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Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

5 Easy Options for Restoring Old Furniture

Refinishing your worn out furniture not only saves you money but is also saves many more resources than buying new. Don’t know what furniture refinishing is?

In general terms, refinishing refers to the act of repairing or reapplying a wood finishing coat on a furniture object. Refinishing can be applied to a variety of surfaces or materials, including metal, plastic, wood, glass with the help of varnish, lacquer, paint or wood finish. Here are five options for refinishing furniture in your home.


Refinishing an Old Dressing Table

Who doesn't love an old, antique dressing table? However, the wood used to create the dressing table tends to go lose its shine and protective layer over a period of years. To refinish an old dressing table, you can start by scraping off the old paint with the help of a scraper and a heat gun.

When you are done with completely scraping away old paint, apply the primer, followed by two coats of paint. You can try using Shellac (commonly known as French polish) for the drawers of the dressing table.

Do not forget to sand the edges of the table for the final touch. Your brand new, yet refinished dressing table is ready to use!


Refinish a Couch

Removing the old upholstery and refinishing a couch can be a tedious task. However, trying the entire process is definitely worth it in savings.

A majority of furniture, including couches, is designed to be re-upholstered. Just because the fabric on the couch has become old doesn't mean that the couch altogether should be considered a piece of junk.

Start by taking the different parts of the couch apart. First, take off all the fabric from the bottom, followed by its back, arms and the deck. If the old fabric is still well and fits the sofa, use it as a reference to cut the new fabric. Also inspect the cushions for filling material. While cheap foam breaks down easily, consider using high-quality foam.

To assemble the new upholstery, start by cutting out the fabric by taking reference from the size of the removed fabric. Next, sew the fabric to fit the couch. Make sure to use heavy thread and needle. You can use a gun to staple the sewed fabric to the couch.

French Polishing for Wooden Furniture

French polish, or Shellac, is a furniture-polishing technique that results in a highly glossy surface. The technique involves the application of several layers of Shellac dissolved in alcohol. The polish is applied with the help of a rubbing pad dipped in oil.

Shellac is used for two primary reasons – appearance and protection. Wooden furniture often needs protection against moisture, sunlight, humidity and everyday wear and tear. In addition to protection, Shellac enhances the appearance of the wooden or timber furniture.

Shellac application leaves the wood with a sheen and luster. It’s like the wood is brought to life altogether. Shellac is also used to change the color of the wood, repair the damaged surfaces and hide any form of marks. It helps improve the appearance of the wood dramatically.

Refinishing Metal Furniture

The primary reason to refinish metal furniture is because of damage done by rust, which is a form of iron oxide formed by a reaction between oxygen and iron in the presence of water or moisture. Surface rust gives metallic things a flaky appearance and stops protecting the inner metal from external damage. This is the primary reason why it should be removed by refinishing the metal furniture.

Metal furniture can be refinished by scraping and sanding off the rust with a brush. Next, you need to clean the scraped off furniture with a solvent and then applying primer. Once the primer is applied, paint of suitable color can be sprayed on furniture to give it a brand new look.


Refinishing an Old Door

With time, old doors start to make creaking sounds while opening and closing. The irritating sound of the doors calls for refinishing of the door. It might also require a refinishing in case of faulty hinges and some other problems associated with the door opening and closing.

You can try refinishing an old door by first removing the old door from its joints. Next, stripe off the old finish from the door and clean it properly with the help of the sanding process. Once cleaning and sanding are done, stain and finish the door and hang it back again.

Refinishing Outdoor Furniture

Furniture placed outside the home is specifically exposed to harsh conditions related to the environment. For example, rain, dust, moisture, humidity and direct sunlight can affect the quality of the furniture placed outside. Therefore, such furniture required special care, maintenance and attention on a regular basis.

Start by sanding down the furniture properly and then spraying a paint of your choice. You can choose to use a cardboard stencil to spray on a name of the chair owner or anything else that you want. End the process by wiping off the stains and you chair is ready.

