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Refinishing Surprise…

15 years ago

My mother-in-law is a very dedicated Sunday school teacher. Last weekend was her church’s rally day where they kick off the new school year and highlight many of the programs. In preparation for the event she was doing some cleaning and organizing in her classroom. According to her there has been a dingy little altar in the corner for years that no one really paid attention to.

“It’s really very ugly that I just stuck it in the corner and forgot about it” she said. This year she decided that it would be better to try and put it to use by cleaning it up a little. That’s where I come in. She called our house and asked me if there was a way to repair scratches and dings to a wooden finish. I told her that they could be any number of ways but it might be easiest to strip it to bare wood and start over. She told me that she was going to paint the base of the altar but wanted natural wood for the top. I said that I could get it done in time for her next class if she could get me the top by Monday. My wife picked it up from her on Monday after work and called me on her way home to tell me that this board was the ugliest thing she has ever seen and it might just be better if I cut something new from my stores. Here is what she brought home.

It was really hard to tell what I was dealing with a there was this muddy, almost opaque coat of what appeared to be polyurethane on top of the wood. I immediately set to work with a cabinet scraper to get the majority of the hard stuff out of the way. After a few scrapes I started to see red showing through. I switched to my jack plane and before I knew it I have beautiful shavings of Mahogany peeling out of my plane! Whaddaya know there was some treasure under that beat up and abused old board!

I don’t know a wood species that is more fun and easy to plane than Mahogany, and I had a ball flattening that top. I then switched to a smoothing plane to bring the top to it’s final surface before finishing. Check out the pile of shavings I made in a half hour of blissful work.

The bottom edges has a small cove cut into then so with a very light pass on the router table I was able to remove the finish there and then I cleaned up the mill marked using a gooseneck scraper. I was ready to finish it.

Here is the first coat of Boiled Linseed Oil. Man does this stuff come to life when you apply oil.

Over the course of the rest of the week I applied two more coats of Linseed oil and two coats of gloss Arm-R-Seal from General Finishes. Here is the final product.

I delivered it to my mother-in-law today and she thought that I had switched boards on her. She was thrilled by how beautiful it came out.

“Aw shucks, it’s the wood that did it, not me” I said sheepishly. You gotta love the praise you get when the wood does all the work. Ironically I still haven’t seen the base of this altar yet so I have no idea how it will look in it’s final place. I’ll have to see if I can get a look and picture of it to share with everyone.

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