Following the completion of the workbench, the next project on my list was to turn an old linen chest that we had been given into a decent looking Toy Chest for Olivia. This chest was given to us by my wife’s parents and up until now has been used in the garage as a storage chest for some old tools as well as a make-shift working station during the building of the workbench.
Over the last year it has seen it’s fair share of bumps and knocks, resulting in paint being chipped and the odd little dent here and there. This isn’t too much of an issue as I think that it adds a little character to the chest (or at least, it will once it is finished).
The furniture in the nursery has a varnished pine appearance, so I opted to strip/scrape the blue paint off the chest and try and take it back to bare wood. I could then apply an oil/varnish mix that would really bring out the grain and give it a durable finish as a toy chest.
Initially I used a scraper on the top of the chest and things went well. The paint had been applied over varnish and so came away easily:
Once I moved from the top of the chest to the sides, I hit a bit of a bump in the road. For whatever reason, the paint would just not scrape off at all. I suspect it may have been because of the fact that the sides had not been previously varnished to the same level as the top. The result was a much hardier paint surface that scraping was having little to no effect on. So the question was: “do I try and sand the finish off or do I even consider planing the side where possible?”
Well I can tell you, the idea of clogging up a hand plane with the paint did not appeal to me at all so I was looking at sanding the project by hand. While this would mean a lot of work, I wasn’t too deterred as this is a project that I was willing to put some “elbow grease” into.
By pure coincidence, one of my brothers had heard that I was looking to sand down the box and decided to buy me a gift to help me in my task.
He had seen a hand-held sander on special offer in B&Q as the box was a little damaged, so he thought he would pick it up for me. So this now gave me a third option that I could go with.
So the next day I got to work on the chest with a mixture of the Bosch Electric Sander and also using sandpaper by hand. Some corners and grooves were hard to get into with the electric sander so the old fashioned approach was required here and there. But boy oh boy! did the Handheld sander work a treat!
**Confession Time** At first I thought that the sander was utter rubbish….. It wasn’t until I realised that I was using the pads with the finer of the two grits that were supplied with the sander that I saw the error of my ways. a quick change of pads to the coarser grit and we were trucking along!
After sanding the outside of the chest, I realised that I would not be able to get ALL of the blue paint out of the grooves. Or at least, not without causing some damage to the chest. So, after speaking to my wife, the executive decision was taken to paint the chest white. This would allow me to be able to fix some lettering on the front of the chest rather than carve into the chest (as I had originally intended). Naturally I wanted the word “Toys” on the chest. With a white chest, we could contrast the background using various colours, more on this a little later.
The next step was to remove the lid and give the inside of the chest enough of a sand to allow a coat of paint to stick. As this is the inside I didn’t need to take the finish back to bare wood, only enough so that some undercoat and then a top coat would look OK. I also decided to replace the hinges on the chest as the hinges that were already installed were a little bent and beaten up.
After sanding all the surfaces that I wanted to paint to a level I was happy with. My next step was to wipe these surfaces down with White Spirits (Mineral Spirits in the US) to ensure all the dust was removed before applying an undercoat.
After a single coat of undercoat, I could still see the grain in the wood so I opted to give the chest a second undercoat.
After the undercoat was left to dry overnight, I could then apply the top coat.
I applied both the undercoat and top coat with a sponge roller, rather than a woolly style roller, purely to give a more consistent, smooth application.
“The Tin” recommends that each coat of satinwood be left for 16 hours to fully dry, so this meant doing 1 coat per day for a couple of days.
After finishing the painting of the chest, the next step was to look at adding some finishing touches. I had decided early on to add the word “Toys” somewhere on the chest. Initially mulling over the idea of carving the word into the surface somewhere, particularly if the chest was going to be finished with a varnish or an oil, this would have looked good. But with the chest being white, I decided the best option might be to fix some lettering onto the front of the chest and have contrasting, bright colours to give the chest some “life”.
I wanted a font that was child-like and that would look well in a childs bedroom. So I started by looking on google for “Bubble Fonts”, “Child Fonts” etc etc. And after downloading several and seeing how they turned out, I managed to settle on Janda Manatee Bubble:
The next decision was to choose a material to make the letters from. My first thought was to use 9mm plywood as I had some spare from lining the garage walls, but after taking some advice, I chose to use 1/4″ MDF. After a quick trip to B&Q, and £10.00 later, I was ready to start making the letters.
I used a coping saw to cut each of the letters out as best as I could. But even after being quite careful, the cuts were very jagged and the letters needed some refining in the way of sanding by hand. Removing the centre of the O was a little more tricky, so I opted for the drill, file and sand approach.
I went to a local shop that sells all sorts of bits and bobs from craft and art to furniture. While there my wife and I managed to pick out four colours of paint we thought would go well. I opted to use spray paint rather than use a brush or a roller. I wanted a totally uniform finish as much as possible.
If I am honest, it was as much the colours and the size of these spray cans that appealed to me, I didn’t give much thought to the type of paint that was in them. It was a good size, it was the right colour and the tin said it would work on Wood, Metal or Plastic……. I’m sold!
Spraying is self explanatory, I placed a piece of scrap plywood on the floor, raised the letters up using a scrap of softwood to allow me to spray the edges properly.
All that was needed now was to re-install the lid of the chest and then fix the letters to the front of the chest.
After leaving the Gripfill for 24hours to cure, the chest was complete and ready for use. No real woodworking in this one, but a nice little project to follow up from the workbench all the same.