Project – Restored bookshelves

I love how these restored bookshelves turned out in my 3R’s project for March. I have to say it wasn’t easy, I made a lot of mistakes on this DIY upcycle project and learnt a lot as a result.

The bookshelves were veneer on wood. Most of the veneer seemed to be in good condition but some of it was peeling away or broken.  My first step was to pull away the veneer that had lifted off.  This was fairly easy.
The places where the veneer was removed completely looked really good as there was solid wood underneath, instead of MDF or chip board.  In other parts of the bookcases, only parts of the veneer had come off. So I pulled this away and filled in the missing spaces with wood filler. Once this was dry, I sanded it back and started painting.
I wanted to try chalk paint. Having no access to chalk paint here, I tried out a recipe that had been recommended by a person from my DIY Facebook group. This involved mixing bicarbonate of soda with white latex paint. The mixture was smooth, but the end effect was quite rough. I didn’t really like this effect.

As the paint began drying, I realised I had another problem on my hands. The colour from the veneer was bleeding through. I know some of the girls in the DIY group had experienced this before and recommended a sealant before painting. But again I didn’t have access to the sealant (How I miss Bunnings!)

Lacking the sealant, I decided to go with a darker colour that wouldn’t show any colour from below. Being in a monochromatic frame of mind, I decided to go with a matt black. This was a good choice as I loved it from the moment it went on. I also decided not to go with a chalk mixture and applied the paint as is.
The bookshelves with two coats of paint looked pretty awesome and I thought they made a perfect canvas to paint designs on.
I recently became quite fascinated by Moroccan fish scale tiles and love the way the pattern fits together. I also devised a way to make the template that I shared in my earlier tutorial ‘Make your own Moroccan fish scale stencil or stamp‘.
For the bookshelf with the central scale pattern running down the middle, I cut out the template on a large plastic sheet in the pattern pictured below. I alternated rows of 1 and 2 fish scales with a 1 cm space in between each scale  to create the design you see on the finished product.

Then I stuck down the plastic sheet using pieces of masking tape to make sure the design wouldn’t shift. I kept measuring the distance from the edge of the bookcase to the top and the sides of each scale to make sure that the design went on straight.  I had to readjust the plastic sheet several times to make sure it went on exactly as I wanted it. A new take on the old adage ‘Measure twice, cut once’. In this case it was painting once.
I wasn’t game to paint on a solid fish scale design, so I decided to stamp on the shape instead so that there would be a pattern over the fish scale. I used a cross section of the ladies finger vegetable and a pale grey colour to get the desired effect. A tip when you are doing vegetable stamping. Always blot your stamp on a paper towel to remove excess paint before applying it to your furniture piece. If you don’t do this, the pattern becomes blotchy.

I love the effect created. It really looks like fish scales.  I finished off this piece with a border of the ladies finger design.
For the second bookshelf, I used my Moroccan fish scale stamp made from a piece of corrugated foam to apply the design. This also gave a nice effect. I applied the paint to the stamp with a roller for an even finish.

After the designs were dry, I finished off both pieces with an application of furniture wax. This is an important step as it protects the paint from water damage and minor scratches.

And I thought I was done. But when I lifted one of the shelves to wax the side that had been sitting against the floor, I found the bottom veneer lifting off. It looked as though wood filler had absorbed moisture and caused the nearest edges of the veneer to lift off. So I ended up scraping that layer of veneer off completely and painting and waxing the wood underneath.

I checked both shelves again for any places where more veneer may have lifted off but fortunately it was only this one spot that was affected.

I wish I realised that was going to happen with the wood veneer and removed it completely the first time.

So the key lessons I learnt during this project were – if you have damaged veneer over wood, just remove the whole lot and if you are planning to use light colours, seal the wood first.  Till next time … I’m off to look into wood sealant that must be available in Malaysia.

Author: saunthi

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