March 4, 2015

The Cabin Fireplace- Part 3

For those of you just joining us, we're working on a major wall overhaul at our Cabin Up North.

So far we've framed out the new fireplace and built the shelving units for either side.  But just because we built the two huge bookcases in a weekend, that didn't mean that the hard part was over.  In fact, it was just beginning.
If you haven't heard my say it before, over the years I've learned the hard way that the key to building a nice piece of furniture is sanding.  And I just don't mean sanding, but spending HOURS sanding, carefully by hand until your arm falls asleep and the wood feels as soft as a baby's bottom.  (Which is kind of a disturbing saying when you think about it. Gross English Language.) 

I used to cut corners.  I'd try using an electric palm sander.  Or taking about 20 minutes to sand the whole piece.  But it really showed in the work.  Now I always commit to a whole day of sanding before I even think about paint or stain.  I used to hate, HATE this part, because I-lack-patience-and-I'm-a-working-mom-with-two-kids-and-I-just-want-to-get-the-piece-done-already.  But over time it's become my favorite part.  I head out to the garage with some tea and tunes and I get lost in the soothing sound and repetition.  It's my quiet time and meditation and I'm literally building something meaningful with my own two hands people!  You should try it.

For this particular project I decided to use this technique from Ana White on easy paneled doors.  The plus was that I didn't need to get out my router or buy a biscuit joiner.  The down side is that I had a whole lot of pocket holes to fill. 


The most important thing with wood fill is to always fill twice.  Wood fill shrinks as it dries, so if you only fill once you won't have a complete, seamless fill.  It takes more time, but it's worth it.  I usually fill all my pocket holes and nail holes for the first time right after I finish the build, then I call it a day.  The next day I come back and sand all the holes, and them fill them again.  After it dries you can come back and really sand the entire piece.  While you can certainly see the pocket hole here, it's smooth as silk (much less disturbing of an analogy) and with a couple coats of paint it will disappear entirely.

It took me 4 days to sand and fill, sand and fill, and then super sand two bottom cupboards, two upper bookcases, and both sides of four cabinet doors and six shelves. Ugh.

After all the sanding it was finally time to vacuum.  No really- my favorite trick is using a soft bristled brush on a vacuum to get all the sawdust completely removed from your pieces.  I find this so much more effective than using tac cloth or a microfiber rag.  (Although I still do use a microfiber cloth after I'm done vacuuming as the final step.) 

So finally, five days after the initial build it was time to apply the paint.  I started with a primer so that I could be certain that the wood and wood fill would accept paint evenly.


Uh oh.  Did you catch that big problem above?  Let me give you a closer look.

On day 6 I noticed that the paneled backs that I purchased for the bookshelves to give them interest and depth didn't like the water based primer that I tried to apply.  Nothing is more frustrating than having to go back and undo your work and redo it, but I knew if I plowed ahead I wouldn't be happy with the results.  So I sanded the backs of each of the bookcases with 80 grit paper until I removed most of the paint.  Then I smoothed out the surface slightly with a 120 grit to give the primer something to hold onto.  It was another day of sanding and vacuuming and wiping and priming but 10 years from now I won't get mad every time I take a close look at these bookshelves.  I think of it as a couple hours of work now for a lifetime of sanity.

After everything was primed, I started painting using the same paint, tools and process we used for our Family Room cabinets. But because nothing is ever easy, frigid Minnesota temperatures made the curing process of the paint impossible in my only slightly heated garage.  Lucky for me my Dad offered to take the cabinet doors and shelves home to his house to paint in this heated workshop. He even took a photo for me.


So that's where we are.  Fireplace framed, cabinets built, cabinets finished and painted.  Now we just need to get everything Up North and installed.   Hold me back!

Pst- Want to follow along on the big cabin fireplace wall project from the beginning?  Or jump straight to the end?  Here you go:

Removing the Window
Part 1- Framing The Fireplace
Part 2- Building the Built-Ins
Part 3- Finishing the Built-Ins
Part 4- Installing the Built-Ins & Building Barn Wood TV Wall
Part 5- Triming Out the Built-Ins (to make them look "built in.")
Part 6- Creating a Stacked Stone Fireplace Surround 
Part 7- Building the Fireplace Mantel 
The Big Cabin Fireplace Wall Reveal 


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