27 July 2014

Tea trolley makeover

The house we live in is a mid-century home that haskind of a weird layout (which, luckily, suits us well) with the kitchen on one end of the house and the living room on the other.

Recently we've taken to eating dinner in the living room together while watching our favourite TV show (I know, I know ... and we used to be so good, sitting around the dinner table every evening ...) Carrying the full plates through the house was a messy accident waiting to happen, and also meant we had to make extra trips for drinks, condiments, etc.

I decided that we needed an old-fashioned tea trolley. I started looking on TradeMe (New Zealand's version of eBay). I couldn't believe how expensive they were! Plain, old tea trolleys in not-brilliant condition were starting at $20 and rapidly reaching higher amounts.

Luckily, after watching new listings for a while, one was listed with a buy-now price of $20, plus it was near Grant's place of work so he could collect on the way home.

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As you can see, it was pretty old and grubby. The wheels were caked in rust and the wood was marked in places. The plywood of the tray surfaces was sound but the varnish had faded and cracked. But I wasn't concerned as I had plans for it!

The first thing I did was make cross braces for it. I adore cross-braced furniture and even my engagement ring has crosses on it (see here). Our dining chairs chairs have cross braces too and I thought it would be sweet if the trolley matched.

I started by creating a cardboard template that would fit exactly into the end of the trolley.

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I then laid that onto a strip of wood and marked the cuts at top and bottom.

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After cutting the wood I checked to make sure it would fit.

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Then I went ahead and cut the other three pieces. I put two of the braces together and marked where they crossed.

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Then I cut halfway through the wood ...

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... and scored with my craft knife.

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Now, here's the part where you'd use a nice, sharp chisel. Alas, I didn't have one so I had to make do with a screwdriver and hammer. Don't be like me. Buy a chisel. (But if you can't or don't want to, a screwdriver will do.)

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I used my craft knife to get the last of the wood out of the way, then repeated with the other piece of wood.

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With the notches, they slotted together well. I put some glue in the middle and clamped them together (the tissue is to prevent marks from the clamp as the wood was fairly soft.)

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I nailed the braces in with small nails and this doohickey which enabled me to whack the nails in such a confined space.

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The nails are barely noticeable.

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Voila, the cross braces are in!

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The next step was to caulk all of the gaps.

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And then I sanded the trolley, primed it and painted it with three coats of white, with clear varnish on the actual trays. I also removed the wheels and de-rusted them with phosphoric acid, and added a handle on either end.

To add the handles I drilled through from the outside using the correct size bit for the screw that came with the handle, then drilled a small way from the inside using a bit that was slightly larger than the screw head (I used a piece of masking tape on the drill bit so I'd know when to stop). This ensured that the screw heads were sunken so I could caulk and paint over the holes.

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Ta da!

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Here it is all dressed up. It's been so handy, not only for dinner but also for wheeling laundry baskets around the house for delivery, as well as for snacks and drinks when entertaining.

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And because we all love a before-and-after:

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