Snag » How-To All Found. All Vintage. Wed, 05 Oct 2016 21:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Before and After: A Forum in Hell Wed, 15 Jun 2016 14:30:52 +0000 Whenever I tell people that I buy furniture from Craigslist often, they get kind of squirmy and ponder about the weird things I might encounter or the probability that it will end in some kind of shirtless, toothless Cops-style drama. It never has. Even the strangest places I’ve ever gone to buy something have turned out to be fairly benign. So, I never think much about answering an ad and hopping in the car. At least I didn’t before I bought this:


And I bet I know what you’re thinking, “Why did you buy that?” Let me  paint you a picture. The scene, as I pull up to a not-so-great house in a not-so-great neighborhood, is a running truck with two dudes parked in the driveway and a woman hanging out of the front door screaming back and forth with an unseen man inside the house. Cool. I wait by the front door, in the rain, until the screaming stops and the woman leads me to a garage behind the house—followed close behind by the man from the house and the two dudes from the truck. Oh…cool. But, I’ve made it this far, I’m either going to buy a credenza or get murdered in what appears to be a shed built for that purpose. I was informed they had just painted the floor and that’s why there was paint on the legs. And painty foot prints on top. Because why wouldn’t there be? Despite the ready-for-death condition of the piece, I decided to pity buy it—because there’s not a single other person on this entire Earth that would. One of the guys from the truck helped me carry it—informing me along that way that he could carry it by himself if I wanted because he had spent 25 years in prison power-lifting. Not terrifying at all.

At the end of the day they turned out to be OK people with a really beat up credenza. But I knew this credenza was from Stanley’s American Forum line and I knew that, despite appearances, it would clean up nicely. So how did I pull this off? Sanding, to start. Lots and lots of sanding. I had just bought a new random orbit sander that I had been wanting to try out. I figured this nothing-left-to-lose credenza was the perfect guinea pig.


I’ve always used a quarter sheet palm sander and I’ve always been annoyed by the little swirly marks it leaves. The random orbit sander is supposed to do away with that issue, and it did to a significant degree. But it can also chew through veneer pretty quickly, so be careful. Fortunately the sanding went well, but there were some ink and water stains that I knew I couldn’t strip or sand out and normal stain wouldn’t hide. My next resort was a major color shift to a darker tone to hide any minor flaws. For this I like to use General Finishes dye stain.


Dye stain is amazing. It’s water based, has no odor and imparts a deep, uniform color in one coat on practically any type of wood. No splotching. No resistance. Just even color. It takes a little technique though. Pro tip: work wet. Flood an entire surface and then wipe it all off with a rag—quickly. Dye stain dries fast and lap marks will show and can’t be corrected. It’s also worth noting that dye stain is permanent, like permanent permanent. So test on a scrap first. I was pretty happy with the results on this piece.

After sanding and one coat of dye stain.

After sanding and one coat of dye stain.

The dye stain helped, but there were still little nicks and flaws that needed some coverage and the color overall wasn’t quite right. My next go to is General Finishes gel stain. If you remember my post on refinishing Broyhill Brasilia, then you may remember that this product is a key step in that process. I used antique walnut because it’s what I had on hand (and was about the right color for this piece anyway).


One coat of this. Wipe it on and off evenly with a cotton rag. Then on to topcoat. My favorite product is General Finishes Arm-R-Seal satin urethane. It’s a strong finish that goes on like a poly but looks more like lacquer or a finer finish. And it’s super easy to apply. Wipe on evenly and thinly with a folded cotton t-shirt rag. Sand to 320 grit between coats. Usually three coats.


After the last coat, I used a 3M 7445 white polishing pad to knick off any specs of dust and give the finish a super smooth feel without scratching it. And with that…voila!



Sadly the super cool original American Forum pulls were long gone when I bought this, so I used some replacement porcelain knobs that I keep around for Drexel Declaration pieces. I like the contrast, but it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

IMG_8891 So often I hear people say, “the finish was beyond repair so I painted it.” And I can just about guarantee that whatever “beyond repair” means to them is not nearly as bad as this piece was. I’ll be brutally honest that I don’t like most painted mid-century furniture when restoration is viable. Aside from professionally applied, commercial quality paints, most hand applied latex and chalk paints don’t produce long lasting finishes. They build up thickly and chip and peel and repainting only builds up thicker and nastier. Paint also changes the original design intent of a piece of furniture. That’s not always a bad thing—but it’s almost always a bad thing. The beauty of quality wood—in this case gorgeous American walnut—is as timeless as a tree itself and the effort required to restore it properly isn’t much worse than painting. And it looks better. And it lasts longer. And that’s the end of my rant.