Refinishing an Antique Chair

Pieces of furniture that has lived for many years often have a great sentimental value associated with them. Antique chairs are one such piece of furniture that is passed down to different generations within the same family.

However, with time, such pieces of furniture lose their splendour. This is the primary reason why antique furniture like a chair needs refinishing over a period of time.

To refinish an antique chair, start by checking the chair for the presence of woodworm. Check if there is dust falling off from the chair, which is an indication of woodworms. Next, check for the sturdiness of the chair. Is the chair comfortable? Is the armchair sound and sturdy?

Check the joints of the armchair. You might want to dismantle the joints and attach them back again or you can use a clamp to push the joints back. Next, check the status of the seat rail.

Lastly, look at the actual sculpting of the chair. You can infill to bring the actual splendour of the original chair.

Nicholes Ammons is a veteran in furniture refinishing and a connoisseur when it comes to picking the right kind of furniture for use. He has extensively studied furniture over the significant time he’s spent working at Austin Furniture Repair as a Production Worker.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

The Many Benefits of Refinishing Old Furniture

Photo by Minimilisti

Scrapping the urge to buy new furniture or presupposing that you’d be able to create something even better from what is left of your old antique is often the first options people turn to when they are on the market for new furniture pieces. This is one major reason why, despite the prevailing economic recession, the furniture industry was able to pull in a whopping $101 billion worth of sales in the year 2013.

What Does it Mean to ‘Refinish’ Furniture?

Refinishing furniture is typically done to improve or restore an object. In addition, the restorer or artisan may even aim to achieve a renewed finish. In Britain, refinishing is also known as “repolishing,” when it is just about woodwork or wooden furniture.

In context of furniture, “refinishing” refers to applying a protective coating to a furniture item that has lost its original or previous protective layer. A typical furniture refinishing involves sanding, staining, sealing, and application of protective layers.

There can be two approaches to furniture refinishing: to sand down everything unwanted and apply new finish until the piece of furniture looks completely new, or to clean just the unwanted things and keep with the remaining good.

5 Benefits of Refinishing Furniture

Just Because You Love It

When you have a piece of furniture in your home for so many years, you become used to see it every day. Watching a beloved piece deteriorate over a period of time becomes hard to witness.

People often have sentimental values attached to a certain piece of furniture, especially the antique ones and something that has been passed on for generations. Restoring and refinishing sentimental pieces saves them for continued use and enjoyment.

They Don’t Make It the Way They Used To

Modern furniture pieces are not of the same quality as the old furniture pieces. The quality has deteriorated over the past several decades, and the highest quality wood is not used anymore except for very specific (and expensive) applications.

The inexpensive plywood used today does not last for many years, thus warranting the need to refinish old furniture, which helps furniture lasts longer. Consider restoring antique, high-quality pieces for resale as a cottage business.

Environment Benefits of Furniture Restoration

Due to the energy intensity of furniture-making, it produces much more carbon dioxide emissions to create new furniture pieces than to restore the old furniture. Compounded by issues of deforestation and land degradation, refinishing old furniture keeps trees standing.

Avoid Extra Investments and Cost

Refinishing furniture helps give a new look to your home at less additional costs – usually much lower than what purchasing new furniture demands.

Restoring and refinishing hidden furniture gems can be an inexpensive, but effective way to update a home.

Maintain the Pristine Condition of Your Furniture

Furniture refinishing can help make damaged, worn-out pieces with bumps and scrapes pristine again. In addition, it helps antique pieces of furniture regain their value. It can also be used as a tool to match the other things that you have in the room.

For example, furniture reupholstery can be used to replace old fabric with a new that matches the interiors of the room. It can also be used as a technique to improve the functionality of a piece.

