Category Archives: DIY and Home Improvement

Warco pillar drill, and other tools

My father has decided that his days of DIY are over, and asked me if I would like to take over custodianship of his Warco pillar drill, plus various other tools that he has accumulated. Not an entire clearout, but passing on things that he thinks may be of use to me.

The star attraction was a pillar drill by Warco, and a rotary bench grinder also by Warco. These are both things that I really want, and in fact the restoration of my cabinet would have been so much easier had I had access to them.

I visited my parents last week, armed with several removals blankets and dust sheets, to get them.

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Posted by on 3rd July 2017 in Diary, DIY and Home Improvement


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Workbench 3 – the final workbench

In a previous post, I mentioned how I had built two workbenches out of plywood and planed timber.

Only a few days after building the smaller one, I sold the grey fridge freezer which meant that I now had much more space and would need a wider workbench there.

I popped up to my local B&Q to have a rummage in their offcuts section, and as luck would have it they had a lovely bit of 18mm exterior plywood measuring 165cm x 60cm which was pretty much exactly the dimensions I wanted, and it cost only £5.

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Building a workbench or two

At the end of my series on restoring an Art Nouveau style cabinet, I mentioned that I had another project I wanted to tackle. That project was building a workbench.

I’ve never made anything like this before so I rather made it up as I went along.

I actually completed the project in the days immediately following finishing the cabinet, but I haven’t had a chance to blog about it until now.

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Art Nouveau style cabinet – part 4

This is Part 4 of my restoration of an Art Nouveau cabinet which I had bought and whose base was riddled with woodworm.

As you will see from Part 3, I ditched the idea of using 18mm MDF and reverted to the original construction of a sandwich of plywood and mitred softwood.

Caution: This is a pretty long post with lots of pictures!

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Art Nouveau style cabinet – part 3

This is Part 3 of my restoration of an Art Nouveau cabinet which I had bought and whose base was riddled with woodworm.

As you will see from Part 2, it was my intention to use 18mm MDF to construct the new base. I decided that it would be best to use dowel joints to join the base to the bottom rail. I thought it best to practise on some offcuts of MDF first.

Dowel jig

Dowel jig

My first attempt was to measure carefully and then drill by eye. This was a bit of a disaster. Despite several attempts, I just couldn’t get the holes to be perpendicular, which meant wonky joints. I decided that I needed a jig.

I bought a cheap jig for under £7 from Amazon and tried again. Also, I used an offcut of MDF for one side, and some harder wood for the other side as I felt this would be more representative. I think perhaps that I didn’t drill the holes deep enough, and one dowel was a little snug, so I hit the two halves with a rubber mallet to seat them, the MDF just disintegrated.

Split wood


This setback made me question my decision to use MDF. In fact, the more I read about it, the more I am thinking that it is the wrong material to be using. I’ve therefore decided to abandon the use of MDF (I am sure I will reuse it some other way at some other time, perhaps as an extra shelf in an IKEA cabinet) and instead go with the same construction as the original base. Having measured that with a Digital Vernier Caliper, it is nominally 4mm for the upper plywood layer, 14mm mitred softwood for the middle layer, and contrary to what I previously thought, nominally 4mm plywood on the bottom. Although it looks like it may have had a veneer on the underside. Having researched plywood online, it looks like 3.6mm plywood is a much more common thickness so it could be that with some minor expansion. Or maybe it really is 4mm ply. I don’t know. However, the thickness of the bottom rail is 23mm, which suggests 4mm ply.

Using a sandwiched construction means I can dispense with dowel joints and glue & screw the base to the bottom rail instead. A friend has suggested that I don’t actually need to screw it (or use dowel joints were I to stick with the MDF idea) as wood glue would be sufficient given the base will be screwed to the cabinet sides. But I think I will glue & screw as it gives me more confidence of a solid construction.

Also, using the same sandwich construction that the cabinet originally had is a more sympathetic restoration.

With that decided, I moved on to cleaning up the feet.


Repaired leg

I pulled old nails out with a Carpenter’s Pincer which I have owned for decades. Unfortunately in doing so I managed to break the tip of one of the leg brackets but managed to glue this back again with wood glue. Unfortunately I forgot to take a “before” pic. I’m quite pleased with the repair, even though you can see the joins, because it broke off two pieces and I managed to reassemble it like a little jigsaw.

I also used an orbital sander to sand off the old glue from the tops of the legs, and in one case the glued-on residue of the woodworm-eaten soft wood.

The next job is going to be assembling the new base, for which I will need to make a shopping trip, and also to buy some Woodworm Killer and treat all the existing woodwork; especially the mouldings which I will be reusing as they have woodworm holes in them and I’m not sure if there are any dormant larvae in there.


