Sandpaper 101

PSA:  Not all sandpaper is created equal. Today we are going to dive into the different types of sandpaper and abrasives, focusing on what to look for and when to use each kind!

Sandpaper/Abrasive Grits

When talking about sandpaper, woodworkers will mention a number – This refers to the level of grit.  More specifically, the grit indicates the number of particles that are in a square inch of the sandpaper.  The higher the number, the finer the grit.  So 60 grit sandpaper will be much rougher than 220 grit.  The highest we use are our sponge discs that are 5,000, but even higher levels are available.

The level of grit on the sandpaper you choose and how you choose to sand will make a difference on how a finish will take to the wood.  Experienced woodworkers will start with a lower grit and work their way up as part of a multi-step process to properly prep the piece.  For example, one could start with a 80-100 grit, go to 120-150.  If you were to finish it off with too low of a grit and then apply your stain, the wood could absorb more than expected making it harder to manipulate the finish to the desired level of intensity. On the flip side if you sand with too fine of a grit you will close the wood up too tight that it won’t absorb enough of the stain and could become blotchy. The type of wood you are staining will change the grit of sandpaper you use.  Keep in mind that a well used 120 grit sandpaper may act more like a 220 grit.

Prep Sanding

After stripping, it is essential to prep sand before applying your new finish!  Depending on your piece of furniture orbital sanding may make your task easier.  We recommend using 120 grit, and follow up by hand with 220. (also keep in mind the type of wood you are refinishing may change the grit of sandpaper you use)  If you are looking to purchase your first electric sander, Ryobi is Tara’s “go-to” brand for many reasons.  They must develop their products keeping women in mind, because they tend to be lighter weight and fit nicely in our smaller hands!  Ryobi is also more affordable and durable.

Finish Sanding

Finish sanding is also an essential part of your finish work. Scuffing between coats of paint to ensures two things:  First, the latter coat will adhere much better; Second, it is an opportunity to lessen or eliminate the appearance of minor blemishes, peaks or brushstrokes from your former coat so that you are keeping your layers as smooth as possible.  You will also want to do this between topcoat layers for the same reasons, even if you’re spraying as this will even out any off-spray. (Learn more about top coats here)  Aiming to achieve a finish as smooth as possible is just as important to the feel of the end result as the look.  For finish sanding, pads are best; Use fine grit for between paint coats and super-fine for between finish coats. We also love to use Mirka scuff pads or sanding discs between coats, which are long-lasting and a better alternative to using steel wool on a water-based finish.

Types of Sheet Sandpaper/Abrasive  (most commonly used for woodworking) 

  • Garnet – This red-hued gem used to make sheet sandpaper. This type of sandpaper is used for scuff and finish sanding. Garnet comes in a variety of grits depending on the manufacturer.  The abrasive on this sandpaper is easily fractured, continuously forming new cutting edges.  This is our personal favorite.  We buy the Norton brand, which is very durable – One piece can last me through most of our projects and then some.  Even after decent use of a square of 100 grit, it can perform as a second act like a 180 grit or as a heavy duty cleanup tool for things like putty (… because hey, we’re The UpCycle Girls after all!).  Norton is a little bit pricier than other sandpapers, but the durability makes it worth every penny.
  • Aluminum Oxide – Aluminum oxide is a very common abrasive for wood, and very easy to find.  But it doesn’t fracture off like garnet sandpaper, and tends to wear down a bit quicker with use.
  • Silicon Carbide Silicon Carbide is sharper and harder than some types of aluminum oxide. The particles on silicon carbide resemble broken glass. Because it is not a very tough and durable material it is not typically used for raw wood sanding but instead used for finish sanding. Some manufactured types have waterproof backing for wet or oil sanding.

UG Tip!  Folding Sandpaper 

If you are new to our blog, you might not know that Tara’s dad Pete has been refinishing furniture for a LOOONG time!  As Tara tells it:  “One thing he still tells me is ‘Make sure you fold the sandpaper right!’  This is a special little secret of ours, that we have decided to share with you.  Believe it or not, you can get 8 usable sanding surfaces out of a single sheet of sandpaper!

Simply fold the sheet into quarters to create seams, and rip into four equal pieces.  Take each piece and fold them all in half till you have a total of eight pieces.  Trifold each piece with the grit facing out.  This results in an ergonomic piece of sandpaper that will easily fit in your hand with good grip.  Additionally, folding the sandpaper this way prevents it from slipping around on itself.  And bonus:  Each folded edge has sandpaper wrapped around for getting into crevices!

