Friday, February 10, 2012

Simple Salvage: Chicken Feeder Cookbook Rack

Cookbooks are for the birds...well, the chickens at least!  
And that's apparent in this simple salvaged project:  a cookbook rack made completely out of an old chicken feeder!  

This is about as simple of a repurposing project as you can get.  The only materials needed are the chicken feeder, polyurethane, and the cookbooks to fill it (possibly some screws, depending on where you place it and if you have little ones running around).

The beauty is in the dividers.  Maybe it was an act of fate or some freakish repurposing foresight on behalf of the manufacturer, but most old chicken feeders have a wire divider that magically fits cookbooks just perfectly!

It's like a primitive filing cabinet!

Put in a call to all of your farmer friends, or hit up some antique shops and you will be sure to find one!  We found this one in a father-in-law's barn collecting dust and getting ready to head to the scrap yard.  

As you can imagine, it was filthy.  Chicken doo and all.  So the most important step was to clean the old girl.  We just mixed up a bucket of Dawn liquid and water and took the scrubbie to her.  Once it was dry, we decided to apply a coat (or two) of satin finish polyurethane.  As with most old feeders that you will find, this one had quite a few areas where rust had developed over time.  The polyurethane will not only protect the cookbooks from the rust, but it will also stall the development of any additional rust!

Now for installation.  We propped ours up on top of an old bench that was about the same width as the feeder itself.  Since wiggle room is scant (not to mention the wee ones running about) we felt it was a good idea to bolt it down to the bench.  

We used simple L-brackets to bolt it down, but the key to blending them in is a little soak in a magic potion we call Muriatic Acid.  Be careful when you this powerful stuff; get out the goggles, the mask, etc. because it can be dangerous.  But this corrosive mineral acid will instantly make your new metal look old and you will find that it can be an invaluable tool for all of you that love this old stuff.

And it's that simple.  
Kind of ironic, we are now getting our meal inspirations from an old metal bin that used to feed the chickens.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fashion a Farmhouse Table

Ah, the harvest table; or "Farmhouse Table" as we've come to know it in modern society.  What was once a staple in 19th century America for the lowly purpose of sorting produce has become a chic statement piece commanding attention in dining rooms everywhere.  Far from its humble beginnings as a simple work surface, these tables are now commanding a high price tag at popular retailers everywhere, and for good reason.  Not only can it blend seamlessly with a rustic interior, but it can also hold its own in a shamelessly trendy loft.  Also, with many design philosophies now focusing on the blending of a wide array of textures rather than colors, this rustic table always delivers in a big way.  But most of us can't afford to go drop $2000 when we already have a perfectly good surface on which to consume our meals.  To search for a good farmhouse table, here is a pretty good example of what you might find: 
This little nugget from our friends at Layla Grace will set you back a cool $1500 once you include the cost of shipping.  And these selections from Pottery Barn and DWR exceed even that price tag:

Fabulous, yes.  Affordable, no. 
So what to do?  

Make your own of course!!

Well, not make it...but find a cast-off table with good lines and transform it into the farmhouse table of your dreams!  The process is simple, and this specimen that we created only cost around $100 to make.

Here's what we did.  First, we checked out local thrift shops for the right table and ended up finding this one at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $40 (a GREAT resource for all kinds of old, fun finds).

It was initially painted all white, so we had to strip it.  Yes, we are well-aware than even the most die-hard DIY'ers can be scared away at the thought of stripping paint.  It is time-consuming, stinky, and tedious.  Well lucky for you, it's fairly simple in this case!  

Problem Solver #1:  We chose "Citristrip" stripping gel because it has no harsh fumes and is even safe for indoor use.

Problem Solver #2:  We decided to paint the base of our table, so that required absolutely no stripping!  Layers of paint are acceptable and even welcome when it comes to antique-inspired furniture.  And for the top, while we wanted to get most of the paint off, we figured leaving a little bit would only add to it's character ("character" sometimes being another term for "convenience").

Now for the color.  To create the look of layered-on paint for the base of the table, we considered the already-existing white our first layer.  For the next layer, we dug into our paint closet and picked out some extra black paint leftover from a previous project (PLEASE do this for under-coats, as it saves money, and random colors peeking through only add to the interest of the final piece!)  For the final (and primary) color, wanted something that would be a close replica to paint shades that were used in 19th century America, so we chose to use paint line "Old Century Colors".  Their meticulous dedication to developing colors that mimic those from colonial times always makes these paints favorites for us!

From this palette, we chose to use #2018 Plymouth Blue since, let's face it, every interior space could benefit from a little turquoise. 

After having our layering of all three colors in place, we took the medium-grit sandpaper to random areas on the base of the table.  Some areas we just let the black peek through, other areas the white, and in some spots sanded all the way down to the wood.  Yes, you can get into using crackle medium and all that jazz, but we wanted this project to be simple.  The more "mediums" and glazes come into play, the more your project is going to cost, and that takes the fun out of the "This table only cost me..." stories that you will be telling at your next Thanksgiving get-together.

Now for the piece-de-resistance: the top.  What screams "Farmhouse" more than seemingly-salvaged planks?  Nothing.  Sooo, since this $40 table of course did not have a plank top, we decided to simulate one with our good-old-friend The Skill Saw.  We set her to a depth just deep enough to score the surface without weakening the wood.  We "sawed" two lines down the length of the table to create three equally-sized "planks".

And now the fun part:  beating the bejeezies out of it so it truly looks like it came straight out of 1800's.  We used hammers, nails, screws, chains, saws; pretty much everything we thought would olden it up!  This is something that is at its most fun when there is anger and frustration to let out.  Not that we have any of that, just sayin'.  

After the intense beating, we used a Minwax stain that we had custom blended at Home Depot using a grey tone with a little bit of golden tone thrown in.  This created a warm, weather-beaten hue that was perfect for this tabletop.  We then finished the whole top off with a Finishing Wax from Minwax that lent an almost sheen-less protective coating.

Our final little touch was to purchase an amber glass knob for the drawer from Hobby Lobby for $2.48 on 50% off day!

All-in-all, it will set you back a weekend.  But the "where-did-you-get-that"s will be totally worth it, especially when you hear the gasps after revealing your cost!