Nicholes Ammons is a veteran in furniture refinishing and a connoisseur when it comes to picking the right kind of furniture for use. He has extensively studied furniture over the significant time he’s spent working at Austin Furniture Repair as a Production Worker. Now, he’s using the time and knowledge he’s acquired to learn even more through writing about the same.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Homemade Soap for Laundry and Gifts

Homemade Soap For Gifts

I used to think of soap-making as one of those cool things I’d love to try someday, but for a long time it seemed too complex and intimidating to actually take the plunge. Then, one day it so happened that I had all the necessary ingredients — namely, a box of lye crystals and a bottle of non-food-grade oil I had absolutely nothing else to do with. I took a deep breath and dove in. I was going to try making my own soap.

Find a Simple Soap-Making Recipe

I hunted up the simplest recipe I could find and played around with it a bit. I will admit straightaway that I cheat and don’t really weigh my ingredients. I take my measurements in cups and tablespoons, using 2 tablespoons of lye per 1 cup of oil, and always prefer to err on the safe side and add a tiny bit less lye. This isn’t very professional or scientific, but it works for our personal use. Hey, people used to make soap in their kitchens using leftover cooking fat combined with water seeped through wood ashes, right?

This is the beauty of making soap: The basis is a relatively simple, straightforward chemical reaction, but all the rest is incredibly versatile. You can make your soap as simple or as fancy as you like, combining various oils and fats, adding essential oils to make scented soap, using different molds, etc.

Safety First

Lye is an incredibly corrosive substance. Never touch lye or raw soap with your bare hands. Never dissolve lye crystals or mix your soap in an aluminum pan. When mixing the lye and water, make sure to work in a room with an open window, or better yet, outside to avoid the heavy fumes. Do this well away from small children.

Allow your soap the full time it needs to cure properly. This is hard to do when you can’t wait to try out your first batch, but believe me, the wait is worth it. Properly cured soap is milder, more effective, and easier to handle.

Practice Soap Making with Laundry Soap

Since my first soap bars turned out somewhat lumpy, I decided to experiment with them as laundry soap. There are plenty of recipes for homemade laundry detergent out there, but I simplify even further. I either grate up a couple of tablespoonfuls of soap flakes and put them in my washing machine, or I take a bit of soap, put it in a little mesh bag, and throw it in together with the clothes. This method won’t remove heavy stains, but it works just fine for light everyday wear.

The first time I did my washing this way, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how soft the clothes came out – without adding any fabric softener. This makes natural homemade soap ideal for washing baby clothes. Newborn babies don’t crawl in the dirt or smear mashed vegetbles all over themselves, so their clothes don’t often get really messy, and all they need is a mild wash.

Not long ago, a friend of mine had a new baby, and when I came to visit, I brought along some homemade soap flakes, packed in a pretty jar with a note of instructions on using them in laundry. I think this is going to become my regular standby gift for new mothers.

I have no doubt I will spend many more rewarding hours making soap, enjoying the fruit of my labors, and sharing the results with family and friends.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Connect with Anna on Facebook, find her as SmallFlocksMom on Earthineer, and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Chimney Pipe Installation for Wood Stoves Through a Flat Ceiling (with Video)


Installing a freestanding wood stove requires installing chimney pipe to vent the wood stove. This step by step guide will explain the typical chimney pipe and stove pipe installation when venting through a flat ceiling. Every installation varies, so if you have questions about your particular installation we're glad to help; please contact us with any questions you may have on your wood stove setup.

How to Install a Class A Insulated Chimney Pipe

Below, we will explain in full detail how to install Class A insulated chimney pipe and black stove pipe to vent your wood stove through a flat ceiling. After reading, you will see how simple the installation is and know the basics for how to install your own. We've also included an installation video for a visual reference.

1. First, locate the center point where the chimney pipe will penetrate the ceiling. You can mark this with a marker. When using single wall black stove pipe, you must be 18" away from combustible materials.

2. Once the center point is found, use the ceiling support box to mark the ceiling to make your cut. Trace the outside of the ceiling support box on the ceiling.