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How To: Date Your World Globe Thu, 09 Jun 2016 19:07:02 +0000 Hello! It has been so long since I’ve posted, but I’m back and ready to share my vintage inspiration.

Enter my globes. They sit on top of my hutch, cropped here so you can’t see the disaster that is our dining room. Please don’t mention that my silver candlestick holders need to be polished.

Hutch_CloseupI’ve always wanted to date them and had dreams of figuring out a way to share an easy way to do just that by using outdated country names and I always got overwhelmed. But never fear, someone has done it already with far more accuracy, attention to detail and humor. Enter xkcd.

Map Guide

Image from

Quick! Run to your hutches and grab your globes! Hat tip to my husband who has been reading xkcd for ages while I think most of it is yawn-inducing and goes way over my head.

For my three globes, two worked really well with this method.

1940s Globe

This globe was one of the first vintage things I ever purchased for $5 at a flea market. Mainly the colors got me, also this little detail on the top sealed the deal:


And no, there’s usually not a copyright date anywhere on a vast majority of the gloves I’ve seen. Here’s what this globe has:


I had no trouble dating it to 1941–1945 by using the chart above. Success!

1950s Globe

This globe was my grandpa’s and I love the pop of black. It is pretty sun-bleached and the base needs to be polished but I still love it. The worst problem I had here was determining what country controlled the Sinai Peninsula. Perhaps this globe wasn’t detailed enough, but I did get the probable date narrowed down between 1949–1952.

1970s Globe

Just from the colors and the base I had already guessed this was a late 1970s model, and could get close to 1976–1981. This was more of a geographic globe, so the level of detail wasn’t enough to be even more accurate.

What do you think? Are you going to date all your globes? Let us know what you find out!

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From Coat to Christmas Stocking Wed, 23 Dec 2015 20:30:02 +0000 When each of my children were born, my aunt made these stockings which are like little pieces of art.

Cross Stitched Stockings

Can you imagine how many hours these took? My husband and I have never had stockings and this year I set out to change this, but was having no luck finding a pair of non-kitchsy stockings.

So when I was cleaning out my coat closet and couldn’t bear to throw this into the trash.

Worn Coat

It may look like it is in good condition, but what you can’t see are the frayed sleeves, busted out button holes and just plain holes. I really wanted to keep it because I’m a bit partial to Penguin brand  coats.

Penguin Brown Coat

It would have been easy for most to just pitch this coat into the trash, but this coat could have another use. By tracing the shape of my aunt’s stockings, sewing two shapes together wrong shapes out, these stockings came together pretty quickly. And I’m by no means a talented sewer!


There are some fun touches like using the pockets on the front, sewing the coat buttons on to the sides, and of course, including the original tag on the inside!

Inside tag

What do you think? Is anybody else using vintage stockings?


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Ask Snag: How to Negotiate Fri, 22 May 2015 01:59:09 +0000 Negotiating

It’s here! It’s finally here! Just in time for crazy garage sale season. This guide will help you in getting the most of your pocket full of quarters and dollars and help bring home a van full of vintage goodies.

1. The first step and most important step to negotiating: be nice. Seriously for the love of all things, be nice. I’m assuming all of our readers are nice since we’ve only had nice comments so far (thank you commenters!). The Snag team has seen it all: a man running up to one of us and verbally berating us to get a “deal” on a harp (yes, I know, a harp), a woman throwing quarters and dimes at the checkout person, and a great amount of other general nastiness. But it’s simple: show the seller some respect and you’ll (probably) get some respect. If you try to get a deal by being aggressive, pointing out flaws in merchandise or insulting the seller’s pricing, it’s not going to end well for you.

This doesn’t mean you need to accept any price, but almost 90% of the time you will be refused a price reduction if the seller doesn’t like you.

2. Be enthusiastic—but not too enthusiastic. Sellers like to deal with motivated buyers—they don’t want to waste their time dickering with someone who might just change their mind anyway. As tempting as it can be to stay aloof and give off a “I could take it or leave it” vibe, you might get a better deal if you seem genuinely interested and give them a cue that you will indeed buy the item if you strike a deal. Just don’t get carried away—nobody is going to give you a deal if they’re certain you’re going to buy it anyway.

