Monday, July 18, 2011

the park bench refinishing adventure

On Wednesday or Thursday of last week, Taylor asked if I wanted a park bench. They had a couple sitting out front of the hotel that were old and ragged, so they decided to ditch them. Rather than throwing them away, I provided a home for them.

Coincidentally enough, I snagged myself an achievement award at work on Friday, which earned me a $25 Home Depot gift card. Perfect!

On Saturday, I went to Home Depot and got myself the following supplies:
  • A can of weatherproof (we'll see) cedar-colored wood stain
  • A can of rustproof primer (for the metal legs)
  • A can of rustproof black spray paint
  • A jug of wood-cleaning acid for mildew/mold/etc
  • A sandpaper variety pack
  • Sanding block
  • A couple paint brushes
  • Replacement wood screws
  • Plastic tarp-style stuff to lay on the ground
I started off my trying to sand some of the wood while the bench was still together. I immediately knew that the sanding part was going to suck. Before I went any further, I tried the acid wash to see how much that does to prep the wood.

After the wash, it was clear that it did clean off a lot of the mildewy mess on the top layer of the wood, but it didn't do as much restoring as I was hoping. I also tested the wood stain to see what it would look like if I didn't do any sanding. It didn't turn out too bad.

Despite the fact that the stain worked well without any prep sanding, I had to do it anyways. As you can tell from the picture, there was still chunks of finish that hadn't completely worn off along the edges. Also, not pictured is the backside where most of the finish is still intact. So I had to sand it all anyways, to get the old finish off both sides and even out everything. I took the bench apart at this point.

Sanding was pretty much the worst part. It took me a long time to sand everything. I started with a 60 grit to really work off the old finish. After that, I sanded again more quickly with 150 grit to smooth it all out a bit more.

Once done, I applied the stain with Taylor's help. We had the wood panels laying on a plastic tarp and applied the stain on the top side. What we didn't account for (lesson learned!) was that the stain was dripping down the sides and onto the bottom of the panels. By the time the top layer dried, we had some clumps on the bottom side that were also dried and stained. When we flipped the panels, we had discovered them too late. That caused our panels to be stained unevenly on the backs and sides. Oh well, it didn't look all that bad.

That was all on Saturday. On Sunday, I started with the legs. I did a preliminary sanding to get some of the crap off the legs like pieces of stuck bird crap and other various things. This also evened out the layer a bit, but not that much because I didn't try hard enough. After sanding, I soaped and washed the legs to make sure they were as clean as possible for the primer coat. Lesson learned #2: don't get rust colored primer. I don't know why they thought this was a good idea, but the only primer spray paint that was available at Home Depot was rust-colored (well, it's close but not exactly). That means that when the top coat chips off, it looks like it's just rusting but that's the primer undercoat. Oh well. So I applied some of the primer coat on the legs and let it dry. That process took about an hour.

Once done, I began the black spray paint topcoat. I wanted two coats here, and it took much longer to dry than the primer. This process took about 3 hours. I also took this opportunity to spray paint the old wood panel screws (so they would be black instead of goldeny-metal) and the new wood screws for the support beam that runs across the middle. It's the little things, right?

Once everything was dry, the hard part came: putting it all back together. It was more difficult than it should have been because the wood panels fit "inside" the legs, not on top. You have to attach all the panels onto one leg first, then prop them into position somehow and slide the other leg into place. I had Taylor to help me with this step, which was good because I would have had no chance otherwise. Once together, I tightened all the nuts, then drilled the support beam into place (goes down the back/middle to help distribute the weight in the middle).

All done, and it only took me the better part of an entire weekend!

And the obligatory comparison shot:

Did I mention that there are two park benches, and this was only the first? I can't imagine doing this all over again anytime soon. Maybe Justin or Andy will feel like a project...