3. Following your mark, use a sawzall to cut the opening in the ceiling.

4. The ceiling support box will come with two brackets to mount to the ceiling joists. From the attic, slide the ceiling support box through the opening and attach the support box to the ceiling joists.

5. Now that we have penetrated through the ceiling, we will need to mark the hole to penetrate the roof. By sliding a section of single wall stove pipe through the support box with a level attached to it, you are able to mark where the center-point of the pipe will be on the roof. Running a screw through the roof deck will make it easy to identify from the roof where the center of the pipe will run through.

6. Moving on to the roof, take your adjustable roof flashing and center it around the screw you just put in the roof deck. An easy way to mark the hole is to use the flashing as a stencil and spray painting the inside on the roof shingles where you will make your cut.

7. Once the hole is marked on the roof, use your sawzall and cut the hole through the roof.

8. In order for the flashing to slide underneath the shingles, you must cut the nails on the top half of the circle. Using tin snips, cut the shingles 2" back on the top half of the circle. This will allow the flashing to slide underneath the shingles.

9. Next, apply a healthy amount of high temperature silicone to the back of the chimney pipe flashing. Slide the adjustable roof flashing under the top half of the roof shingles that you cut.

10. Screw the roof flashing to the roof deck using stainless steel screws. Silicone all of the screw heads and the area where you slid the flashing underneath the shingles, this will create a weather-tight seal.

11. Now it's time to put together our Rock-Vent Class A insulated chimney pipe. Locate the end of the pipe that has the insulation recessed down. This is the male end of the pipe. To make the transition from Class A insulated chimney pipe to single wall black stove pipe, we will be using the universal pipe adapter. Attach the pipe adapter on the male end of the chimney pipe with the provided hardware.

12. Once you have the universal adapter connected, lower this first section of chimney pipe through the flashing and through the support box. The bottom portion of the universal chimney pipe adapter will come through the support box.

13. While you're still on the roof, attach the storm collar to the chimney pipe. Be sure to put a bead of silicone around the storm collar where it meets the chimney pipe. This will create a weather-tight seal.

14. The Class A insulated chimney pipe should protrude above the roof at a minimum of 2 feet and it should be 10 feet away from the roof line. Attach the needed lengths of pipe for your installation using the included hardware.


15. Now we will attach the chimney pipe rain cap. Using a 5/16 nut driver, attach the chimney pipe rain cap to the top piece of chimney pipe. The chimney cap will keep water, debris & animals from entering the chimney pipe as well as keeping sparks away from the roof.

16. We are completed on the roof line, let's go back inside and install the single wall black stove pipe to the insulated chimney pipe. We chose to use a telescoping stove pipe for the first section of pipe since it eliminates cutting the pipe and gives you the perfect length. Attach the female end of the telescoping stove pipe to the male end of the universal pipe adapter with the included hardware.

17. Connect the remaining lengths of pipe needed for your installation and connect to the last section of pipe to the collar on the wood stove. You can use a level to make sure the pipe is straight.

18. To finish the inside pipe installation off nicely, you will want to install the trim collar around the support box. With the provided hardware, anchor it to the ceiling.

19. Congratulations! We have completed our wood stove chimney pipe installation through a flat ceiling!

Here you can find the Rock-Vent Class A insulated chimney pipe and Rock-Vent single wall black stove pipe used in this wood stove installation video. As always, please comment or contact us with any additional questions - we're here to help you do-it-yourself and save.

Jaquelin White is a Web marketer near Ann Arbor, Michigan. From helping local businesses increase their web presence to working for Rockford Chimney Supply serving the U.S. and Canada, Jaquelin loves the always-changing ways of the web, because there is always something new to learn and try. Read all of Jaquelin’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Combining Intuition and Skill to Create Healing Dolls

a variety of healing dolls

I love gardening. I love arting just as much. When the two of them are allowed to dance together, magic happens.

An online friend recently shared one of her passions with me (and a group of fellow online doll makers)—making healing dolls. Crystal was kind enough to share her process with our small group and has given her blessing for my sharing her wisdom with this wider audience. As far as we’re concerned, Mother Earth and her inhabitants always benefit from abundant healing energy floating around.

