Posted in do it yourself

A Tale of Two Sittings


In 1993 we built a new house and bought a very solid, alder-wood table and six chairs for our kitchen. It was costly but we saved one third by buying it unfinished and doing it ourselves (read: “myself.” Gerry hates finicky handiwork).

I painstakingly taped and painted and varnished to achieve that trendy white and wood look. It was tedious, labor-intensive and exhausting. But I loved the finished product…for about five years. However, the memory of all that work convinced me that I still liked it for at least another five years.

I have seriously hated it for the last five years. But every time I thought about changing it I remembered how many hours (yea verily, weeks!) it took me to paint and varnish it the first time. The prospect of first removing all that paint and varnish and then starting over was daunting. (NOTE: you cannot remove melamine paint with stripper; it must be sanded off. Guess what kind of white paint I used?) I even came to the point of considering putting the whole thing up for sale on Kijiji and buying something I liked.

And then my Jewish-Chinese-Scottish roots kicked in. Just kidding, I’m Irish but cheap. I got that line from Uncle Gee, a Chinese tea hustler in San Francisco — I’ll blog about him soon so stay posted.

The reason we paid a lot of money for this furniture back in ’93 was so that I wouldn’t have to endlessly “consume” but I could simply refinish it as the trends changed. Off to the hardware I went.

I bought a new mouse sander, set up a workshop in the basement, rolled up my sleeves, put on a mask and started sanding the first chair. I burned out the sander in two days. Back to the hardware for a replacement sander. I continued sanding but not quite so aggressively.

In a week of spare-time sanding, I finished removing all the old paint and varnish. Then I applied three coats of a matte finish urethane, hand sanding between each coat to remove air bubbles. It looked good.

Christmas came and I took a break.

January came. I’m still on the break. Suddenly I’m feeling old. And tired. And I have a book to write.

I think I’m starting to like the look of my one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others kitchen set.


Christian writer and speaker trying to follow God one yes at a time.

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Sittings

  1. Hahaha! I did the same thing with our table set (although we’re only 1 yr. 1/2 in). It took me a month to do the whole set. Yes I got the hard wood I wanted but the work!

    I was cleaning up a spill today that had fallen on my last chair I finished. Let me tell you my table and first 5 chairs look beautiful but by the sixth chair (that needed three base coats and three top coats) I was done. I only managed to paint one coat. Looking at it with pomegranate juice everywhere all banged up with half the paint scratched off and dirt permanently infused I thought today, I need to finish this chair…But not today!


  2. I can handle a “one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others” living environment (I haven’t had clothes that match since my mother used to dress me for church).

    But, my wife on the other hand…it’s madness!

    And, by the way, you may be tired and have a book to write…but your not old. (and I’m not just saying that, ’cause I really have no reason to kiss up…do I?)


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