3. Know your price. What are you willing to pay if this is going in to your home? Do you love that dresser? Will it haunt you at night if you don’t purchase it? The last dresser and nightstand set I purchased was off of Craigslist. It was listed for $300 and I really didn’t want to pay that much for it. I had exactly $200 in cash and knew if I offered less than that and some other Craigslist buyer snatched it up I was going to be bummed. So I called the seller and negotiated on the phone and simply stated, “Your dresser is beautiful and I love it, but would you be willing to accept $200 cash? That’s all I have at the moment.” Nice, no lies, plain and honest. She said yes. Woot.

4. Know their price. Refer to our guide on how vintage items are priced as a starting point. But don’t stop there. Unless it’s the first day of a sale and the item you’re negotiating for is in demand, you can generally get at least 10–20% off items priced over $20. Flea markets, antique malls, shops all generally have a small discount. Sometimes more. Once I was going to purchase a mid century hutch for $80 and asked the front desk if the dealer had any discounts or sales. Yes, turns out they did and I purchased it for $60. Ask if they can do any better on the price.

Knitting basket and tensor light

5. Buy in bulk. If you walk up to pay and you have amassed a ton of things, you will get some better deals. If all of your vintage wallpaper and lamps add up to $25, it’s highly likely a $20 offer will pass muster.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff. A candle holder for $3? Eh, probably pay the $3. Unless you really only have $2 in your pocket left and there’s no other money shoved in your cup holder.

7. Timing. If you’re at the garage sale or tag sale on the last day, you can often get things for 50–75% off. Sure, it might not be the most stellar pickings, but you never know.

8. Know when to walk away. If you feel like there will be no convergence between your price and a seller’s price or you start to feel uncomfortable, seriously it’s just stuff and leave it behind. Once, I picked up an old fortune telling book in the bottom of a mouse-turdy box at a flea market. The seller told me it was very rare and said it was $100. Really? Then he launched into a diatribe about investing in antiques and how could I be so stupid not to pay his price? I walked away and never went back to his booth again.

Does this help to boost your confidence and save you a few dollars? Any tips we have missed? Please share in the comments or shoot us an email.

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Warm Fuzzies: A Buyer’s Guide To Vintage Furs Thu, 05 Mar 2015 15:17:14 +0000 With the Midwest still very much caught in the icy grip of winter, I thought today would be a good opportunity to share one of my interests that I don’t discuss on the blog often—vintage furs. Fur isn’t for everyone, but it was less controversial just a few generations ago. I’ve always been fascinated with real fur. Maybe it was because I grew up watching too many vintage movies with fur-clad starlets or maybe it’s simply the awe-inspiring craftsmanship that goes into creating a single garment. A full length coat can take up to 500 hours to produce and is a laborious process of slicing pelts into thousands of thin strips and sewing them all back together in a form fitting shape. It’s an unbelievable process—but it comes at a price. Furs have always been expensive, often thousands of dollars. As with any coveted thing, many vintage furs have been handled with kid gloves over the years and remain lingering in closets to delight us decades later.

1980s Mens River Otter Car Coat, From My Personal Collection

Formerly one of my personal coats, a 1980s mens river otter car coat

The styles have changed dramatically over the years like any fashionable clothing, but America’s glamorous and prosperous postwar years yielded some of the most fantastic designs that buyers still seek today. If you find yourself drawn in by the lure of vintage fur, hopefully today’s post will help you make the right choices in buying and caring for your coat. I’ll share some images of the many coats that have passed through my hands and the lessons I’ve learned from them. So, let’s get started.

What kind of fur do you want?

The possibilities here are nearly endless. In the past, coats have been made out of everything from skunks and squirrels to horses and monkeys and each has unique qualities. I’m continuously finding new examples that stump me (including a skunk coat I found with Angela just this past weekend). You can spend some time on the Vintage Fashion Guild’s website learning about the different types of fur historically used in fashion, but some of the most common vintage furs you’ll encounter are mink, fox, Persian lamb, mouton lamb and rabbit.

1940s Colobus Monkey Fur Coat

1940s Colobus Monkey Fur Coat

Mink is a thick, glossy fur that’s shorter in length and lightweight. It was extremely popular from the 1930s through the 1960s as farm raised mink or “ranch mink” became a booming industry in the U.S. Selective breeding led to “mutation mink” or mink of standardized color that vary greatly from those found in the wild. Over the years dozens of colors ranging from white to jet black have been created. Because minks are oily semiaquatic animals, their pelts are among the longest lasting and hardest wearing of furs.