Not only am I able to combine my garden and arting passions in this project, but I also have the added opportunity of infusing my energy work—a triple pleasure! I use sweetgrass and sage from my garden along with my sewing skills and weave healing energy into every stitch to create tiny bundles of support for others desiring help. What could be better?

If you’ve never made a doll before or don’t really sew, do not stop reading. The following instructions are wide-open (and meant to be) so you can use your own particular talents and skills to create unique dolls. If you decide that you’d rather ask someone else to create the doll, I’ll be happy to help. You can visit my website to see more about our made-to-order healing dolls.

My friend Crystal learned early in life to follow her feelings when creating. Crystal’s Cherokee memaw (and other beloved elders) have imbued in her vast amounts of wisdom about plants, healing, and tradition throughout her life. Crystal draws on all of this when making her dolls. One of her mentors, Nora Whiteowl, teaches that all you need are positive intentions and healing prayers put into the doll as you work.

stick healing doll

Crystal’s Doll-Making Pointers

Most important when creating your doll:

To have positive healing intentions flowing from you into the doll as you create it.

To use cleansed materials (Crystal smudges and purifies according to her Native American traditions).

Keep it simple and follow your intuitive voice as to what is included in the doll.

Specifics to take into account:

The finished doll should measure 3-1/2 to 4 inches tall, small enough to hold in your hand.

Create it from anything you are called to use when considering who or what it will be used for.

Feel free to include dried healing herbs or plants.

Putting a tiny medicine bag (which includes a quartz point or chip to amplify the healing) behind the face may be beneficial.

General guidance:

As you create, sew, and stuff the doll, continue sending positive healing intentions into it. If you use prayer, feel free to include positive prayers for healing—on both physical and mental levels. You want to basically create the doll in positive intentions for health on all levels.

As you seal the doll (sewing it closed), imagine that you are sealing in the healing medicine—free to be released later to the intended receiver.

Healing dolls can be carried with the person needing the healing but often work best sitting near them as they sleep.

If you don’t sew, don’t worry. Healing dolls can be crafted by combining two sticks and adding a head of bundled herbs (see photo above). Remember, it’s all in the intention. Imagine healing energies flowing from the universe through you and into the doll. Creating a doll for yourself, a loved one, or anyone needing an extra boost can be invigorating.

Dolls need not be complex, as you can see from the collection in the first photo. Crystal tells us, “I think the most important thing about creating these is not to copy mine; you are creating her, not me. You create the doll the way you see her. As you create your healing doll, you are putting your healing energy into her. We, as women, are great healers and all have that power within.”

Remember, intention is very important. You want positive energies and hopeful prayers going into the doll. Some of us view this kind of creating as a sacred act. While fashioning each piece of the doll can be a separate act of intention and can be purified and sacred unto itself, setting a strongly positive intention about the outcome can be enough for beginners.

As I stated earlier, I use sweetgrass from my garden when making my healing dolls. The photo below shows some of my sweetgrass drying in the sun on the altars of the four directions in my Sacred Fire Circle. When harvesting sweetgrass, I thank the grass, the wisdom keepers, and Spirit for sharing this sacred gift with me. It means a lot to me to be able to set it out in the sun around my Fire Circle as I feel it boosts the healing power.

Including pieces that you have grown or harvested with care and intention can help add to the medicine of your doll. Even if you’re not a gardener, or if you want to help a child create their own doll, you can include medicinal plants in your doll. The simple stick doll, pictured above, has two types of plantain flowers and red clover in the head.

I want to send a special thank you to Crystal for sharing with us! What a special treasure you are gifting to others. Thanks also to Christine for sharing a photo of the healing doll she just completed. May these instructions help us all to bring more healing and positivity to the universe!

drying sweetgrass sacred fire circle

Photos by Christine, Crystal, and Blythe Pelham

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.