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Building a flat file paper storage cabinet - Part 2 (sanding and varnishing)

Building a flat file storage cabinet yourself and wondering how to finish off plywood and pine to protect it from the elements (and the stray water from a drying painting)? A good way might be to alternately sand and coat with an oil-based varnish.

Last post I told you about the new flat file paper storage cabinet I've been building in order to store all my large pastel papers and paintings (with the help of my partner Pete the carpenter - Fix-it Pete!). You can view the previous post here. Now we were up to finishing the cabinet off, and I'm a bit fastidious about these things, so it was time to sand everything down (see Fig. 1).

Fig 1B.jpg

So once we'd added the bracing pine mouldings to the front and back of the plywood shelves, I sanded all the corners and edges down with a rectangular wood file and coarse sand paper. This took a surprisingly long time, probably because there were 7 shelves! I started by using an electric hand sander, but most of the edges were too fiddly and needed to be done by hand (see Fig. 2).

Fig 2.jpg

After adding wood putty to hide the nail and screw holes, and sanding it back, we then varnished the cabinet and shelves with an oil-based polyurethane satin varnish (two coats, sanding lightly in between). I chose a satin rather than gloss varnish because I didn't want to risk my papers sticking to a glossy surface.

Oil-based polyurethane varnishes do give off odours during application and for a few days to weeks after application, and they require the use of turpentine as the solvent to clean and protect the brushes, but they're generally pretty easy to apply (in a well ventilated area), and they generally provide superior hardness and longevity of the surface than water-based varnishes.

When buying varnish it is also important to consider in advance (calculate if necessary) the area (in square metres) that needs to be covered, and how many coats you intend to use on each surface. A minimum of two to three is recommended, sanding lightly in between. Try to ensure you don't underestimate the amount you need as it can be frustrating running off to the hardware shop in the middle of applying a coat!

While Pete did most of the varnishing (he's much more skilled than I am with large brushes!), here I am varnishing the top of the cabinet (Fig. 3).

Fig 3.jpg

Finally, after waiting for a minimum of 12 hours for each coat of the varnish to dry thoroughly, and sanding in between coats, my flat file paper storage cabinet was finished! Here's a photo showing one of my paintings fitting nicely and resting on a shelf being supported flat without tipping (see Fig 4).

Fig 4.jpg

I'm happy with the golden glow to the wood added by the varnish. There's ample space for a number of paintings to be stored on each shelf (with glassine paper as protection in between), and the front bracing of the shelves should help prevent dust settling inside the cabinet. Here is a photo of the cabinet in its new home underneath my painting desk in my office/art studio (see Fig. 5).

Fig 5.jpg

Now my paper and finished paintings will be able to be safely stored out of the dust and without the risk of bending or items falling on them and damaging the surface!

Do you have need of a paper storage cabinet for your excess paper and paintings? Is there a convenient spot in your art room for a do-it-yourself cabinet, built to the exact dimensions you require? It might not be as difficult as you might think!

#sanding #flatfile #paperstorage #cabinet #varnish #polyurethane #FixitPete #storing #apr15 #DIY #doityourself

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Laura is a visual artist, veterinarian, conservationist and disease ecology Research Fellow trying to juggle a multitude of passions - and she's too stubborn to drop any of them! She is particularly fond of bush walking, rogaining, camping (especially with her mother, Jenny), bird watching and photography. She lives with her partner Pete in sunny Brisbane, Australia, and dreams of having an art studio in the rainforest!

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