Copyright 2001 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
Crank's Corner: Commentary by Linda Marcas
When I took the dog out this morning, I stood on the patio and looked around, noticing how most
of our outdoor furniture needs a coat of paint. Sure, we have a bunch of modern plastic stuff, the sort you
can find at any Wally World or Okay Mart, but most of our furniture is metal, vintage shellback chairs and
round umbrella tables that I've acquired over the years. Because we are bad, careless, lazy people, we
take it in for the winter, so most of it is quite rusty.
There are several schools of thought when it comes to the re-painting of rusty furniture. Some
people want to Do It Right, which involves sandblasting the rust away to bare metal, using a primer, and
then applying several coats of rust-proof paint. Of course, people like this probably take their lawn
furniture indoors the day after Labor Day, so they won't need to go through all this work. My aunt used to
haul her hideously heavy and uncomfortable grapevine-patterned wrought iron furniture up and back down
to the basement every year, giving the stuff a coat of white paint every other year for good measure. She
could have saved herself the trouble; she was the sort of woman who could suspend the laws of nature by
Sheer Force of Will. She should have commanded rust never to darken her door, and rust would have
obeyed. Too bad she never thought of it.
My ideas of rust control are much more lackadaisical than those of folks who want to Do It Right;
my methods fall more into the categories of Good Enough For Who It's For, or If I Don't Do It This Way,
I'll Never Do It At All. Since most of my yard furniture is second-hand (or third, or fourth), chances are
good that it already has several coats of peeling, flaking paint on it, along with the rust. I remove whatever
is loose, whether it's paint or rust flakes, grab the nearest can of spray paint, and just go for it.
My husband can't bear to watch me paint; it's too painful for him. Runs, sags, drips: I don't care, as
long as the paint sticks to the chair, I figure, "hey, it's better than nothing!" Surprisingly, this method is
quite effective; a chair I painted ten years ago with some no-name junk paint is still in service. The chair
itself is older than I am, it's not in the landfill or at the scrapyard, and metal chairs don't decompose from
exposure to ultra-violet light, which makes them cheaper in the long run than those plastic wonders that you
must replace every couple of years. Besides all this, you can paint them any color you like, instead of
settling for whatever is stylish this year. Old metal chairs have character, a quality acquired only through
the passage of time.
Cheap spray paint from close-out stores usually turns out to be better than you expect it to be, and,
if you're lucky, you can find it in some wonderfully bad colors. Lavender lawn furniture that matches the
lilacs? Sure, no problem! Tangerine tables to go with the tulips? Okay, we can do that, too. If you prefer
to paint with a brush, there are lots of small cans of anti-rust paint for you to choose from, but remember,
tubular metal is hard to paint with a brush, because "round" has an infinite number of sides. Don't forget to
check the automotive section; you could be the first one on your block to have a candy-apple green chaise
Yesterday, I discovered the thrill of using a wire brush on an electric drill to remove rust and loose
paint. Power tools are so cool! They cut down the time spent on the "labor intensive"
portion of the job and let you get to the more gratifying applying-the-paint part. It's fun to effect major
changes with the push of a spray button, and the three rusty tractor seats that I want to turn into bar stools
seem much happier now that they are restored to their original jaunty red.
So much yard furniture is made of a sliced and stretched metal grid; we have tables, chairs, and an
old ironing board that we use as a buffet table constructed of this stuff. It looks delicate and lacey when it's
new, but soon it rusts and gets ugly. Because it is so thin, a little rust does more damage than it would on
sturdier metal, so get out that spray paint as soon as you start seeing red, and that "tea for two" set will last
long enough for you to enjoy it a few times.
Lately, fancy catalogs have started showing "yard art" and other decorations finished in what they
so cleverly call a "naturally oxidized" finish. When these objets d'art are made of iron or steel, "naturally
oxidized" means rust, folks! I don't mind rusty bric-a-brac; my patio has rusting candleholders and wall
hangings galore. I just don't want to sit on rust or lean my elbows on it or set my drink down on it so that
when I pick it back up and the condensation on the glass drips on my white shirt, it leaves a big orange spot
that looks like I drooled Kool-Aid on myself. So on these lovely spring evenings when the breeze has died
down, as hubby putters in the flower beds and the dog lurks underfoot, I guess I'll be doing some
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