A 1950s Pastel Ranch Mink Cape

1950s Pastel Ranch Mink Cape

1950s Tourmaline Ranch Mink Cape

1950s Tourmaline Ranch Mink Cape

A 1950s Full Length Mahogany Ranch Mink Coat

1950s Full Length Scan Black Ranch Mink Coat

The most desirable mink coats are those made from full female mink pelts. Male mink pelts are slightly less plush and lustrous. Wild mink, seen more often in antique coats, is sometimes less plush and lustrous—occasionally even shaggy—and is often a reddish brown color sometimes called whiskey or cinnamon. Some coats known as pieced or sectioned mink are made from thousands of tiny scraps of pelts or even fur from the feet and tails of mink. These often have a striking appearance, though the large number of seams makes them prone to developing holes.

1960s Pastel Sectioned Mink Coat

1960s Pastel Sectioned Mink Coat

1950s Pastel Mink Tail Hat

1950s Pastel Mink Tail Hat

Fox fur is very full with long, fluffy guard hairs. Fox has always been popular, but full volume fox coats became popular in the 1970s and 80s. Fox pelts are extremely lightweight, but their hides are much thinner and can dry out and damage more easily. The lofty hairs are also very susceptible to wear from touching or rubbing and with heavy wear can go completely bald. Fox can range from reddish to white to grays and browns, with lighter colors being the most popular.

1980s Norwegian Blue Fox Coat with Spiral Sleeves

1980s Norwegian Blue Fox Coat with Spiral Sleeves

1950s Mohair Coat with Norwegian Fox Trim

1950s Mohair Coat with Norwegian Fox Trim

Persian lamb, the pelts of very young karakul sheep, is also known as swakara and has a signature tight, curly texture. Pelts of fetal karakul sheep are known as broadtail and have less of a less curly nap. Persian lamb ranges in color from silver to jet black and has a heavier weight. It’s a hard wearing fur, but can be susceptible to drying out and improperly cared for coats can sometimes fall apart from their own weight. Persian lamb is less expensive and less popular than other furs, but has a very unique look.

1950s Persian Lamb Jacket with Blonde Mink Collar

1950s Broadtail Lamb Jacket with Blonde Mink Collar

Swiss 1950s Wool Suit with Persian Lamb Collar

Swiss 1950s Wool Suit with Persian Lamb Collar

Mouton Lamb is the sheared pelt of a young sheep that has been chemically processed to create a velvety soft texture. Mouton lamb is plush and has a heavy leather pelt. It’s extremely hard wearing, warm and long lasting. Generally mouton lamb was sold as a substitute for seal and an economical alternative to sheared beaver. People are often surprised to learn mouton fur is not synthetic. Coats are usually seen in blondes, browns and black.

1960s Mouton Lamb Jacket

1960s Mouton Lamb Jacket

Rabbit is a widely used and inexpensive fur. Rabbit became popular for off-the-rack furs in the 1970s as more garments began to be imported from Asian countries. Rabbit fur is typically soft but thin and often sheds slightly. Rabbit pelts are rarely let out and usually you can see the seams clearly between each pelt. They can be dyed any color of the rainbow. Rabbit is a good “just for fun” fur, but it doesn’t wear or age terribly well. Rex rabbit fur is of better quality and today is often used as a substitute for costly chinchilla fur.

Rabbit Coat Closeup

Rabbit Coat Closeup

How do you want to wear fur?

You have a lot of options. Vintage fur coats usually exist as capes, jackets, stroller length and full length coats. Choose something that makes sense for how you want to wear it. Fur can be a restrictive, bulky material, so keep that in mind.

1950s Pastel Ranch Mink Cape

1950s Pastel Ranch Mink Cape

1950s Mahogany Ranch Mink Jacket

1950s Mahogany Ranch Mink Jacket

1960s Scan Brown Ranch Mink Stroller

1960s Scan Brown Ranch Mink Stroller

1930s Full Length Whiskey Mink Coat

1930s Full Length Whiskey Mink Coat

And why not have some fun with it and go for something a little funky?

1960s Mink and Lambskin Coat with Fox Collar

1960s Pastel Mink and Lambskin Chevron Coat with Fox Collar

1960s Geometric Muskrat Coat with Raccoon Collar

1960s Geometric Muskrat Coat with Raccoon Collar

And if a coat isn’t for you, perhaps a fur accessory such as a removable collar, stole or hat will do the trick?

1940s Wool Suit with Removable Pastel Mink Collar

1940s Wool Suit with Removable Pastel Mink Collar

1950s Russian Sable Stole

1950s Russian Sable Stole

1960s Mink Cap

1960s Mink Cap

1960s Raccoon Hat

1960s Raccoon Hat

What should you look for when buying a vintage fur?