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Art Nouveau style cabinet – part 2

In a previous post, I mentioned an Art Nouveau cabinet which I had bought and whose base was riddled with woodworm.

At the time I thought it was beyond economic repair. However, I decided that I had little to lose by stripping it down to get a better idea of the extent of the damage.

Prising off the plywood base, I found some mitred soft wood that was heavily damaged by woodworm (but no evidence of live larvae), with thicker laminate ply above. So the base was a sandwich of thicker ply upper, mitred soft wood, and a thin ply underside. I removed all of that, carefully peeling away the silk backing that was glued to the top of the base.

Once that was away, I could see that the hardwood of the cabinet itself was free of woodworm, as were the legs.

With hindsight, I think I could have left the thicker ply upper base and replaced the mitred soft wood and lower base panel, but it’s way too late for that now.

The edging strip to the front was sound, and very secure, so I decided to try to save that if I could. The side ones are a bit beat up, with heavy woodworm damage to one of them, but I think it is better to keep these rather than trying to fit a new strip, which would have to be mitred and stained to match. I might be able to sculpt the missing bit with wood filler. Fortunately it is on the back edge so will be less visible.

Unfortunately I damaged the back whilst removing the base, so cut that back flush. I don’t think it is going to matter too much as you won’t be able to see it when it’s against the wall. If it is an issue, then I can always make a repair strip.

Next job was to cut off the captive screws that had held the base and cabinet sides together, remove any old nails, and generally tidy it up.

For the new base, I decided to go with 18mm MDF which I used a Rosewood wood stain on. Dark Walnut would have been better, but I had the Rosewood anyway and decided to save money by using what I had. It’s not like anyone is going to see it anyway, as the only part of the base that will be visible is the underside which will be in shadow.

Don’t worry about the overspill of wood stain on the edges of the wood on this photo – I sanded that back and then applied another layer.

That’s as far as I have got so far. I intend to use dowel joints to attach the front edge bar to the MDF, and will glue & screw the legs to the MDF base. Once that is dry, I then plan to glue, screw, and dowel the base to the cabinet itself. I’ll also need to use some contact adhesive to re-attach the silk lining to the base.

Bear in mind that I have never done anything like this before, so I might be going about it all the wrong way and a solid base might be the wrong approach. We shall see!



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Art Nouveau style cabinet

Today I went to the huge twice-monthly Antiques and Collectables fair at Kempton Park Racecourse at Sunbury-on-Thames.

Unfortunately, despite walking around for over 4 hours and walking 5+ miles (according to my FitBit Alta), I didn’t find anything I wanted to buy apart from a tall galvanised bucket to use as an umbrella stand which was a reasonable £10.

However, once back in the car I asked google to find me nearby antiques shops, and it came up trumps with the Ashford Antiques Centre at Ashford in Middlesex, which was kind of on the way home and which I duly drove to.

Within moments of walking into this Aladdin’s Cave I saw a wooden display cabinet in an Art Nouveau style which I fell in love with, and even better it was a very reasonably priced £30.


I was pretty sure that it would fit in the car, but the owners suggested I measure the cabinet and then measure the load bay of my car, which I did. Fortunately, the measurements checked out (just!) and I was confident that it would fit and agreed to buy it.


However, it was only when it was in the car that I could see the underside, and it is riddled with woodworm. And upon tapping the bottom, a load of frass (sawdust-like substance) fell out.


I’m unsure whether this is old woodworm or active woodworm, which makes me rather nervous about taking this item of furniture into the house. I think what I am going to have to do is prise off the bottom layer of plywood to assess the extent of the woodworm, treat it, and then make a new plywood base for it.

Also, the lock is missing its key and will need to be replaced.

Suddenly my £30 bargain has become a project.


Well, it looks like I’ve bought a pup. I got it out of the car and it’s so rotten that it’s falling apart and one of the legs is almost falling off. *sighs*

Click here for a 6 second video of me wiggling the leg.



Posted by on 28th February 2017 in Diary, DIY and Home Improvement, Home furnishing

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Picture frame rejuvenation

Recently I bought a picture frame containing three advertising postcards for OXO, Bovril, and Bisto, mainly because my best friend and I have a running gag about Bisto but also because I like retro advertisement art.

The frame was in pretty poor condition. The backing of the frame was cardboard and was rippled and warped, causing the postcards to bow, the sealing tape was coming away, and it was all pretty grubby. But it was also only £10. I figured that worst case scenario was that I would have to re-frame it.


Upon disassembly, I found the photo mount was actually in fairly good condition and unmarked, and likewise the postcards themselves were in pretty good condition too. This was excellent news.


