Friday, May 13, 2011

Rescued from the burn pile

I finished spiffing up one of my saves from the day my friend was cleaning out his old storage building, which I mentioned here.  It was a really dirty old crate filled full of old crummy picture frames and junk left from the previous owners of their house.  It may or may not have been infested with bugs before I emptied it.  Being that it was "just an old crate" he was going to toss it in the burn pile.  We live waaaayyyy out in the country, so its ok to do that here as long as there's not a burn ban to prevent forest fires when the weather is dry.  It's really sturdy, had some cool old metal casters on it and an attached lid with a hinge, so I figured if I couldn't get it clean I could use it to store garden tools or something if nothing else.

After I briefly picked through its contest, the guys tossed all the rejects and then it set in the yard for a day because my car was already full.  The next day I came back and it remained in the yard, looking lonely and forgotten.  I went about trying to fit it in my back seat when some of the screws fell out that held the hinges.  Oh well, that's a simple fix and I don't give up that easy.

I hauled it to the house where I used the vacuum cleaner to get the dust and cob webs out, then switched to the brush attachment to get some of the dust left clinging to the wood.  It actually made a pretty amazing difference just getting the dust off.  A few days later I hauled it back outside and started the real work.  As you know, I have a bad case of premature project enthusiasm, so I forgot to take a true "before" shot.  But here it is after the first round of sanding to most of it.  I remembered to take a photo just before I sanded the lid, so you can see the difference once a layer of grime was removed.

wood crate with casters

We still don't have grass.  Don't judge me.  I have to pick all the big rocks out of the yard first and that will be a long, hard, not fun process.

I had just intended to get rid of the splintery places to make it a little safer to use without risk of impalement.  But, once I got started I was so pleased with the patina that was coming out, I kept going.  The printing from shipping, or whatever reason they print on wooden crates, was not visible at all until I started removing layers of gunk.  On one side it actually had the city and state where we live, and on the bottom the name of a local coal company that's been out of business for years.  I blurred those out in these pics - I'd rather the entire internet not know exactly where I live.  I keep it on the DL like that.  The printing proves its age and explains why it's held up so long.  It had to be sturdy in order to hold up for any use in the mines.

Here's a close up of one of the casters on the bottom.  They're still completely functional and in good condition.  I may seal them with some poly eventually just to be sure rust doesn't rub off onto anything.

wood crate with casters

I filled the holes where the screws had fallen out with a bit of wood filler and let it harden.

I sanded over the entire thing a few times, first with 100 grit, then 150, and finally 180.  I wasn't looking for a pristine finish, so I probably didn't need to switch up the grit progressively like I did, but I had bought a multi-pack of sand paper, so I didn't have a ton of one kind to use.

wood crate with casters

Once I had it all sanded down and all the pointy edges removed, I wiped all the dust off with a slightly damp cloth and took it in the house.  It was almost 90 degrees that day and I had the messiest part over at this point.

wood crate with casters

It already looks pretty good here.  But Amanda at Geek Details shared a little tip with me that I wanted to try out.  Three parts canola/veggie oil to one part white vinegar makes an awesome wood restorer.  Plus, its cheap and made from stuff I had on hand.  I just love her.  You should check her blog out, she's very daring with the projects she takes on in her home.  They do the majority of the work themselves and she has a fun and quirky decorating style that she refers to as Steam Punk.  You can learn about all things steam punk on her blog as well.

Back to my project.  Here it is looking lovely and cared for after I applied the restorer with a clean dry rag.

wood crate with casters

I'm sure if inanimate objects had feelings if would be so very grateful that I rescued it.  I picked up a few new wood screws at the hardware store in a dark finish so they wouldn't stand out.   The light is reflecting off of them in this shot much more than the original worn hardware, but they are actually a pretty close match.

A demonstration of the once again functioning lid.

wood crate with casters

Look at all that glorious storage potential.

A closer look at some of the printing that doesn't totally identify my secret location.

I'm very pleased with it.  I've seen similar crates with casters, in smaller sizes and without lids, for $100.00+ in catalogs.  They're very trendy right now.  This one is big enough to use as a coffee table and the really unique thing about it is that it holds a little history of our tiny home town.  I don't know if the casters are original, or if someone picked up a discarded shipping crate and added them.  I'm sure eventually someone will let me know.  After all, there are a lot of coal industry workers, retired and current, in my group of family and friends.  Hopefully one of them will enlighten me.

There are a few places where the planks have split, so I think I may wood glue them to secure it a little better.  Its constructed entirely with nails.  I'm afraid if I start removing them it could possibly fall apart.  I'm also thinking of covering a few of the nails that stick out on the inside with a bit of silicone or something so no one gets hurt.  They are all bent flush against the wood, but safety first.  I could line it with something, but currently I have filled it with photo albums and boxes of prints and frames that had no place other than a cardboard box in a closet.  Nothing in it has a big danger of being snagged.  I've now cleared out valuable closet space and have an awesome FREE coffee table.

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  1. Wow! I love furniture like that. I love seeing all your pictures of the process. Thanks for blogging this!

  2. AWESOME JOB STEPH.. It is in such great shape...I've seen them used in magazines as tables to put TV's on tooo..I would love to have one for that.

  3. Wow! That was a great find and a TON of work! Congrats on the rescue!

  4. YAY! I'm so glad the tipped helped you. We've been using it on the wood in the house and it's made such a difference (and for so little money too)