Condition is key. The life of a fur coat depends wholly on how it has been worn, cared for and stored. Fur is not a textile—it’s fur. It’s a leather hide with hair and unlike most textiles fur is perishable. To maintain its look, feel and serviceability, the leathers must maintain their natural oils and if those go, so does the coat. What damages fur? Heat, humidity, insects, sunlight, extreme temperature changes, excessive wear, lack of cleaning. So how can you tell if a coat is in good shape?

Touch. A fur coat should be soft and silky. Although heavier furs like lamb might feel thick, the hides should not feel stiff, brittle or papery—these are signs that the leather is too dry to be of service. The fur itself should be free and soft, not matted, greasy or sticky and it should not “slip” or shed hairs when handled.

Sight. Look the coat over for wear and holes. Excessive wear might expose a downy undercoat or even leave the coat completely bald—once hair is gone it’s gone for good. Look for this wear along edges, pockets, cuffs, collars and elbows. Holes and tears can simply happen from aggressive handling, especially in the arm pits, and these can be repaired by a reputable furrier. If a coat is riddled with tears, especially those that occur between seams or are jagged in the middle of the hide, this may indicate that the hides have started to dry out and will not hold repairs. If you see tiny pieces of the hide breaking off or crumbling around any holes or tears, the coat will likely not be repairable. Also look for heavy wrinkles that may indicate the coat spent some time wadded up in a ball. Deep wrinkling in hides may be irreversible.

Finally, check for any visible evidence of mold, mildew or moth damage. Any white or yellow spotting, especially around the bottom of the coat on the lining may mean the coat has spent some time growing mold in a wet basement. AVOID. Tiny holes all over the lining or tiny shed insect shells are a telltale sign of an ancient bug infestation. AVOID. Also be aware that heavily discolored white furs might not come clean with fur cleaning.

Extreme rub wear on a mink coat

Extreme rub wear on a mink coat

Dried out mink pelts tearing under their weight

Dried out mink pelts tearing under their own weight

Smell. Get your nose in there and take a deep whiff. Fur is natural and will have some odor, but it shouldn’t be strong. If you smell mustiness or cigarette odors, AVOID. These odors will likely never leave the coat. Furriers can ionize odorous coats, but there may be deeper damage. Mildew slowly eats away at the hides making them dry and weak and cigarettes can leave chemicals on the fur that also break it down—even if you can deodorize it, it might simply fall apart.

How do you take care of fur?

Clean it. Cleaning furs removes skin oils and dirt that can incrementally build up and cause the coat to deteriorate. You should NEVER attempt to clean a fur coat yourself and NEVER take your fur coat to a dry cleaner. Fur cleaning is a specialized process that should only be done by a professional furrier. It costs about $50 to clean a coat and it’s worth it.

Wear it (with care). Fur is a luxury material and it takes a little special care. Avoid sitting in your coat, especially while driving, as this can cause a lot of rub wear damage. Don’t wear it in rain or snow or in smoke-filled environments. Most importantly, don’t break dance in it, it’s just not made for that.

Store it. Storing a fur with your furrier when you’re not wearing it is the best way to make sure it’s kept at the proper temperature and humidity and away from sunlight. It’s not that expensive and it will add years to your coat’s life.

But the most important thing is to have fun with it. There’s a certain joy that comes with knowing you’re walking around like a silver screen star or a railroad magnate in a coat that, to buy new, would cost about $10,000 plus—and you didn’t pay anything close to that. The question that I get asked the most often is, “When and how do you wear a fur coat?” I always answer the same way, “Whenever you want and like you own it.”

One of my personal coats, a 1970s mens raccoon stroller

Formerly one of my personal coats, a 1970s mens raccoon stroller

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How To: Revive Your Wood Composite Silverware Thu, 12 Feb 2015 17:12:55 +0000 A long time ago (pre-baby #2), I happened upon a garage sale on the way to my son’s preschool. Once I dropped him off I bought a bunch of nonsense, but the most spectacular buy was this giant bag o’ silverware.

Silverware Bag

They are from Ecko Eterna line and have seen some better days. You can see all of the finish variation in the bag, but here is a closeup.

Silverware Finish Comparison

Yes, they have been heavily abused in the dishwasher. With nothing to lose I set out to improve on their condition. Here are all the forks before.

Silverware Before


You can see the handles varied widely in their finish and it was driving me crazy. Since these aren’t actual wood (like our previous how-to post to revive wood handles) but rather a plastic-like wood substance, I thought a plastic polish would do the trick. And I thought, oh, we’ll just try butcher block oil too just in case.

