Woodworker offers tips on refinishing and fixing furniture

  • Roger Patt in his woodshop in his Bernardston home. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A hope chest refinished by Roger Patt. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A card table that had water stains refinished by Roger Patt. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Roger Patt uses a sander in his woodshop in his Bernardston home. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A small chest of drawers repaired by Roger Patt. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 7/12/2021 6:22:06 PM

Roger Patt remembers a story a neighbor told about him when he was a boy. “My neighbor said he looked out seeing me come down the street to deliver his paper. He turned to his wife and said ‘The paper will be here in about a half-hour.’” The reason Patt said it took him so long to travel the short distance was “there was a new home being constructed. I was 8 at the time, but the smell of wood and sawdust stayed with me. I could never escape it.”

Patt who said he “dabbled in carpentry and woodworking most of his life” had actually gone in another direction for a career, working with computers. “I spent 20 years as a computer consultant, but now I am having macular degeneration, so I needed a new venture,” he said.

So, he has a business at his Bernardston home repairing and refinishing furniture. “I had a hard time seeing tiny things on a screen but I can see perfectly well enough to work on furniture,” he said.

He offered some tips and advice for those who want to preserve or repair their furniture. “A lot of younger people may not be into older furniture. Not right away. But as you go through life you have that rocker your grandmother had and suddenly that piece of furniture takes on new meaning and importance,” he said.

Patt, who describes his work as a labor of love, described the time and effort that goes into refinishing, antiquing, and some repairs.

Refinishing

Patt said he has a technique of “hand-rubbed” finishes. “This stuff comes out beautiful with spectacular results,” he added.

He describes stripping and refinishing as follows.

The stripping material takes 15 minutes to an hour to soften the paint. There is likely to be layers of paint on older pieces of furniture, so you will need to go through that process repeatedly until you reach the wood. Patt said you have to go layer by layer before you can start to work on refinishing.

Next sand by hand, which he said is at least a three-step process using different grits of sandpaper. He said it is typical to go from an 80 grit, to 120, to 220. “You want to be able to take whatever is left off,” he said. Once you have sanded down with the coarser grit, Patt said you need to wait 24 hours to go down to the next finer grit and so on. The reason for this is you need to clean the debris from the piece with a damp cloth repeatedly as you go along, and then the piece needs to dry thoroughly before going to a finer grit. “You have to be delicate about it,” he said.

After all that, you can apply a finishing product using the product directions.

Antiquing

First, the piece needs to be cleaned with a damp cloth and left to dry for a day.

Then paint the piece gray or black and let dry 24 hours.

Next, paint the piece white. “It may take two coats, because now you have a dark color underneath,” said Patt.

Dry 24 hours for each coat.

To achieve the “antique” look, sand down all the “sharp or high points” on the piece to reveal a little bit of the base color. Patt said where you choose to sand will depend on where the piece will be located and how you intend to use it. “Where will it receive the most wear?” he said, adding “You don’t want it to look shabby, just old and used.”

Fixing a chair spindle

Patt said one of the most common things he is asked to repair are chairs, particularly when the spindles start to come loose. “Over time the joints of a chair dry out to the point where they rub,” he said.

He said the end of the spindle has a section called a “tenon” which is what gets inserted into the slot, or “mortis” for the spindle. Using a washable wood glue, Patt uses a tight bond interior and exterior glue put glue around the tenon and place it into the mortis.

Patt said sometimes you have to give it a good tap to go in with your hand or a rubber mallet. If the spindle doesn’t fit well back into the mortis, remove it and clean the mortis out thoroughly and carefully, then try again. Patt said it is important to let the chair sit for at least 24 hours to cure. “The glue is like paint. The surface may be dry after an hour, but it takes at least a day to have it dry all the way to the wall material,” he said.

Using wax and keeping your furniture clean

“For the most part avoid using wax,” said Patt.

Patt said people tend to use wax “because the initial result is quick and easy.”He explained that wax builds up on surfaces over time and becomes a grime collector. He suggests two methods to keep furniture clean and help preserve it. One is using Amish Wood Milk, which can be purchased at dutchglow.com, “I often use it as a last finish before delivering a piece such as a table top. It helps to avoid the wax build-up,” he said.

He said the best and easiest way to clean and preserve wood furniture is to simply clean it with a damp cloth (not wet). Surface clean, buff and let it dry. “This does a lot better job of preserving the wood. With wax you just end up cleaning dust off, but the grime remains,” he said.

He added if the dirt has really built up to use a dilute soap to clean with and wipe off with a damp cloth, buff, and dry.

Patt said when it comes to water damage such as rings left by sweating glasses, there is no quick, simple fix. If you want the damage repaired, the top will need to be refinished. He strongly recommends the use of coasters. “You have to get down to the bare wood to get those marks out unfortunately,” he said.

For more information, call Patt at 325-7258. He will do pickup and delivery if needed.

Cris Carl is an avid local gardener, licensed therapist and certified herbalist. She is an experienced journalist who has written for the Recorder for many years. You can reach her at cstormfox57@gmail.com.


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