Sunday, March 11, 2012

From Trash to Treasure

A few weeks ago, I (Simon) found a door at the side of the road that was put out on the street to be thrown away with the trash the next morning.  The reason it even caught my attention was that it had lots of old license plates screwed to it, so I carried it to the garage to remove the plates.  Signs of all sorts have always intrigued me, and I thought it might be cool to use them to decorate a shop or garage later in life (if we ever have one).

 I didn't think to take a picture of the door with the license plates attached to is, but here's a pic of all the plates.

Later that night (I had already put the door back to the street), I showed Sarah the door, and she liked it so much that we decided to keep it to "do something cool with it."  So I carried it back to the garage and started brainstorming ideas to make the door into a table.  

 This is the door.  I scraped all the loose paint chips off from this side.  On the other side (not shown) I scraped and sanded the paint off completely.

I thought about simply putting it on two sawhorses but wanted a more permanent solution.  So, I decided to make it into a real table with an apron and four legs.  But wooden table legs can be pretty expensive, especially cause I wanted turned spindle legs.  I found some at Home Depot for about $9 a piece, but didn't love them, so I went on Craigslist and found this little table for $30 that I picked up the next day.

The table that I bought off of Craigslist

Of course, I wasn't interested in the table itself but in the legs and the rest of the hardware, so I disassembled it into its components.  The next step was rather tedious though: I had to sand off the paint on the legs.  

First it was hunter green.  Then it was black.  I didn't like either of them. 

An hour and a half later after using 60 grit sandpaper.  Still a little rough around the edges but overall pretty good.

That's better.  I used 150 grit sandpaper to make it nice and smooth.  Because I wanted to paint it and not stain it I didn't try and get 100% of the old paint off.  99% was good enough for me.

I bought three 8 foot long pine 1x4's for the apron around the table for about $6 a piece.  I reused the wooden corner brackets from the Craigslist table and started building.

The first corner.  I used wood glue in addition to screws to attach the corner bracket to the apron.
(I apologize for the yellow in some of the picture.  The camera was on a weird setting and I didn't notice) 

Because the whole table is going to look rustic anyway, I wasn't so worried about accuracy; it didn't have to be perfect.  I made a lot of decisions on the fly and made good progress.

Here you can get a good idea of how the table is going to look.  As you can see, I had only sanded off half of the legs at this point.  Sanding was by far the least fun part, but it was necessary and I'm glad I cannibalized the Craigslist table even though it meant more work for me.

As I was saying earlier, I made a lot of decisions as I was building.  One of which was the idea to have a drawer in the front, and suddenly I wasn't making a table anymore.  I was making a desk.  

I reused the old aprons of the Craigslist table to stiffen up the structure of the desk.  As you can see, we're down to only one black leg.  

Taking out the apron section in the front to make room for the drawer weakened the structure so I had to reinforce it

And this is where the drawer is going to go

And instead of one large drawer, I now decided to have two smaller ones.  I added some 1x3's parallel to the front to increase stiffness of the table base.  The little black piece of 1x3 in the front will separate the two drawers and will be screwed into the tabletop (door) for increased stability

I used pine 1x2's to make rails or "tracks" for the drawers

This is where the left drawer is going to go

I picked up two 6 foot long pine 1x3's for the drawers that cost me about $5 a piece.  For the bottom I bought a 2'x4' sheet of 1/4" plywood which was $7.

First drawer made of pine 1x3's and screwed together using pocket holes made with my trusty Kreg Jig

1/4" plywood for the bottom makes the drawer (almost) complete

Now I just needed to attach a section of 1x4 to the front of the drawer to make it blend in with the apron of the desk.  Drawer #1 is complete

This is where I tested out the drawer for the first time.  Will it fit?

Looks pretty good to me

The table base was then screwed to the door using pocket holes.  All legs are sanded and I was ready to flip the desk right side up and put those drawers in

Construction-wise, I'm done!  This is the front of the desk...

…and both drawers work.  I like it.

The construction was complete, but the desk was far from being done.  Sarah and I went to Home Depot to pick out a paint color for the base of the desk.  We chose an olive green called "Amazon Jungle" by Behr for $14 for a quart.  In addition we picked up a quart of water based polycrylic from Minwax for $18.

 After one coat of paint.  I didn't paint the "tracks" for the drawers on purpose, cause I wanted them to be smooth so the drawers could easily be moved in and out.

After two coats of paint

These are the two fronts of the drawers.  In order to paint all five sides needed, I screwed screws into the backside to make "legs"

Drawer fronts and legs after two coats of paint

Detail view of a leg.  Painting the legs was tedious because of their shape.

This is after two coats of polycrylic

Here you can see the difference between bare paint and polycrylic finish.  The spindle part of the leg has two coats of polycrylic on it and the "square" top of the leg only has two coats of paint.  Sarah and I both prefer a matte finish and the polycrylic we chose was the least shiny.  It was called "Clear Satin."

It took me a couple of days before I painted the top of the legs.  While everything had a chance to fully cure, Sarah and I went to Anthropologie to buy a couple of knobs for the drawers.  It took us quite some time to decide on a knob we liked, but this is the one we chose.  They were quite pricey ($8/knob), but we both really like it and think it works really well on this desk.

The knob we chose for the drawers

Unfortunately I had to sand off the top of the drawer front, because with the additional paint and finish I applied, it was too tall to fit underneath the table top.  It doesn't look bad, but I liked it better with the drawer front being green on the top. Oh, well…

Once everything had at least 24 hours to fully cure, I assembled everything and (with Sarah's help) flipped the desk right side up, put the drawers in…and was done.

The desk

Showing the two drawers

When I painted the desk it was super windy and it just so happened that the lawn crew came that day, so there was quite a bit of dust and things in the air that stuck to the freshly painted desk.  At first I was annoyed, but then I just embraced that fact that the surface wouldn't be super smooth.   Again: The desk is pretty rustic so it doesn't have to be perfect.  

Imperfections under the paint

Eventually we'd like to buy a large piece of glass to put over the entire surface of the desk to have a smooth surface.  We'll wait till we have a place to put the desk as the glass might just break in the moving process.  We also might paint the top of the door a more uniform white, but for now, we're done with it and (sadly) it can be put in storage until we have our own place again.


  1. Fun project! Sweet outcome. Impressed by ya'lls ability to pick colors and make it look good. Not that I'd expect anything less from you guys, but that I could NOT have figured that out. :) - Nicole B

  2. Lieber Sarah, lieber Simon,
    ich bin immer wieder beeindruckt was Du alles aus jenem und allem machen kannst. Vielleicht könnest Du das zu Deinem Beruf machen? Du bist so talentiert und das solltest Du auch weiterhin nutzen.
    Ich hoffe Simon bekommt recht bald die Arbeitgenehmigung, es gibt nicht schöneres als junges Paar sich einzurichten und ein Nest zu bauen ...
    Ich hoffe Ihr habt noch genug Geduld und Zuversicht bis es soweit ist.

    Bis bald,


  3. I love it! Joseph and I have done a little bit of refinishing ourselves since last summer, but nothing this intense. I miss you guys!