Silverware Supplies

Have you heard about Jubilee Kitchen Wax? On some vintage blogs I read it is all the rage. Can I tell you a secret? It hasn’t been successful for me yet. I’m not sure what they’re protecting and shining but maybe I’ll hit on a use for it. I tried the Jubilee wax and Novus polish on two spoons. I won’t even bore you with before and after pictures because there was no difference. They looked sort of shiny for awhile, and then half an hour later we were back to the original finish. So I set out with the butcher block oil.

Silverware After

Yes. Success. While this merely puts a food-safe coat on top of the plastic resin, it does even up the shine tremendously. It took quite a long time to dry and I’m sure within time it will wash off. So if you do this at home, leave plenty of airing time and don’t run them back through the dishwasher or you’ll be back in the same predicament!

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How To: A Vintage Inspired Tree Skirt Wed, 10 Dec 2014 04:54:15 +0000 After scouring Etsy, eBay, a few thrift stores and your recommendations, the craft bug got to me. I set out making a tree skirt that was mostly inspired by this 1950s wrapping paper posted on the blog Present & Correct.


So cute. With this pattern in mind, I went to our local fabric store to get some felt. Here’s what you’ll need for this project. Trust me, it’s easy and cheap.

Felt for the skirt: I made my skirt for a smallish aluminum tree, so in the end I needed 1 1/2 yards. It was on sale and only $2.99 a yard so $4.50 total.

Felt for the shapes: I used three different colors and bought the individual sheets of felt that were four for $1.00. This time I tried to pick something more modern (the neon pink), because I like to pair vintage with modern. I had a lighter pink and it looked super granny.

Aleene’s Tacky Glue: Hopefully you have this on hand because it’s so useful. If not, it’s around $1.50.

Scissors: I used my Fiskar’s spring-loaded scissors because I was lazy. You can also use a nice pair of shears.

Tree Skirt SuppliesThat’s it! Here’s how you make it.

I folded my felt in half then in half again and drew a semicircle using my measuring tape and a marker stolen from my son’s markers. Fancy. Just hold the tape in the corner with all the folds and pull the marker around in a semi-circle. Cut it out.

Then, use a glass to mark a small middle circle where it will wrap around the tree stem. I should have used a smaller glass. Now you know.

Tree Skirt Cutouts

Next, cut a line from the outside if your skirt to the inside circle you just cut out. My felt was heavily creased so I carefully followed that fold line.

Then, cut your little shapes. I used three colors of felt and cut a strip 1″ long out of the felt. Then I cut each strip to 1″ square. Some I made into little triangles. You can layer the felt and cut two at once. This speeds things up!

Cut out…oh…45 shapes of each color. It goes quickly, believe me. I think I spent half an hour cutting shapes. If you have a rotary cutter, a cutting board and a ruler this goes so fast. If not, you can cut strips with scissors.

Tree Skirt Cutting Board

Next, put them as randomly as you can on your skirt. I’d like to say I didn’t stare and over-analyze every shape placement. But I totally did. Once you’re happy, glue them in place with your tacky glue.

Tree Skirt Pattern

My skirt was done in about an hour and a half and cost $5.50. It looks so vintage and no one else has one like it I’m sure!

Tree Skirt

Now if everything else in here wasn’t so beige. Work in progress I keep telling myself!

I love the skirt peeking out from below the aluminum tree!

Tree Skirt Overhead View

The last thing I’m wondering is if I need to finish the felt edge. Pom-pom fringe maybe? What do you think?

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How To: Revive Your Wood-handled Silverware Wed, 19 Nov 2014 04:19:54 +0000 Tammy gave me four beautiful, sculptural forks that needed some work.

Forks Before

The metal was in great condition, but the wooden handles had seen better days from washing, maybe even from the dreaded dishwasher. Here’s a closeup.

Forks Before CloseupSo just in time for your fancy Thanksgiving festivities, here’s how you revive them.

First, gather your supplies. This is easy; all you need is a can of Watco Butcher Block Oil and 200 grit sandpaper.

Watco Butcher Block

Next, give the handles a light sanding followed by a wipe down with a wet lint-free cloth to remove the dust particles.

Finally, apply two coats of the oil with a lint-free cloth following the directions for drying time. I waited about six hours in between coats. Always remember to work in a well-ventilated area and wear some gloves.

