Monday, July 14, 2008

Furniture making 101

Have you ever wanted to be a furniture maker?? I never thought about doing that, but one day, I could not get that vision out of my head. You see, I was scrolling ads on Craigslist and came upon a listing for red cedar logs and boards. Cedar logs and boards to make rustic western headboards.....well the rest is history.

Steve and I were in the planning stage of a remodel to our cabin in Colorado. (This will be another post in itself). Well, at least I was doing the planning. You see, planning something, anything, is my passion. I love to envision an idea and see it transform. This is the good stuff.

I suddenly decided I wanted to replace the twin beds with new ones and I did not want to buy the beds, I wanted to make them. I could see them in my head, all rustic looking, uniquely handcrafted by my husband and would be exactly what I wanted for that room......Oh, if it was that easy.

In march, we made the trip to Oklahoma and purchased the wood from a family run saw mill. We hand picked the logs, and had the boards cut. The price was right, I paid him $180.00 for all the lumber. What a bargain for two whole beds that we would be building ourselves. I was elated. The saw mill man, explained how easy it was to strip the bark off the wood, and with just a little sanding and sealing the wood, we would be good to go....Oh, if it was that easy.

Step one: The stripping

The saw mill man explained that if you take the wood to the local car wash, that has a high powered sprayer, the bark would just peel off. So Steve did that and very quickly was back home with, you guessed it, bark was still intact to the poles. Seems there is a little more to it than just that.

We ended up going to Rockler woodworking and hardware store and purchased a special tool called a draw knife. For a mere $50.00 dollars, this was guaranteed by the salesman to do the trick. It should, this little tool was sharp, I do believe it would peel brick right off the side of your house. This tool did the trick.

It stripped the bark right off the logs. Look how pretty and white the wood is underneath the bark shell. I am happy to say, this was my job. It was so much fun and the results were immediate, which I loved. I never knew I would like stripping logs so much.

Step two: The sanding

Steve did the sanding with a belt sander. All the poles had to be sanded and all the boards. Once we started sanding the boards, all the warm colors really came out in the wood. This was work, Steve sanded, and sanded and sanded. Along with the sanding, he probably had a few choice words for me, but hey my dream was becoming a reality....New beds, handcrafted by us!

Step three: The sealing and ......more sanding

Once the wood was sanded smooth, it was time for the sealing. We used Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane Semi-Gloss. This task was very time consuming. Once you applied a layer of polyurethane, after it dries you have to sand again. The polyurethane pulls the wood grains back to the surface and those little bumps have to be sanded off. We used a fine sandpaper for this step, and sanded by hand. Then the whole sealing process was repeated about 4 times. The results were amazing. The red in the wood stood out and this was beginning to take the shape of real rustic western wood for my new beds.

Step 3 : The details

After much debate on how were were going to assemble the headboards, we decided on large bolts. But that was just not the look I had in mind. So on a weekend trip to Canton Trade Days, I spotted a vendor who sold decorative iron. She had these little iron stars and that is when the light bulb went off in my head. This was perfect for the finishing touch to the beds. These would be spray painted a dark iron gray, a great accent piece against the wood. The wood would be bolted together as planned, but the bolts would be screwed thru the middle of the stars, thus taking your eye off the bolts.
In case I failed to mention before, we are not professionals. This was the best solution I came up with for a polished look, the easiest way.

The results:

This entire process took about a month to complete. That was working on weekends, and a few afternoons during the week. The longest part was letting all the wood dry in between sealing and sanding. Believe me, it was work, and Steve did his share of complaining that we should have just purchased beds and been done with it.

He figured with as much time and work that was put into making these beds, we could have purchased them much cheaper. But somehow, that was just not as glamorous as making them ourselves. I could envision telling our grandchildren one day about how we chose the wood, stripped the logs, sanded the wood, made these beds by hand, etc........I think you get the picture.

We really love how they look. These little beds are just how I pictured them to be. Rustic, beautiful, and full of character.
This was a memory making project, even if the work was hard, we have good memories in making these beds.

Would I take on a project like this again? Yes, I would. Do I think Steve would be up for it, not so much. But he is not turned that way..... I am the creative one who loves to see my vision come to light. Steve on the other hand is expected to bring my vision to reality, at all cost. LOL


  1. Love your blog page. Steve made those headboards? I am so impressed. My husband also loves to do wood working and is starting a small home business with it. It will take another year to get it off the ground, but we trudge on! Love the pictures.

  2. Hi Suzanne

    First of all, WOW what beautiful furniture! That is something I would love to do someday when we finish building our house.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. Somehow it helps that other people struggle with the same things I do. I don't feel so alone I guess.


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