That’s it for today.  Thanks for stopping by!  We want to know:  What type of sandpaper do you use? Did you learn anything new from this post?

Happy Sanding,

Tara and Becca

Tune in next week and see what we do to a buffet!

* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.


China Cabinet Restored to Original

White Cropped Photo Baking Bread Pinterest Graphic-5



Although we get asked to restore a lot of antiques and vintage furniture, we do get a little giddy about some projects in particular. This China cabinet was one of them, with it’s curved glass sides and quarter sawn oak frame. Over the years, this old girl seemed to have lost her luster… But we were honored and able to bring her back!

Stripping is messy but it is a necessary evil. Sometimes an old finish will come off easy, as it will already be chipping or peeling… This wasn’t the case in this instance.  Removing the old shellac could not be done efficiently with a simple sanding.

There was also extensive water damage to the top, so bleaching was the next step.  Wood bleach is awesome – the frothy white foam shows you that it’s working.

After sanding and bleaching prep was done and the piece was COMPLETELY dry, it was finally time for the fun part: staining!

To enhance the depth with the use of color we settled on a combination of both golden oak and early American General Finishes water-based stains, in addition to an amber shellac. Shellac is one of Tara’s favorite finishes. It brings a sense of age and a certain luster to a piece. If you want to learn more about different types of finishes go here.


There she is, gorgeous as she was in her hay day! The owner plans to pass her down to his kids and grandkids. This stunning piece is sure to last many more generations.


We always give credit where credit is due.  For this post we need to send a big thanks to the “UpCycle Guy” Theron (Tara’s brother), who makes himself available to help us from time to time. Tara let him put the nails back in on the curved glass for this project!  🙂


Thanks for reading! Have you restored for a family heirloom? Send us some pictures – we would love to see them!

Tara and Becca

Be sure to check in next week when  we will be teaching all there is to know about sandpaper!


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.





Why “One Step” is a Myth


In a culture that demands both speed and efficiency, convenience is key for consumers.  People want quick; People want easy; People want affordable.  So manufacturers unfortunately are pressured to market and sell products that aren’t necessarily ready to roll out, products that will typically fail sooner than when would be considered ideal.

The furniture industry is no exception – This goes for both building new, and refinishing old.  The reason we ramble on about this is because we are constantly fielding questions about products that are currently available claiming to be “one step” or “all in one.”  Read on to find out why we have made the conscious and educated decision NOT to use or sell these products, and how those extra steps will be your best option in the long run.

Free stock photo of hand, dark, display, overview

The Importance of Prep Work

One of our most frequently asked questions is “Do I really have to do the prep work?”  By prep work, these questions refer to the “clean & scuff-sand” step before applying the new finish.  The answer is a resounding YES!  Why?  Ask yourself the following questions.  Unless you answer “yes” to every single one, you will surely be gambling with the effectiveness of your new finish, and the durability of the hard work you are about to take on.

  • Have you been with that specific piece of furniture through its whole life?
  • Do you know every purpose that piece was used for?
  • Do you know what was used to clean it?
  • Do you know what finish was used on it originally?
  • Do you know if it has been touched up or restored, and which products were used?

Prep work is essential to ensuring the success of your project; It cleans off years of grease, fingerprints, and damaging cleaning products.  Properly preparing your piece also helps secure the original finish. All finishes inevitably break down through the years, and if the existing finish is flaking or cracking you need to secure or remove it before painting anything over the top of it.  Additionally, the scuff-sand step will smooth out any imperfections you are looking to correct, such as scratches and blemishes, or drip marks from a previous finish.

This picture above shows a prime example of why we need prep work. This end table had consistent drip marks down the side. Natural wood can often camouflage defects like this. The drip marks on this particular piece were hardly visible until the piece was scuffed. If paint had just been applied directly over the top with out scuffing, these drips would likely have become very noticeable.

Why not one coat?

In all honesty, we have yet to find a product that – when applied properly – really does only need “one coat.”  You see the commercials, read the ads, and believe the tag lines.  But applying just one coat usually turns out to be just as it sounds:  Too good to be true.  In our experience, at the very least a second coat was needed for adequate coverage.  If you do think you have found that magic product that covers fully with a single application, be sure to check all planes in multiple versions of lighting as this can make a huge difference.

Also, while you may seem to achieve full coverage with one layer, the color of the product may not be reaching it’s maximum intensity.  Often you will see the truer version of the color with more than one coat.

