Elbow grease

It was time to get this beautiful old bookcase restored.  What is it called…column, bookcase, cabinet?  We really don’t know.   With our remodel there was no question that, whatever it is called, this was original to the house and would be restored and remain the center of attention when entering the room.

Some trim needed to be added but mostly the process was a matter of time and elbow grease. That is a term most of us are familiar with.  Simply put, it means to apply physical effort.   It has been said this expression, dating from the seventeenth century, originally referred to a joke played on a new apprentice, who was sent out to a shop to purchase “elbow grease.” Our purchase was denatured alcohol to remove the old shellac and generous amounts of elbow grease.

For those that might have restored a piece of furniture, where the finish coat required removal, you know the work necessary to accomplish this. Since this woodwork was built in, it couldn’t be removed so the process had to be accomplished in small sections so the stripping process wouldn’t damage the adjacent walls and floor.  It was important to work with secured plastic and fabric drop cloths. Working roughly one square foot at a time and using fine steel wool with the denatured alcohol.  The denatured  alcohol softens the old shellac making it ready to be scrapped away with a plastic putty knife or wiped away with the steel wool.  That  process had to be repeated several times – then move on to the next square foot.. and again repeat.  Ample patience and elbow grease were put to use in the process.

Next project, laundry room floor.  More to come…

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