Forks After

And just like that you’re done. Check out these sleek handles now. Seriously. You can apply more coats, but two should protect the wood unless you exclusively use the dishwasher. Then you’ll want to put on three to four and cross your fingers. Dishwashers are so rough on these guys.

Forks After Close Up

Now you can worry about what to serve instead of your silverware!

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How to Refinish Broyhill Brasilia Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:05:15 +0000 I’m pretty excited about today’s how-to. I’ve been wanting to share this process with you for awhile but wanted to get the recipe right before I did.  Perhaps you remember the Brasilia harvest table I picked up a couple weeks ago? I’ve refinished it and another Brasilia dining table and today I’m going to take you through the process of how I did it.

Inspired by architect Oscar Niemeyer’s designs for the planned Brazilian city of Brasilia, Broyhill’s Brasilia line is as popular today as it was when it was introduced in 1962. Like any furniture that’s been around 50 years, many pieces are worse for wear. This is compounded by the fact that the original finish on Brasilia is heavily tinted and isn’t extremely durable—it has a tendency to wear completely off with heavy use, exposing the much lighter natural color of the wood. This was the problem with my Brasilia tables.

Worn spots show up as bright patches in the finish.

Worn spots show up as bright patches in the finish.

So then, the issue becomes how do you refinish Brasilia to look factory fresh? It’s not as hard as it sounds. Let’s get started.

Stripper, Refinisher and Stripper Wash

Stripper, Refinisher and Stripper Wash

The first step is to remove the old finish. After stripping a few of these, I can tell you the original finish is a snotty mess to remove. I don’t recommend safety or citrus strippers here, you’ll want something that works faster. I use a methylene chloride based semi-paste stripper to get the job done. This stuff is serious though, so use it outdoors only and with proper safety equipment. I use army surplus chemical gloves that cover my forearms. Spread the stripper on with a disposable bristle paint brush and let it work for about 10 minutes. Use a putty knife to remove the stripper and wipe any excess off the surface with paper towels.

Since the color of Brasilia is actually a sprayed on lacquer instead of the wood, you’ll probably notice that some of it is left behind in streaks and blotches after the stripping. To remove those last bits I use Furniture refinisher. Dip #00 steel wool into the refinisher and rub it into the surface of the wood, removing any remaining finish or dyes. When you’re done, dip a paper towel in the refinisher and wipe down the entire surface. You may also wish to wipe down the entire piece with stripper wash to remove stripper or refinisher residue.

Quarter sheet sander.

Quarter sheet sander.

If you’re not already friends with the quarter-sheet palm sander, now is probably a good time to become acquainted. Seriously I couldn’t get half of my projects done if it wasn’t for this lifesaver. I always use mine attached to my shop vac. Not only does this reduce dust in your workspace, but it also keeps dust from gumming up on your sandpaper so it will last longer. If there are stains to remove or serious wear I will start with 150 grit, otherwise I only sand with 220 grit sandpaper.

Mineral spirits.

Mineral spirits.

After sanding, I usually wipe the surface down with a rag soaked in mineral spirits. This helps remove any dust and prepares the surface for finishing.

Ready for stain.

Ready for stain.

The most remarkable thing is just how much lighter the wood is with the finish removed. Without using the proper stain, a refinished piece of Brasilia will in no way resemble a factory finished piece.

General Finishes Antique Walnut Gel Stain.

General Finishes Antique Walnut Gel Stain.

This ingredient is the most critical in the recipe. Although alternatives may exist that will provide a satisfactory result, General Finishes Antique Walnut Gel Stain is the only product I’ve found that produces a near match to the factory finish. It does such a good job and is so easy to use that I’ve not bothered researching alternatives. Using a foam brush or rag, coat the surface the stain. Using a clean cotton rag, wipe the surface down completely in the direction of the grain, making sure there are no streaks or wipe marks. Most pieces require two or three applications to accurately match the color, allow at least six hours between coats (I generally wait 24 hours). Do not buff or sand between coats or before top coating.

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Satin Urethane.

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Satin Urethane.

Once you’re happy with the color, it’s time to topcoat. You can use any oil or urethane topcoat product you prefer, my personal preference is General Finishes Arm-R-Seal wipe-on satin urethane. I like this product because it has a satin finish that’s closer to the original than many other products (like Minwax or Varathane) that tend to be very shiny and plastic-like. Using a neatly folded piece of t-shirt material, quickly wipe the surface with an even coat. Once you’ve coated the entire piece, use the rag to very gently smooth the finish with the grain using long strokes the entire length of the surface. Allow to dry at least six hours and then smooth with a 320 grit sanding sponge. Avoid steel wool as it can sometimes cause subsequent coats to become shiny. Apply at least three coats.

