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Thursday, January 7, 2010


The heating guy came!! He's my new best friend!

It turns out the igniter switch burned out. One little electronic gizmo fails and a $10k system becomes a pile of junk. Unfortunately, the part had to be ordered. (I swear, there is nothing in this house that is not custom-made.) We're hoping it'll get here today or tomorrow.

To reach my heating unit, the repairman had to go through my garage and he remarked on my latest project, a large French sideboard with a carved front. "Do you sell antiques?" says he. Refinishing antiques is my hobby. It never occurred to me to try and resell my lovelies.

This is the piece he was drooling over. I'm still not happy with the top. I think it could be more even-colored, so I'm going to redo the top one more time to see if I can get it perfect.

It's such a long surface that one half dries before I can finish the other side--hence the uneven tone. I'm going to try using some retarder in the stain to see if I can keep it from drying so fast.

The trick to a good refinishing job is not to skimp on the prep work. Strip the piece of all its stain and varnish, then sand it until it's as smooth as talcum powder.

In between sandings, I'll damp wipe it with a little thinner or water to raise the grain, then buff it with fine steel wool and then sandpaper. To give you some idea of the process, I start out with 60 grit paper and end up with 1200 grit for the final finish.

It's a pretty extensive process but it gives me professional results. People always think I've spent a wad of money when in fact it's just elbow grease and a little gentle artistry.

Here's a little curio cabinet I refinished last summer. The carved details are really a pain, but it looks so good if you put in the extra effort.

I taught myself to refinish furniture back when we barely had two nickles to rub together. We used to haunt this local antique auction house and wait until the end when the crowds had thinned and furniture went for dirt cheap. $40 for a mahogany wardrobe, $15 for a Queen Anne dining table. $5 for a box of small antiques like lamps and glass. I learned by trial and error how to bring them back to life.

I still enjoy refinishing furniture. I'm sure when Greg moves back, we'll have to sell some of our duplicate pieces. And I hope the new owners will enjoy them as much as we did.

What are your hobbies? Have you ever turned your hobby into a moneymaker? I'd love some advice on that. Maybe I could start a little side business.


Dru said...

Those pieces are so beautiful. Wow, I'm impressed. I remember when I took a furniture-making class in high school and I knew I didn't have the patience for it. BTW, I made a lamp.

As you know, my hobby is quilting and I'm not a salesperson of any kind, however I have sold a couple of quilts only because people expressed an interest.

The hard part I found was how much to charge for labor since I already knew that part of the price is based on the cost of replacing the materials.

I also know that if I made my hobby a money-making venture, that my love of it might disappear because then creating quilts would become a chore.

I like the way I do it now, I create a quilt and if someone wants to buy one, I give them a price. That's how I sold the last quilt I made. But most of the time I give them away as gifts or "just because."

But if you're a natural salesperson, I bet you could sell your work.

Have a good Thursday.

Maria Zannini said...

Natural salesperson - NOT


But what you said about labor is a good point. It takes many, many hours to restore a piece to original glory. I do it for myself because it's going to live in my house. But I don't know how many people would be willing to pay for the same.

Maybe I'm better off writing a how-to book. :o)

Thanks for the advice!

Sherri said...

MIL and FIL do that. Mom has an an antique space within a larger shop. Most of her stuff is linens, etc. but when she finds furniture she brings it home for Dad to repair, refinish, etc.

Working the required hours in the shop is the hardest for Mom as she watches grandkids while parents are working. I don't think she'd say she makes a lot doing this. Started out as fun, shopping for the antiques and cleaning them up, but now I think she views it more as work and is in too deep to get out without taking a loss.

My BIL on the other hand took his hobby of woodworking and made a business out of it. He loves it and while times like these make it hard, it is still what he wants and needs to do.

I'm sure it all comes down to marketing. Not a strong suit for me, LOL

Maria those pieces are beautiful!! And, I'd love it if you put out that How-To Book...I've got a century old French bedroom suite I need to refinish!

Maria Zannini said...

Greg is a woodworker. I'd like to see him do that as a side business when he retires. He does beautiful work.

I guess that's the thing though. If it starts to feel too much like work, the hobby ceases to be fun.

Shelley Munro said...

Maria, both pieces are just gorgeous, and it's easy to see how much work has gone into them. The only thing I'd say about turning your hobby into work is that it comes with inbuilt pressure to get the job done and the piece sold, especially if you work to order. Some of the joy might be sucked out of it. You'd probably be better to carry on as you are now and sell the odd piece on. I don't know how you find the time to fit every thing in.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: This could account for why I'm not as prolific a writer. *g*

Life is definitely too short to get all the good stuff in.

Kaz Augustin said...

Your last comment was definitely what I was going to say, M! But I'm utterly gobsmacked. Those pieces are GORGEOUS! You are one talented lady.

Me, I'm lazy lazy lazy. I like flying kites. Deltas, stunts, boxes, foils. Bought a quad but still can't quite get the hang of it. Finding the proper wind is the problem, so that just gives me the excuse to sit in front of my computer instead! LOL

Oh, and putting computers together. I love doing that too.

Maria Zannini said...

Where do you find wind in a tropical forest? LOL.

I've always liked working with my hands--as long there are no electronic parts involved. Computers are definitely beyond my simian capacity to understand.