And obviously more coats can mean better protection, but not too many or you could potentially have finish failure. (We will have a blog on this coming up)

A Topcoat’s Duty

With most “all in one” products the top coat is part of the recipe, along with the primer and paint. However since all of the products are mixed together, each layer isn’t allowed to cure separately.  The formulas for primer, paint, and top coat are specifically developed for a purpose, and if they aren’t allowed to cure on their own, they may not be reaching their full potential.  Keep this in mind when considering the future use and traffic of your project.  The primer prevents previous finishes and wood tannins from being pulled through the new paint; The top coats protect against various wear and tear, airborne elements, and sometimes UV rays.  Finish will also protect the wood underneath from getting dry and brittle.  Check out our previous post to learn more about Top Coats.

All of that said, while we are BIG advocates for using topcoats and rarely complete projects without them, we do acknowledge for low traffic items (like picture frames or other decorative items) a product like General Finishes Milk Paint may be suitable without a top coat.

In short, yes, the factors contributing to the demand for speedy results puts a lot of pressure on all of us.  However, as Tara’s mama says, “Better to do it right the first time so that you don’t have to do it a second time!”  That’s the voice we choose to follow, and we believe that’s what will help us stand behind our work for years to come.

Blue Wood

What are your thoughts on All in One products? Have you tried them? Share your successes and failures with us – We want to hear from you!

Happy Junking,

Becca and Tara


Next week we so you step by step restoring a China cabinet.


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

Meet UpCycle Girl #2!

Earlier this year, you had the opportunity to meet the ORIGINAL UpCycle Girl, Tara!  This duo wouldn’t exist without her kick-starting the work back in 2013.  Now, you can meet Becca: the girl Tara took under her wing, the addition to the team that changed the name from “The UpCycle Girl” to “The UpCycle Girls!”

A lover of all things creative while growing up, Becca opted to get her bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point between 2004 & 2008.  Fresh out of college, she dove head first into the corporate world designing stores for a large retail chain.  After 5 years, Becca knew that retail design and the large corporate atmosphere weren’t going to work for her long-term.  She took a couple months off (to get married!), and then started dabbling in some other curiosities until she was connected with Tara through mutual friends at the beginning of 2014.  Becca missed working with her hands, and face-to-face customer interaction, and Tara needed someone for design input.  It couldn’t have been a better fit.  And as they say, the rest is history!

In her personal world, Becca is in the process of becoming an adoptive mother.  She loves living in the country with her husband Matt, their rescued Boxer mix Lola, and their crazy kids.  She does the majority of her UG work out of a relocated 60-year old barn (yep, even her workshop is repurposed!).  A true Wisconsin girl at heart, Becca enjoys doing almost anything outside (fishing, hunting, hiking, campfires…), constantly evolving the decor in her home, going on adventures to new places (especially if they have a great flea market or vintage shop), listening to country music (Sunny Sweeney is her current fave), and spending quality time with family and friends.

Unapologetically passionate about everything she loves and always wishing she could “do it all,” Becca survives on staying busy, fueling herself with cappuccino from local coffee shops.  Good thing she has Tara to keep her on target!  🙂  While both girls contribute to all areas of The UpCycle Girls, Becca is the driving force behind the design end of the business.  So if you have a design related request, she is your girl.

Note from Becca:

“I couldn’t be more honored to be the other half of the UpCycle Girls, and love every day that Tara and I get to keep creating new and beautiful things for our amazing customers.  We love doing what we do, and I know what a gift that is.  Thanks for following us, and keep the requests coming!  We are here to share both our skills and knowledge with you – It’s part of our mission!”  #thesumofitsparts  #wemakeagreatteam  #girlswithtools  #upcyclegirlswi  #keeptheold

Junk on,

Tara & Becca

Coming up next week we restyle a buffet.

Safety for DIYing and Refinishing

I (Tara) have been refinishing furniture for 18 years now.  I have experienced my fair share of “oopses” due to failed protection.  I have done everything from stabbing myself with chisels to melting my gloves in stripper.  Proper precautions are no joke in this industry, and quality of protective gear DOES matter.  Becca and I feel that we are among those whose duty it is to encourage this in order to continue encouraging others to do their work efficiently and safely!

First I’d like to share some of my favorite protective wear with you so you can avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made.

First up… eyewear.  I personally don’t wear protective eyewear.  Before you say anything, have you seen these giant glasses I wear?!  I’m probably going to look back in photos and make fun of myself someday.  In my case, if I doubled up on my eyewear I wouldn’t be able to see what I am doing.  So common sense plays a key factor here.  If you don’t wear glasses (like Becca) get some standard safety glasses. My husband likes these.

