The UpcycledHOME: 7 Basic Tools of an Upcycler

by | Apr 20, 2022 | UpcycledHOME Magazine

Covid19 has had a significant impact on our lives. It will long be remembered by many for its quarantine lockdowns, toilet paper shortages, business shutdowns and social distancing measures.  Many of you have shared that your newfound love for upcycling furniture has resulted from the lockdowns, and even a few new business start-ups have resulted. For those of you who may perhaps be contemplating trying your hand at upcycling furniture, you may be wondering what tools you need to get started.  

Rest assured, you don’t need to run out to the nearest hardware store and start investing in many expensive tools. As you become more comfortable with trying new pieces and techniques, you will find that you can buy the tools you need as you go along and progress through more challenging pieces. I am pretty confident that you will have at least half of these items lying around already. You also do not need to start looking for a workshop to set up your studio in.  Like myself, many furniture artists have spent years working right in our own homes, garages and spare rooms, using these essential tools with great success.  My family has become so accustomed to walking around my pieces that sit in the dining room, living room and basement, that it is second nature to them and something they never complain about anymore.

Assuming that your first piece is in excellent condition and requires no repairs of any kind, the following are 7 of the essential tools you will need to get started.  

  • Drop Cloths & Rags

Before you start prepping your piece, you will want to prep your workspace. Drop sheets can be a bit pricey, so I use shower curtains I pick up at the dollar store or old bedsheets.  While you can purchase rags at the hardware store, I create my own using old, cut-up t-shirts. Rags are useful for applying and removing any stain that you may be using and to assist you with any clean-up of drips. 

  • Screwdriver or Drill

Once you’ve readied your workspace, you can start prepping your furniture for paint. To achieve a clean, professional look, you should remove all the hardware from your piece. A simple screwdriver will do the job just fine, but a power drill can help speed up the process. 

  • Paint Friendly Cleaner

Cleaning your furniture before painting is an important step that should never be ignored.  While there are plenty of paints on the market that advertise “no-prep,” it is best practice to clean your furniture to ensure proper adhesion and a smooth finish. Thoroughly cleaning your furniture with a pre-paint cleaner, such as Krud Kutter, will ensure all grease and grime are removed. A good hand washing also provides you ample opportunity to give your furniture a good once-over, checking for any damage you may have previously missed.

  • Foam Sanding Sponges

The majority of pieces only require a scuff sand. This quick sanding helps to rough up your surface, giving your paint something to grip on to. A sanding sponge with a tapered edge is perfect for getting into corners and tight spots. An electric sander can speed up this process and is an excellent investment for the long term; however, for the odd hobby project, a foam sanding block will do the trick. Once you’ve completed sanding your piece, you’ll want to wipe it down using a damp rag or tack cloth to remove any dust and debris.

  • Painters Tape

Painter’s tape will mask off any areas you don’t want to be painted – perfect for protecting drawer sides and creating clean lines on cabinet interiors etc. Even when painting a piece you plan to keep, it’s best practice to take the time to create a clean, professional look. Pro Tip: when painting areas that have been masked off with painter’s tape, paint away from the seam of the tape. Painting in this manner will decrease the likelihood of your paint bleeding underneath your seams.

  • Paint Brushes

When it comes to your paintbrushes, quality matters. While cheap brushes are easier on the pocketbook, they often shed, leaving stray hairs in your paint finish. Many boutique paint brands also sell brushes that are complementary to their products. These brushes can be pricey but are worth the investment.  To save on paint, you can tightly wrap your brushes using plastic cling wrap and throw them inside a resealable plastic bag between coats. Once you have completed your painting, be sure to thoroughly clean your brushes and hang them upside down to dry. With proper care, your brushes will last a long time.

  • Paint

There are many paints available on the market for furniture upcyclers, and you will have to do your research and try various ones until you find the one that suits your needs. Not all furniture paint is created equally. After spending the extra time to properly prep your furniture, the last thing you want is to have it chip, peel or fade.  If you find a specific paint supplier in your area, ask lots of questions. Often, your vision and use for the piece will dictate which paint is best for you. Seek out other upcyclers and ask for their recommendations as well.  Ultimately, it will come down to personal preference and cost. 

Besides some essential tools, you don’t need to invest a lot of money to get started. I hope you will be inspired to try your hand at painting and discover for yourself the joy and endless creativity upcycling has to offer.


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