First job was to address the back. I had the backing board from an old clip frame whose glass had broken, so using the existing cardboard back as a template I marked out a new back, choosing to live with the clip holes as otherwise it would have been more sawing and less backing board left over for future use. I then cut it with a fine tenon saw and sanded smooth with a sanding block.


Next was to thoroughly clean the glass with glass cleaner, which brought it up a treat. The glass isn’t perfect, and has some scuffs on it, but is good enough.
I also decided to attach the postcards more firmly to the mount using brown picture tape. Although this wasn’t strictly necessary as the rigid back board should squish them flat, there is no harm in over-engineering.


Next, reassembly. I don’t have a tab gun, so instead I used panel pins. The first one I tried just hammering in, but it immediately became clear that this was putting too much stress on the frame so instead I used a jewellers hand drill to make pilot holes, which then required only minimal hammering on the pins.


Then I finished it off with brown picture tape. I applied two overlapping layers in order to hide the slots from the clip frame back.

I also moved the hanging eyes up from their midpoint position to a little higher up, and replaced the original string with wire. Since I didn’t have any picture hanging wire to hand, I used some green garden wire instead which should be entirely adequate.


And, at last, it was done. It looks so much better than when I started, even if it isn’t immediately clear from the pictures.




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Project Reorganise: Shelves and chair

I have been on the lookout for some shelves to go above my dressing table, and finally found something suitable on Amazon from a seller on the Marketplace. They do two versions; both the same height and the same number of shelves, but differing widths. On the photographs, at least on cursory inspection, they looked to be the same so I made the assumption that they would be the same apart from width.
These were ordered at a cost of £87.90 (£75 + £12.90 delivery) for the pair, which I thought was a little steep although they had very good reviews on Amazon.

The shelves arrived sometime in the following week. They turned out to be sturdily made, consisting of 2cm thick shelves and end boards, with the back made from 1cm tongue-and-groove planks. Although sturdy, they felt a little hastily thrown together and slightly wonky (Note: as in, not straight. They weren’t wobbly or anything), but that could well be a Shabby Chic thing I guess. They were painted in a uniform cream eggshell colour, as advertised. For some reason that I can’t quite fathom now, I decided that the supplied colour was not suitable and that they should be white, and so ordered some white chalk-based Shabby Chic paint by Rust Oleum.

Ready to paint

Ready to paint

A few weeks later, when the weather was nice and I fancied tackling the painting, I wondered how best to paint the shelves and looked around the garden for inspiration. Sat in a corner, quietly rusting away, were the steps for a rigid-framed above-ground pool that I had once owned (and which gone to the tip many years ago). They’d been squashed flat, but were good enough for what I wanted. With the addition of two opened-out wire coat hangers I was able to hang the shelving units by their mounting holes using the steps as a frame.

It was whilst painting them that I realised they were not the same. On the wider shelf unit, the bottom shelf was flush with the bottom of the back board, whilst on the narrower unit, it was not and there was some back board below the bottom shelf. This was rather annoying and, of course, since I was in the middle of painting them they could now no longer be returned. However I figured that, given I was going for a Shabby Chic style, this probably didn’t really matter. In fairness to the seller, when I went back and looked on the photos on Amazon it was very obvious that they were not the same and also the seller didn’t even claim that they were. It was just a bad assumption on my part. With hindsight, I should have contacted the seller and asked for a price of a matching pair; one wide and one narrow.

Sanding the chair

Sanding the chair

Also that day I sanded down one of the chairs using an orbital sander. Strictly speaking, this isn’t actually necessary when using chalk-based paint as it doesn’t require preparation or undercoat, but I did it anyway. It came up pretty well. I then painted it with the same chalk-based paint as I had plenty left over from the shelves.

Pew! Pew!

Pew! Pew!

The next day, when the shelves were dry, I drilled holes in the wall above the Dressing Table for them, using my laser spirit level (pew pew!) to ensure they were at the same height and also level. When screwed to the wall I considered it a job well done.

Unfortunately, the next day in daylight, I realised I had made a terrible mistake on the colour. Although there is some white in my bedroom (from the wardrobe doors, the skirting board, the door to the en-suite shower, the ceiling, and the door into the room), all my furniture is cream. The white of the shelving units clashed quite horribly with the Dressing Table and the other furniture. And, worse, with hindsight the colour the shelves had originally been supplied in might well have sufficed. *sighs*

So back onto Amazon, and I ordered ‘Clotted Cream’ chalk-based paint by Rust Oleum, and also some Rust Oleum clear furniture finishing wax.