Above: Becca’s Safety Girl boots

Next is footwear.  Some people think that this isn’t as important if you aren’t working on heavy construction sites, or if your work is all at table height.  That is a myth.  In a workshop setting (even in your basement or garage) you can step on nails, staples, or large splinters, which will go through most everyday-shoe soles.  You can also drop tools or pieces of furniture on your toes (we have done this many times…). You don’t necessarily need steel-toed boots, although some on-site jobs will require them.  Personally, I just like my Ariat hiking boots – they have a thick sole, I can wear them for days, and they are a little taller with ankle protection for when I’m climbing through junk!  Becca really likes her Ariats and Safety Girl boots.  The Ariats are much more comfortable, but the Safety Girls offer a little more protection (plus, they’re pink… and Becca likes a lot of pink in her life).

Masks!  So, important from sanding to spraying wear your mask. I just bought an Elispe half mask which I must say is suprisingly comfortable! I typically get somewhat claustrophobic in masks, but this one I could leave on all day. I highly recommend it. It also comes with a great plastic bag to prevent contamination when your not using it. What a great idea!  Becca also likes the disposable respiration masks, which are a very affordable option that is efficient enough for most jobs.

Stripping gloves are SUPER important.  When you use lacquer thinners, you need a real chemical-resistant pair of gloves.  The risk in not wearing them?  You could literally melt your gloves right off your hands – Imagine what that could do to your skin!  We used to double up on gloves when I owned my refinishing shop. We even had those gloves that tied all the way up to the neck and a full plastic apron (talk about neck pain). Your best bet would be a lined plastic glove like this.

Staining Gloves: Ok, so unless I am using oil stain I don’t wear gloves (Becca doesn’t either).  Unless you are a clean freak (which is fine!) it’s a bit of a waste since I can just wash my hands with a heavy hand soap.  In our opinion, there is no need to fill up a land fill with unnecessary plastic gloves.  To each his own, though!  So if you do prefer to use gloves for staining, these are the best. If you have a latex allergy, use these.

We hope this has been helpful!  Feel free to message us for more recommendations!

Junk on (safely)!  🙂

Tara & Becca

Coming up next week read all about The Upcycle Girl #2 Becca!



* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 

Vanity Transformations

Over the years we have built quite a portfolio of work. We wanted to start sharing some of them with you to hopefully help get your gears turning on what you might want to do on YOUR next project.  We will share the color of paints used for each project, which you can purchase online by clicking the links or contact us directly and we will get you a DIY kit of your own!


Emerald Vanity: mixed 50:50 Emerald Green and Lime Green. Glazed with Bronze Pearl Effects. Top is stained Brown Mahogany.


Buttermilk Vanity: Base and mirror are painted Buttermilk and heavily distressed. Top is stained Antique Cherry Wood Stain.


Art Decor Vanity: painted Seagull Grey and distressed. Top was sprayed with Mohawk Vandyke Brown and Dark Walnut Toning Sprays.


Patina Vanity: Layer 1 is Patina Green, Layer 2 is an off-brand water-based teal. Glazed with Van Dyke Brown. Top is Antique Walnut Gel Stain.

We always top coat our painted and refinished work with either a polyurethane or pre-cat waterborne finish.  We only wax when a specific look is desired. To find out more about why we don’t wax go here.

Thanks for reading this weeks blog! Have you restored or flipped a vanity recently we would love to see it!

Happy Junking!

Tara and Becca

Stay tuned in for next weeks blog all about Safety! What the Upcycle Girls recommend for protection when refinishing and painting furniture.



* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 


How to Shop for Painted Furniture

There is a huge trend right now toward painting furniture (as you probably already know if you follow us ☺️). As avid dealers in multiple areas of the industry, we come across work of varying degrees of professionalism. And obviously, no one aims to buy furniture that will break down or require frequent maintenance shortly after purchasing. So, we put together a comprehensive guide to give you some insight on how to shop for WELL-painted furniture.

1. The Scratch Test: Softly rub the edge of your nail across a flat surface on the piece, and then do the same on the inside of a leg or in a less noticeable area. The paint and finish should NOT budge. This is especially important on worksurfaces (like a tabletop) where extra measures should be taken to increase durability. If your simple, GENTLE test in the store doesn’t pass, it will be even worse when you bring it home.

2. Feel It: Feel the surfaces – they should be smooth as a baby’s bottom! Tacky is NOT good, and is usually indicative of a finish, adhesive or curing problem. Rough (similar to sand paper) could mean that dust particles settled in the finish, or the finish didn’t cure properly.