After the final coat has dried at least 48 hours, check for any unevenness in sheen. If there are streaks or dull spots you can buff out the finish to an even sheen. For this, purchase a bottle of mineral oil from your local pharmacy. Wipe the entire surface with the mineral oil and then buff with a 320 grit sanding pad (preferably one that is used) gently in the direction of the grain. Use light pressure and keep the pad lubricated at all times, dipping into a bowl of mineral oil periodically. Wipe the surface completely dry with paper towels and buff with a cotton rag. Repeat if trouble spots remain.









Not bad, huh? Refinishing also helped match the removable leaves which were darker, having never been exposed to light or air.





It’s a little harder to see the difference here, but there is literally no finish on the “before” table. Most importantly, the refinished table top is a dead match to the legs which were not refinished. This is key because I prefer to only refinish what needs refinishing—such as a table or dresser top—and leave everything else original. This process seems to get the job done.

Now if you see an embattled piece of Brasilia here or there, you can buy it with confidence knowing you can bring it back to life. And if you do, please share a photo with us! We love to hear how your projects turn out and what tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way.

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How To Replace Elastic Seat Webbing Tue, 23 Sep 2014 14:13:09 +0000 One of the mainstays of mid-century modern design is upholstered seating with an ultra thin profile, often offering only thin slab cushions resting on a minimal frame. To achieve this, bulky conventional spring cages and other foundational support materials were replaced with elastic rubber webbing. Made by Pirelli, these straps were essentially giant rubber bands with layers of reinforcing fibers to give firm but flexible support. You see these used commonly in loose cushion Danish furniture and office furniture like these Allsteel chairs.


It was a fine idea except for one little detail—natural rubber only has a lifespan of about 20 years. At 30 years the straps soften, lose elasticity and sag. At 40 years they petrify completely and shatter when flexed. You’ve probably experienced this if you’ve ever sat on a vintage chair or sofa and fell uncomfortably far into it (or fell completely through the bottom). The blue chairs above were no exception.


Underneath the straps were stretched far out of shape and were hard and brittle causing the seats to sag. They needed to be replaced, and fortunately it isn’t a tough job at all. I’ll show you how.


Supplies: 2″ woven elastic webbing, webbing clips and vise grips.

First and foremost, you’ll need the right supplies and tools. Although Pirelli webbing is still available, it is expensive and supply is limited. Plus it will be prone to the same deterioration over time. An alternative is woven elastic webbing. I bought a 1,000 foot roll from a boat supply company online (I have a lot of projects that need this stuff), but you can get it from any upholstery supply store by the foot. Be sure to buy the right width (2 inch is the most common) and the type made for seats rather than the stretchier type made for seat backs. Note that jute webbing may be easier to find locally, but it is not the same thing and it will not work. Some furniture will need webbing clips that allow the straps to fit into slots, other pieces will simply have the strapping tacked to the frame. If you need clips, you’ll also need a bench vise or a good pair of vise grips.


My chairs used clips that fit into slots in the steel chair frame. Although I had hoped to replace the straps entirely from the underside of the chair, I discovered there was not enough space to finagle the clips into their slots with the upholstery in place. After cutting off all of the old strapping (do this outside, the rubber disintegrates into a fine powder that gets EVERYWHERE) I also removed the little clips that hold the upholstery in place and carefully removed the vinyl and foam to expose the chair frame. On loose cushion furniture you’ll have easier access as the strapping usually isn’t concealed.


Then I was ready to cut the straps. The most important thing here is not to cut the straps too long or too short. If they’re too long, there won’t be enough support and the seat will sag. If they’re too short, you won’t be able to stretch them all the way across the frame. To get the length right, I attached a clip to one end of the webbing and inserted it into the frame. Then I stretched the elastic webbing as taut as I possibly could and marked where it touched the opposite slot. I cut the webbing at the mark, attached the other clip and then stretched it and snapped it into place. To attach the clips, simply slide it over the end of the webbing and use a vise or vise grips to close the clip so that the teeth grip the webbing. Once complete, I replaced the upholstery and upholstery clips.




The difference is night and day. About an hour of work turned two saggy and completely un-sittable chairs into sleek and comfortable ones without any reupholstery. On wood framed pieces with concealed strapping it might take a little reverse engineering to figure out how to best access the webbing, but the principle is the same. So next time you find a saggy sofa, buy with confidence knowing you can easily shore it up yourself.

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