The Concrete Chronicles, part III: Corrosion

An antique table and chairs fit the English garden patio theme. Photo by Rachel Polaniec

Having decided on a theme and come up with a goal for my garden in progress, I knew the most important part was having a place to sit and enjoy it. Therefore, I set out to find two chairs and a table. In keeping with my English garden theme I wanted them to be wrought iron, to be small enough to fit on the balcony but sturdy enough to withstand wind, rain and the inevitable northeast Ohio winters. In this I ran upon a problem: Most of what is available in stores is not wrought iron, but rather flimsy metal substitutes.

So I abandoned the stores and went antiquing instead. One of the best tips I can give anyone who is looking to decorate any area of the home, indoors or out, is to hunt through antique stores. The items you will find are often better than anything currently on the market (at least for reasonable prices), and they are built to last (they made it this far, right?). There are quite a few in Avon, lining Detroit Road, (I picked up my dining room table at Country Side Antiques), but my absolute favorite is Clara's Cottage, on Cleveland Street in Elyria. 

It was at Clara's that I found my table and chairs. I was driving past, happened to look over, and there they were! Just goes to show that one should always keep an eye out, as one never knows when that special something will be found. My finding was a refurbished wrought iron table, the original top was long gone, but the Clara’s handyman Basil fixed it up with an old iron grate, salvaged from an abandoned factory. (Side note: One of the best things about antique shops is that the people who find and sell the items are often heavily involved in the restoration, and they are more than happy to discuss both the piece and the process with you.) Another thing I like about the table and chairs is that they are not part of a set, each one is different. It gives the illusion that they were acquired over a period of time, and I personally think an eclectic look is much nicer than being too matchy-matchy.

Buying antiques is not for everyone, however. While they are well-made and a sound investment, they are not, by definition, new, or often anywhere near it. They have lasted a long time, and have the wear and tear to show for it. An honest antiques dealer will not sell you something that is worn past all possible use, but be prepared to put some effort into its restoration yourself. My own table and chairs have some rust damage, which is not a difficult fix but does take time and patience.

I use a wire wheel to rust-bust, which is exactly what it sounds like: A wheel made of short, stiff wires that comes as a power drill attachment. As with all power tools, they can be dangerous, and it’s best to use protective gloves, eyewear and closed-toed shoes while operating one. If you can, have someone who is familiar with one assist you when you begin to use it, or at least do a Google search on the topic. Steel wool, sandpaper and wire brushes also work, though not nearly as quickly and they take more effort to use.

Initially, I was going to take the rust off and then simply seal it with a clear spray paint, in order to keep the somewhat worn look the table came with. Upon viewing the sheer amount of rust and paint removed by the wire wheel, it became obvious that that was not going to work. Instead, I’m probably going to spray paint the entire thing white, then use the wheel to remove some paint, effectively distressing it. This serves as a reminder to be flexible, and what sounds good in theory can often look different in actuality, or not even work at all. Keep your eyes and ears open, and don't be afraid to try something new. Perhaps it will be a rousing success, or it might be a catastrophic failure. If the latter, do not despair! No one will know, unless you tell them. (Or announce it in the local paper.) In any event, get out there, and the best of luck to all.

Rachel Polaniec

I live in Westlake with my husband and our two sons. I work part time at Kohl's, and full-time at home. In my free time I like to read, write, and cook. My family and I take part in War of 1812 reenactments throughout the summer. My lofty dreams are of traveling abroad, visiting the great museums, and drinking all the coffee. For now I content myself with antiquing and Keurig sampler packs.

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Volume 5, Issue 10, Posted 10:29 AM, 05.14.2013