Phase 4: Doors and hinges and drawer pulls, oh no.
I refer to this as the grumble-fest portion of the project.
The next time you consider buying a piece of furniture damaged beyond normal wear and tear with the thought of refurbishing, be darn sure that it is repairable without major reconstructive surgery, including replacing hardware. As I mentioned earlier, one of the doors on the hutch was damaged and hanging loosely on its hinge. The door didn’t close without effort and when it did, it scratched and dug into the cabinet. My thought was, the door is damaged I’ll repair it. Followed by, it has a broken hinge(?), I’ll just buy new hinges.
For wood that is cracked, has significant scars or could use some larger scale reconstructive patching, plastic wood (wood putty) has come to my rescue a number of times. I used a bit of DAP Plastic Wood on the cabinet doors to strengthen areas cracked as a result of stress from the broken hinge and it worked very well. Plastic wood is easy to work with, dries relatively fast, is extremely sturdy and sands easily. The downside is that it has a really strong odor, similar to solvent, and should only be used in a well ventilated area. You should always use gloves when working with plastic wood because, besides the smell, it also sticks to skin and is difficult to scrub off (if you do get it on your skin, wipe it off immediately and use a dab of vegetable oil on a paper towel to remove the residue).
The standard hardware in use today for furniture, kitchen cabinets, etc., is configured differently from that in use 50 years ago. This can make finding replacement hardware for older pieces of furniture and cabinetry difficult. Your typical hardware store be it, big box or mom and pop, will likely not carry hardware that fits older furniture. That in mind, you’ll say, “oh, I’ll just go online and find what I need.” Well, you might luck out finding something that will fit your piece, and you might not.
If you are looking for hinges you will want to try them out. If you are lucky enough to find something similar in design (manufacture) you need to try it on the door to be sure it works, meaning the door will hang correctly, and open and close as it should. Your chances of finding the right fit for any one particular piece of furniture are pretty slim. We bought different model hinges at two big box retailers and one mom and pop. None of them fit the doors. What to do next?
I drilled new holes and reset the old door hinges. Even so, right up to the moment when we moved the hutch into the Painted Lark shop, my husband was still adjusting the door on the left side of the hutch so that it would close snugly and, yet, not dig into the new paint. What a pain in the neck, but don’t go away, we are not done talking hardware.
Next up: drawer pulls that tug on your sanity.
The original pulls on the hutch were brass. I wanted silver. I looked at the same big box stores and could not find pulls that were less than 3”. The pulls on the hutch are of course, 2 ½.” No big deal I said! I’ll go online and find the right size pulls. Nope. Try finding pulls under 3”. Another of those charming changes that took place in the 50+ years since the hutch was made. Again I said, “no big deal! I can simply drill new holes in the drawers to accommodate 3” pulls. Since I was forced to use the larger size, I also went the extra mile and ordered cutesy “fish” pulls online.
I proceeded to drill new holes in the two top drawers, everything moved along swimmingly. Two busted drill bits later… I came to the realization that in the middle of the larger “three pull drawer” there was metal of some sort embedded in the wood which would prevent my using 3” pulls. I put my cutesy fish pulls back in the box and from there it was to the refrigerator to grab a beer (or two). Enough already!
In the depths of my despair (and otherwise coming unhinged over ill fitting hinges and trials of trying to retrofit 3” pulls on a cabinet originally featuring 2 ½” pulls), I stumbled on a sale of spray paint at the local hardware store. There just happened to be silver metallic paint among the cans. My husband suggested that I try spray painting the original brass pulls. Golly, three coats of spray paint later, it worked! Back out came the plastic wood to fill the extra holes I had drilled in the drawers and thus back to square one.
If there is a lesson in this, it’s some variation of the CSNY’s song “Love the One You’re With.”
And finally, we’ll reveal the happy ending to Carolyn and the Hutch in our next post! ~Ali