Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: December 2017

Pretty, Shiny Things

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Ain’t this a birch

Alright.  The time has come to start buying and finishing birch panels for the ceiling and walls.  This is where we separate the men from the craftsmen.  The seemingly simple task of purchasing birch plywood was a chore.  I went to multiple lumber yards and big box stores to find good birch.  I made many phone calls to their suppliers to determine the wood’s origin and quality.  I debated 1/8″ versus 1/4″ thicknesses.  I read about the virtues of Baltic birch vis-a-vis wood of Asian origin and the fact that the three hues of birch – white, yellow and red – are a function of which part of the tree was milled.  Frankly it all became a little daunting.  In the end I decided to use 1/8″ 4 X 8′ wood for the ceiling and 1/4″ for the walls.  I figured I should go lighter weight on the ceiling and more stout on the walls.  So I purchased 10 sheets of 1/8″ birch at a local lumberyard and went to Sherwin Williams to pick finishes.

I chose oil-based products and, because birch is a harder, denser wood that tends to blotch when stained, I chose Miniwax pre-stain wood conditioner.  I also elected to buy Mixwax clear gloss polyurethane.  The stain was custom mixed at Sherwin Williams.  I purchased two grits of sanding blocks (medium and fine), a fine dusting brush, steel wool, thinner and a good quality bristle paint brush.  The money expended on these products was considerable but will pale compared to the investment of time that awaits me.  As of this writing, I have two sheets finished, twenty eight to go.

(1/9/19: footnote to original posting – Don’t be shocked when you first apply this stain.  It will look baby poop green and you may be tempted to think it’s not the right shade.  Most of that green wipes off.  Bear in mind, though, your results may vary depending upon the color of your birch and the amount of time you let stain sit before wiping off.  I did 1/4 sheet at a time, wiping after each. TP)

The heavy sanding, pre-conditioning and staining I have chosen to do outside.

Apply and wipe off excess with a rag.

Relatively expensive SW product sold only by the quart in environmentally nervous California.

Here’s the formula for “Harvest Wheat”.

“Harvest Wheat” is second from the left. In this light the result looks darker. Close enough.

I used the original kitchen cabinet frame to create a poly-finishing station inside the trailer. It is temperature controlled, bug and dust free.

Sand, brush, dry, sand, brush, dry. Done

Only Ruffles have ridges

So having finished applying redwood slats to the ceiling perimeter, the next step is to do the same for the top of all four walls.  Using those same 4 foot slats, it is a relatively simply matter of screwing them onto the galvanized metal frame.  I say relatively because I am presented with two challenges.  First, evey few feet the metal frame is attached to the aluminum ribs with pan head screws which protrude slightly.  In order to avoid a wavy, irregular surface to which I apply the birch, it is necessary to rout a circular groove into the redwood where the screws poke out.  A few pics will better explain this.  Second, as I mentioned earlier, the galvanized metal perimeter it stout enough that it requires drilling before installing the screws, a step not required when affixing the slats to aluminum.

See those two screw heads poking out about 1/16 of an inch?

Lay the strip down to where you intend to screw it and then approximate locations to rout out.

These cuts match up perfectly to the pan heads.

See, a flat stretch of wood with no ridges. No potato chip walls, thank you.