things and seeing it's many different applications! Have fun and go antique something!