3. Check ALL Surface: It’s always good to inspect the inside and the back of any piece of furniture your thinking about purchasing. How will the cabinet look if the doors are going to be used and possibly left open often? Is the inside of the cabinet painted or at least the inside of the doors? Check the back make sure that all the pieces are attached properly. If the dresser has a mirror attached, make sure it is VERY secure. Review how it’s put together – Are all the necessary pieces there?

4. The “Pretty” Test: Lastly Becca has some design-related things to keep in mind to to help you feel confident about making the right purchase.

– Bring coordinating color swatches for the space the piece will be in. Colors change with lighting, but will stay in the same palette.

– Take measurements! Take 5 minutes one day when you are at home and measure any areas where you are looking to add furniture or decor. Write these down on a notecard to keep in your wallet, or type them into your phone! Then, when you unexpectedly stumble upon that buried gem in a thrift store, you know if it will fit! You can also tape the area off on your floor at home to get a better idea if how the new piece will effect the flow of your space and you will have maximum measurements to work with.

– ALWAYS carry a tape measure with you. Becca keeps on in her purse AND her car. And it has come in handy many, many times!

– Gather a couple of old blankets from home, or consider investing in a couple of padded moving blankets. If you plan to haul your awesome new find yourself, you are going to want to take proper precautions en route to prevent damage.

Thanks for reading this weeks blog we hope that it will help you find the perfect piece for your home!

Tara and Becca


Photos:  Karen at Cattywampus Design in Wauwatosa provide the photos in the blog. Cattywampus has 80 different artists, you are sure to find a spectacular conversation piece there.


Next week we will show your some vanities we have restored! Check back with us!

Upcycle Doors and Drawers!

As avid junkers, we have acquired decently sized stashes of salvaged home interior components over the years. This may sound relatable to many of you. 😉 The most common among the pieces we are talking about are discarded cabinet doors, drawer faces, and windows.

Do you have some leftover junk in your garage or basement, too? Here are some fun ideas for bringing life back to those dusty boards!

Let’s start with cabinet doors. We come across these ALL. THE. TIME! Here are a few projects we have done with them…


*Remove the center panel, add some chicken wire and chalkboard paint, and use S-hooks to hang mugs or clothespins for photos or notes!


* Finished the frame panels with Patina Green and glazed with Van Dyke brown. Painted center panel with chalkboard paint. Voila!



As you can tell, we LOVE the idea of upcycling these doors into writable surfaces. That’s because chalkboard signs can serve MANY different purposes! In addition to offering versatility and flexibility with decorating (change the design with the season!), you can use them for weekly menus, motivational quotes, or special notes to other household members or office mates!


* God Bless America – holiday red Trash to Treasure –  persimmon (General Finishes Milk Paints)


Add a clothespin or cup handle to hold your chalk! ✅ 💯



They also make GREAT wedding decor or gifts!



*This project ( finished in Bone white – General Finishes chalk style paint) is actually a glass paneled cabinet door, but can be completed just as effectively with a window!




Sometimes you have more than just the drawer face… You can do some awesome things with recovered FULL drawers, too!


* This drawer table was made for a very special client to hold all of her paints and sits right next to her canvases. Finished in General Finishes Milk Paint; Drawer is Halcyon Blue, bottom legs and shelf finished in Linen


*  Finished with General Finishes Milk Paint; Top is Queenstown Grey, legs and shelf are Lamp Black.

Another SUPER fun idea for repurposing drawers into tables, is to make a planter! We will show you some of these in a future post. Check back in soon!

Thanks for reading this week’s blog! We would love to see what other fun ideas you all have come up with for your rescued home interior pieces!

Happy Junking,

Tara and Becca

One last note…

We will be featuring info on many of the photos we post going forward so that you know which colors we used to achieve each look. You can purchase from the link, or head over to our Shop tab to see where to pick up paints for your next salvage project!

Tune in next week on The Upcycle Girls tips on shopping for painted furniture.


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 


MILK OR CHALK? How to pick the right paint for the job!

Do you have a project you have been dying to dive in to, but don’t know where to start? If you are like many DIY’ers, you have heard the terms “chalk” and “milk” when referring to types of furniture paint, and have probably considered them for such projects. However, we have found that many of our customers, and even fellow refinishers, have trouble defining and distinguishing between the two.

What IS the difference anyway? And what’s all they hype about? Well, The UpCycle Girls are here to answer your questions!

