My Upcycling Journey Continues: BENCHED (Or yet another useful lesson)
Today’s newbie lesson is—take pictures of everything!
Pictures are important—not just so I can show off my “before and after,” but because in this case, once I finished painting and reupholstering the little bench, I couldn’t recall how the two pieces fit together.
So I got creative…
But let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?
I bought the little bench at Salvation Army for Cdn$8.00, less donation discount. (You donate, they give you a coupon. It’s a slightly better deal than the senior’s discount. At the SA, every day is senior’s day. Gotta love ‘em.)
I brought it home and took it apart, failing to document how.
It was old—I did battle with scores of staples that the previous recycler had used to cover it with a very light cotton—not upholstery fabric at all. Once that was off, I tackled the original cover, which was nailed on with rusty upholstery tacks. They were old, tiny and dug deep in the aging wood. How was I ever going to get them off?
I belong to a number of Facebook upcycling groups. Just as I needed it, someone posted about a tool called a tack-lifter. I’m now the proud owner of one:
Once I had the original, gross fabric off, I discovered it had been stuffed with straw and a bit of horse hair which was tightly packed down from the hundreds of butts that had planted on the bench over the decades. Luckily, there was one nice day in December when I was able to take all the messy stuff outside to strip and sand. The ancient stuffing went a blowing in the wind and will no doubt be incorporated into various bird nests this spring.
Although there was a lot of space to grab the bench, I had to grab it by one rusty tack. A quick call to my doctor, and I am reassured I’m not due for a tetanus booster till next year. Whew!
The legs had been a bit rickety, but once I painted it, it seem stable enough. I dunno if paint in the joints is enough to keep it steady forever, but so far, so good.
I had sanded and prepped several projects, and painted them all at once, too. Here’s a shot of my work-in-progresses: the bench, my great-grandmother’s sewing box, and a folding butler’s table. Here’s the before paint and after:
Next up, I would reupholster the bench. It consisted at this point, of a nice piece of wood the size of the top of the bench. And nothing else. Since I’d found recovering the little footstool fairly simple, I thought I’d do the same with the bench. Only this time, I wasn’t just covering over the original fabric and padding.
I cut out the needed amount in the better striped fabric—polished cotton, formerly a high quality curtain obtained from Salvation Army for a couple of bucks and carefully picked apart into 2 pieces.
I’d recovered my dining room chairs a while back, so I knew I needed foam. (Let’s have a moment of silence for the gone but not forgotten Designer Fabric store formerly on Queen Street.) I drove up the Fabricland in Newmarket. It turned out to be very expensive and they didn’t have any in stock anyway. I cast about for other solutions—seemed silly to put $40 worth of foam on an $8 bench, and I needed a solution going forward or I’d narrow my profit margin on anything I sold. I considered buying another piece of furniture and cannibalizing the foam. Value Village had some stadium cushions, but they weren’t cheap either. Then I noticed I had brought a large cushion with me to the new house. Weird, becaue it was for an outdoor chaise lounge that I no longer owned. It was sweat-stained and grimy. By rights (and Marie Kondo) I should have purged it. But now I’m glad I didn’t. “It must have foam inside,” I said to my dog, because it was still very puffy after years of use. So I cut it open—and found it was filled with nothing but batting. And I’d already bought batting (for $2 at SA). But I figured if it could fill the outdoor cushion, it could fill my bench. It was just for me, and I could always re-do it, right?
So I stuffed and covered it, my trusty staple gun at the ready. Now I had two finished pieces: a painted body and a reupolstered bench seat, pictured below.
The whole process had been slow, but steady. Sadly now, it ground to a halt. I couldn’t recall how the seat attached to the bench. There was no way to nail it in. Should I glue it on? I know that’s not how it was.
But casting around my workshop, I remembered I had double-sided Velcro squares in my sewing kit. Since all the pressure would be downwards, it wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t the most secure way of connecting the two pieces. So that’s what I did.
And here’s the final bench, sitting proudly in my front hall for timely boot removal.