When those arrived, I took the shelving units down and sanded them and also the chair, and repainted with the cream paint. Then the next day, gave them a light sanding with a fine sand paper to smooth out the paint brush marks a little, and then applied the wax to seal them.

Finished items

Finished items

The result is much better, and I’m happy with it. The shelves are now back up on the wall and populated with some of the trinkets and nick-nacks I have bought during my visits to Antiques and Collectors fairs, although there is room for plenty more.

I’ve stayed with the original cover on the seat of the chair for now, but I plan to source some suitable material (possibly from an old pair of curtains) at some time and re-cover the seat.

I also need to find a lamp or wall light too, as that corner is a little dingy and needs some additional lighting.


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Project Reorganise: Parental house rummage

As you’ll know from previous posts about Project Reorganise, I have been on the look-out (amongst other things) for a chair for the Dressing Table.

I visited my parents one weekend a few months back, and they let me have a good rummage through their sheds and garage. These have become the repository for stuff that they have collected over the years, and also for the remaining possessions of both my sets of grandparents, all now deceased, since neither of my parents have any living brothers or sisters.



I told my mum I was particularly on the lookout for a chair for my dressing table and she showed me two chairs that she had out in a shed which might be suitable that I could have, which I happily took. There were several others in differing styles, but those were the only ones I felt would work.

Singer sewing machine

Singer sewing machine

In the garage there were a pair of vintage hand-powered Singer sewing machines which were in a pretty poor state and very rusty. I asked if I could have one of them as a conversation piece, and my parents were more than happy for me to have one. Whether or not I will actually put the effort into refurbishing it is perhaps open to debate.

1930's lamp shades

1930’s lamp shades

There were also two 1930’s lamp shades in a sort-of Art Deco style which my mum was very keen for me to take away.
I hope to sell those on, as I really don’t have a use for them.



She also pretty much forced a candelabra on me which I don’t really like (and she *really* doesn’t like) and I definitely plan to sell that on.

Chinese picture

Chinese picture

Another thing that caught my eye and caused me to go “Oh WOW!” was what appeared to be a Chinese painting on white porcelain, framed in fretwork, which had documentation on the back which appeared to be dated 1988, and rubber-stamped with text that seemed to say it was an antique of over 100 years of age. It had been bought by my maternal grandmother on one of her many foreign trips and, knowing her, was probably quite expensive. My mum said she was happy for me to have it as I have a love of the orient and several items of oriental furniture, and also she isn’t really that keen on it. So that seemed ideal for everyone.

Bead curtain

Bead curtain

There was also a wooden bead curtain that my mum was keen for me to take. I can’t decide if it is delightfully kitsch or hideously awful. 🙂

Beware of Trains

Beware of Trains

I’d been telling my dad about the cast iron railway sign that I have over my gate, and he told me that he also had several cast iron railway signs, which he had acquired decades previously and were original to the best of his knowledge.

Larger railway sign

Larger railway sign

It turned out there was a small “Beware of Trains” sign, and a pair (duplicates) of a much larger sign. He suggested that I had the small sign, and one of the pair and he’d keep the other. And, further, since one of the pair was in fairly good condition and the other was in pretty poor condition, I should have the better of the two. The smaller is of indeterminate age but the larger is dated 1893 and could well actually be that old.

I’d like to mount them on the outside wall of my house next to the gate, although I do worry about the rust on the larger sign and wonder if I should restore it before doing that in order to protect it from further deterioration.

Finally, my mum gave me a vintage 1940’s belt and headscarf that had belonged to my paternal grandmother, and also a cute lipstick holder with integral mirror by Stratton, which probably dates from the 1960’s or 1970’s.

Strattron Lipview

Strattron Lipview

There were a few other things that might have been of interest, but we were running out of time so that was all that I came away with on that visit.

When I got home, I sent a photograph of the Chinese picture, and also the documentation on the back, to a friend who speaks Cantonese. After consulting with someone else for a second opinion, she came back to me with the news that it appears to be somewhat, shall we say, “misleading”, and that the inscription on the picture itself says (roughly) “Falling Stream”, then who it was painted for (a “Mr Shanzon”) and by whom, and that it is dated 1986. The documentation on the back looks like it is an export license, under the column headed “Dynasty” it says “Recent”, and the rubber stamp certifying it as an antique may have been applied in error (or dishonestly), or perhaps it is certifying the age of the wood of the frame, or something. Who knows? But this doesn’t bother me in the least – I wanted the picture because I like it and not because it is valuable.

In the next instalment. I’ll tell you how I restored the chair and made it ‘Shabby Chic’ with chalk-based paint, and also how I got some shelves for above the dressing table.


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