Milk Paint

Let’s start with a brief history on milk paint. Modern milk paint mimics an actual form of paint that originated thousands of years ago using real milk mixed with lime and naturally derived pigments. This product was found to have been used on cave paintings, and was even said to have coated the furniture found in King Tutankhamen’s (AKA King Tut 😉) tomb! This is SO COOL, and is such a testament to its popularity as a durable, effective product.

Today, milk paint is still widely popular for painting furniture and wood work. You can buy traditional milk paints in powder form, or for those die-hard DIY’ers you can also make your own! Check out Bob Villa’s recipe if you’re interested. [Disclaimer: The UpCycle Girls have not tried this recipe yet, but will absolutely share it with you when we do!] You can also buy milk paints pre-mixed, which is super convenient (and hey, who doesn’t like convenient?) but less traditional. Milk paints are made to reproduce the look of old-world painted furniture. The sheen is low (comparable to a typical eggshell) and the hardness is high. It is extremely easy to use, but certain colors can be harder to cover with than others, like white or red (as is true with most paints). You can also manipulate this product to achieve many beautiful special effects like layered colors, or a chippy finish.

Chalk Paint

Chalk based paints are also said to be one of the first paints used in recorded history (around 800 B.C.!). Chalk paints were mixed similarly to milk paint using a pigmented lime (the chalky part) base. Chalk paints have a VERY low sheen, which is perfect if you are looking for a classically flat finish. They also tend to have better coverage than milk paint, requiring maybe 1-2 coats versus 3-4. However, you will find chalk paint is less durable than milk paint. Due to the formula required to create chalk paint, there are more fillers added in order to achieve the look, feel and coverage for what makes a chalk paint, a chalk paint! An easy way to test this is by holding a can of chalk and a can of milk in each hand – the chalk paint will be heavier! These fillers give that desired matte sheen, and make the product easily sandable for distressing… Unfortunately this also means it will be easier to scratch and scuff, and it will be less resistant to unwanted oils and residues.


We do feel a need to mention waxing at this point, since it has become such a popular pairing with chalk paint. You may have read our previous post regarding our feelings on wax… either way, bear with us.

We find that most refinishers are simply choosing (or told) to just wax right over the top of a chalk paint to get a smooth, but still very low sheen finish.  While we do not believe in waxing over an unfinished surface as wax is not a durable finish, we understand the draw for that type of look (we admit, it’s so pretty!). Most pieces we have seen ended up feeling like fine-grit sandpaper after using this method, and did not result in the smooth appearance we believe was aimed for. While this could be due to improper prep-work or inefficient dry time/conditions, it may also be the direct contact of an unfinished high-filler product with a soft finish. To avoid this and also add durability, we suggest applying a barrier coat of a waterborne finish over the chalk paint, and then use your wax over the top to get the look you want. If you want to learn more about types of finishes and clear coats for your projects head over to our blog post Guide to Wood Finishes.


Eventually, society progressed to develop oil base paints and those quickly became very popular. These products have been around for a long time, but had not been perfected until recently, leading us to many of the typical paints you find on shelves today.

For you science savvy followers out there, here is a closer look at some spec comparisons between the two products from one of our favorite manufacturers, General Finishes.


  • Water Base
  • Low VOCs
  • 30 Min dry to touch
  • Recoat 2 hrs
  • Sheen – Flat
  • Long lasting color
  • Can be used for exterior use with proper top coating
  • VISCOSITY (CPS) 2,000- 3,000
  • Solids 54%
  • Durability – High


  • Water Base
  • Low VOCs
  • 30 Min dry to touch
  • Recoat 2 hrs
  • Sheen – Flat (chalky look)
  • Not for exterior use
  • VISCOSITY (CPS) 2,000- 3,000
  • Solids 60%
  • Durability – Medium

See more of the compared charts here.

Both milk and chalk paint are water base products, so they are eco-friendly. These paints have no odor and can be used indoors. Because both of these paints are water based, you can also mix them together to make customized colors!

If you have more questions about how to pick the right paint for your next project, you know who to call!

Junk on,

Tara & Becca

Wet Paint Flyer

One more note from the girls…

We are on a personal movement to save furniture from landfills by restoring it. We love encouraging and networking with our fellow junkers, and want you to join the movement with us however you can. This is why we decided to start promoting and selling our favorite furniture paints! You can currently find our display at Unique Antiques in Waterford. This is BRAND NEW NEWS! Yay!!! Keep following us to find out about more locations announcements coming soon!

Check out next weeks blog on upcycling doors and drawers! 


