Monday, June 07, 2010

Giving Furniture New Life - Recycling

Has recycling become part of your daily life? For many of us recycling paper, glass, metal and plastic containers has become integrated into our daily practices. More cities and towns participate in curbside recycling of disposables.

But that in itself points at an unsustainable mindset in our current society: that everything is disposable and therefore should be replaced on a regular basis to continue the economic cycle of consuming. We’re trying to move away from that mindset.

A hundred years ago when more people had to make the things they used themselves, they tried to find multiple uses for everything. I have a doll cradle that my great grandfather made for my grandmother when she was a toddler. The wooden planks that he used to maker the doll furniture were recycled from an old carriage.

We have an oak dining room table that we purchased new over 20 years ago. We’ve taken good care of it and the wood is still beautiful, but the upholstery of the chairs is shot. To toss the chairs and purchase something new would be expensive and a waste of oak resources. To dig deeper into a sustainable lifestyle we decided to take on the job of reupholstering our six dining room chairs.

Spending a couple of hours a weekend for the past two months, I’ve been taking apart the chairs and removing the staples that attached the cloth covering. It isn’t a difficult job, just time consuming.

The most important part was having the right tools. Much of the removal of the cloth can be done by cutting it off with a utility knife. The key tool is a special tipped screw driver-shaped staple remover or staple puller. Using the tapered end you pry up the staples. Some staples break off, requiring a pair of pliers to pull them out.

Not all of the staples need to be removed, but the majority did on our chairs because of the tight fit between the inset backs and the wooden frame.
As I’ve gone along I’ve taken notes so that I can follow these notes in reverse to reapply the new fabric.

All of the old upholstery has been removed and the exciting part will be putting the chairs back together.

Upholstery is something I’ve never done before. I hope to have the chairs finished by the end of the month. I’ll keep you posted as we progress.

What big items can you recycle or re-purpose at your house? Where can you stop thinking disposable?

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