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 

Waterfall Dresser Flip

White Cropped Photo Baking Bread Pinterest Graphic-2

This was such a fun flip, mostly because we were able to elongate the future of a really good-quality, sturdy piece! The inside drawers are lined with birds eye maple and walnut woods. You can find some awesome steals, just like this one… If you just take the time to dig! We did end up making the hard decision of covering up some of that gorgeous veneer (after much deliberation and some trial-and-error), but boy did this turn out amazing!!!


I (Tara) have really been drawn to blue lately. This time I chose charleton blue Chalk Style Paint from General Finishes and it turned out great! After painting to the desired opacity and adding a barrier clear coat, she was ready for glaze!


I was so excited to try this new glaze from Mowhawk. It’s applied with a “spray-on, rub off” method. It completely changed the look of this entire dresser! Look how easy it was to spray on… The scuffing off is where it gets a little tricky.


When using this product, keep in mind it takes a while for the glaze to dry, and then even longer to get it sanded just right. When you reach your desired level of antiquing, blow it off with compressed air and the project will be ready for finishing. We finished in a pre-cat water-base finish too three coats :). To learn more about finishes and top coats go here.

On this piece, I also had to replace the hardware since the dresser was missing two pieces of the bakelite hardware. (But I will definitely be saving that old hardware for another project. 😉)


What do you think? What would you like to use this glaze on?

Thanks for reading, happy junking!

Tune in for next weeks blog where we compare Milk Paint and Chalk Paint.

* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 

Captains Desk Restyled

Written by: UpCycle Girl Tara


I was scrolling through Facebook and saw this beauty for sale! Priced a little high, but I was able to haggle a bit. I have always wanted a desk like this. Unfortunately, I just do not have a place for it so the next best thing is getting one to revamp. The wood was in terrible shape. It must have been painted once in its life. Someone attempted to strip it but clearly lost interest and just tried to cover it up with some dark stain and finish. Also the center pull out writing surface has been replaced. I wanted to keep this project simple and classic, capable of being a statement piece for any room. I restored the inside by just evening out the color and clear coating. Then choose bone white chalk style paint from General Finishes; Distressed and added 2 clear coats if ML Campbell (sprayed on) with HVLP.

Note: We always use durable hard clear finishes as we do not believe in waxing furniture for protection. If you want to know more about why read this.

So what do you think? What would you have done if this was gong in your house?

Thanks for reading and happy junking!


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 

Food Grade Finishes

Written by: UpCycle Girl Tara

I recently redid my built in cutting board. It was glass, but I wanted to bring in a wood element so I replaced the glass with hard maple.

I needed to treat the wood keeping in mind whatever finish I chose had to be safe for food consumption.

Becca and I do research upon research to insure anything that we do is the correct way to do it so that the information that we provide to you is accurate. So after quite a bit of researching we found a few different products that we felt were worth sharing with you.

First let’s talk about what not to use. While food-derived oils such as coconut or olive oil are effective, they can go rancid. However there are some oils that are refined you can use such as this coconut cutting board oil. Alternatively, exterior wood oils such as teak oil are NOT safe for food consumption. Also refrain from certain cleaning products on your cutting boards, like bleach and other kitchen cleaners – Not only are they unsafe products to risk coming into contact with your food, but they can ruin your wood. Wood in general – even hard maple – is like a sponge, so anything you put on it will be absorbed to some extent. Once you get a rancid or toxic oil in there, you are going to have a heck of a time removing it.

I personally ended up optingfor a Butcher Block Conditioner, which is food grade mineral oil and waxes. It was very easy to use with a wipe-off method of application. Whichever product you end up choosing, be sure to follow the exact instructions and adhere to warning on the label.

I am very happy with the results of the conditioner I chose – It perfectly brought out the natural features in the beautiful new maple in my countertop. Also, I feel the need to note that, in true UpCycle Girls fashion, the maple I used was composed of scraps that were cut planed and glued together.

There are a couple of other products that we love as well, that might work for you. Both are made by General Finishes. One is their Salad Bowl Finish. Since this is considered a topcoat, it is mainly used for visual purposes on surfaces that come in contact with food. Recognize that it should not be used for items that commonly come into contact with heavy heat or sharp knives (like wooden spoons and cutting boards). It does however, work great for your other wooden kitchen items, like – you guessed it – salad bowls. 🙂 The other product GF makes is Butcher Block Oil (mineral oil). This is a food-grade protectant that will be like most other food-derived oils in that you need to apply continually over time as needed, and it is perfectly safe to come in contact with your food.

Have you recently conditioned a cutting board? We would love to hear about your experience and the products you used!

Thanks for reading and happy junking!



Stay tuned next week and see a captains desk restyled.


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 

Flipping Dated Furniture

“What does ‘upcycling’ mean?”

(If we had a dime for every time we got asked that question…)

To us, it means reusing a piece the same way it was intended, only better… new and improved, if you will. It’s somewhere between recycling and upgrading.

Here is a recent example…

We started out with a solid, but dated, set of nightstands with an entertainment center. The owner was redecorating, but wanted a very specific look. We were able to save him some money AND help him reach that goal… by upcycling!

Here are some “before” shots of the set.


I removed all of the hardware and doors. The customer wanted a more modern look, so we chose to keep the doors off. This achieved the desired aesthetic without sacrificing storage.


Next, I had to fill in the holes where the old hinges were anchored. I decided to try out a new wood filler that comes in a powder, and it quickly became a new favorite! I taped off the backs of the holes to prevent drips, mixed the filler to the desired consistency, filled and allowed to set properly, and sanded to a smooth finish.


Finally, the fun part! To achieve a more industrial, rustic look, we went with General Finishes Milk Paint in Lamp Black for the casings and shelves. In addition we used GF’s Water-Based Wood Stain in Antique Walnut over the [properly prepped] existing stain on the tops and inner shelves of the entertainment center. New handles and corner guards were applied after a few layers of GF High Performance topcoat.

Total transformation! #keeptheold



How to Remove Smells From Furniture

You just picked up your flea market find of the year! It’s beautiful and you have the perfect spot for it. You can’t wait for it to be that perfect conversation piece. Except every time you go near it, it stinks! You clean it front and back but it still just smells. Some furniture can get a musty smell or even cigarette smell to it. We have some tips on how to rid that beautiful piece of the stench.

White Cropped Photo Baking Bread Pinterest Graphic

I worked in disaster restoration for 15 years. We took furniture from homes covered in smoke and sut we cleaned them right up in almost every case we where able to remove the smoke smell from the furniture. We first started by cleaning with a denatured alcohol and water. Clean the front back underneath inside outside. It is always best to check the finish by first rubbing your cleaning solution on a small area before going forward. If you have access to a small ozone machine like this one I got from amazon. Put the ozone air purifier in a very small room with the furniture leave in there for a few days. Then I have used febreeze but I personally like the norwex odorizing spray. Spray the deodorizing spray on all the RAW wood sides. You don’t want to spray this on anything with a finish it could damage it.

So if all of that fails consider shellac now depending on where the smell is coming from you can seal the RAW areas with shellac. It comes in an aerosol and its easy to spray on. Pull out drawers spray the drawers inside and outside same with inside the cabinet and underneath. If the smell is coming from the top or outside you may want to consult a professional on restoring the finish. An antique piece you will want to make sure that the  finish that is put on it will be the same as the existing. Or contact your local upcycler and have them paint it to perfection!

Thanks again for reading this week! What do you have that you love that just stinks? Let us know if you try any of these tips and tricks.

Happy Junking!

For everyday cleaning and maintenance read up on our blog Choose the right cleaning products for furniture.

* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 

Feature: Interview with Julie Amici

We have done Junking Play Lists before, but this one is not like the others. We are featuring Julie Amici, a small town artist with roots in our good ole dairyland. While we are revamping and upcycling we enjoy listing to some good tunes (usually not the new stuff). Listing to music like Julie’s is motivating for us; It gets us in the mood to make our work as beautiful as Julie’s voice.

Check out Tara’s new favorite song!

Image result for julie amici yellow roses album cover

Read on for our exclusive interview with Julie!

UG:  How did you get started in the music field?

JA:  I have always wanted to be a singer. I started following the path about 10 years ago in Portland Oregon. Started singing jazz and then met Dean Mueller and Don to Plews.  I got into Blues after meeting Dean Mueller. We have won several awards together and have been able to play many festivals. People love music, and we love to perform for people!

UG:  Where did you get the inspiration for Yellow Roses? (By the way, that is a beautiful song.)

JA:  Our album Yellow Roses is more on the American path.  When I went back to Wisconsin to visit where I grew up, where our house had burned down.  I thought about the yellow rosebush that my grandma planted there.  And the song just started to build like seed of inspiration, into a song.

UG:  Where can people find your music and see you play?

JA:  We play mostly around Portland and out on the Oregon Coast. We are starting to gain a national reputation as we know a lot of musicians in the industry. We have a Facebook page and website and videos on YouTube – just check out Julie Amici.

What kind of music do you like listening to while you are working away? Please share it with us! Thanks for reading and as always, happy junking!