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WORKING WITH MICHAELS HUTCHES

LATEST NOTE: Some time ago there were rumors that Michaels is discontinuing these hutches. I hope it is not so. Even if all that is left on the shelves is the misshapen remnants, I still think it is worth it to purchase any you can find - IF you are not a woodworker, or are without ready means to cut wood. I deal mostly with paper, cardboard, matboard, foamcore, etc., but I have bashed these hutches for many purposes over the last few years. Even if you don't use them whole, their parts are excellent for various other items.

Part I
GENERAL SUPPLIES AND MATERIALS:

1) Collect pictures of hutches, cupboards, kitchen islands, work tables, book shelves, storage chests, etc., that appeal to you. Look at them closely to see how the hutches' sections might be used to duplicate the various components.
2) Since they're so inexpensive, buy several of each style of hutch. Some of the projects include gluing duplicate parts together.
3) GENERAL SUPPLIES:
- matboard and cardboard
- small mirrors, as from old compacts, etc.
- clear plastic for window glass
- stain for finishing (I use clear matte) and antiquing purposes (I use MinWax Golden Pecan mostly)
- 1 inch or smaller disposable foam brushes, if possible, for applying stain; others will do
- sea sponge or old soft sponge of some type
- old underwear or t-shirt or something similar for wiping off stain
- long nose pliers; I use needle-nose
- craft knife; extra blades
- sandpaper; brown paper bags work well for finishing
- glue; I use Tacky or Sobo, mostly; Elmer's wood glue can be used
- toothpicks
- spray paint
- acrylic paints; I usually use the type in the small bottles from the craft store
- paper towels
- wax paper
- plastic wrap
- scissors for fabric; old pair for cutting paper, cardboard
4) If you're into stenciling, gather what you need. I find that stickers, paper doilies and paper lace are very useful, too.
5) Gather up small beads or whatevers that could be used for feet, and jewelry findings that might be suitable for handles or drawer pulls. Decorative toothpicks are good for various purposes, too, as are decorative moldings and laser trims.
6) Put all these items in a box.
7) Gather up plates, teapots (bet you have some of those little resin veggie ones, too), Chrsynbon dishes, foods, books and small do-dads that you like, for possible display. Paper plates with a coating applied work nicely in these hutches.
8) Look through your stash to see what collections you may have that you could display. Baby things? Toys? Holiday items? One of my hutches was used for a small assortment of chicken-related items; another showcases rabbits for my sister who collects rabbits; another is a gardening hutch, etc. Of course, a miscellany is good, too.

Here's an example of stuff I was looking through in planning for the Professor's Study.

9) Trial fit the pieces in some of the cupboards to get an idea of what will go where.

Since I had so many Southwest items, I decided my first study will be for a professor of English and Southwestern studies. The next one will be an Archaeologist/World Traveler's study to utilize all the other more exotic items in my collection.

10) Look through your plant collection. Almost any of these projects looks better with a plant on it or beside it.
11) If you have a fabric you want to use as curtains inside an open door hutch, or to cover an open section below, pleat it in advance, if possible. I use the medium pleater, but any size will do. if you don't have a pleater, just do it the way you usually do. If you're not sure what you want to use, just gather up whatever you like in the colors you like; you can decide later.
12) Put everything from 7-11 above into a separate box; add things as you come across them. You can always put it all back in your old shoebox or wherever it came from if you don't need it.

Part II
GENERAL PREPARATION:

SEPARATING PIECES FOR RECOMBINING
Look at the back of the hutch where the upper and lower parts are glued together. Place this seam at the edge of a table so that one part hangs out in space. Press the upper half firmly down on the table and pull down hard on the extending part. If you are lucky, the two halves will break apart. If you are not, use your knife blade to gently poke all along the seam line, wiggling it back and forth gently, and then break the pieces apart. If this doesn't work, use your ingenuity! (Some people have said to brush on warm vinegar; heat in microwave to soften glue, etc. I don't want to be responsible for anything you do in this regard.)

REMOVING UNWANTED DOORS, KNOBS, FEET, TRIMS
Doors will often just pop out if you open them and press them backwards. Otherwise, use your pliers and gently push and pull until you have them out. Pull out any hinge pins. Do not throw away these doors; they can always be used for something later on. I guess a truly thrifty person would even save the hinge pins.

Remove knobs and unwanted feet with pliers; set aside for re-use or for some other project if you are providing new ones. (I once painted some of the knobs for mushrooms.  They turned out pretty well, from a distance and riding a fast horse, as Alberta in W. VA used to say.  I gave a basketful of mushrooms to a friend and didn't keep any for myself, or get a picture, darn it)

If you wish, remove any existing trim at top by clasping it with long-nosed pliers and snapping it off. If all of it doesn't come off use the knife blade to slide along the seam and prize it away.

Do not despair if individual elements break apart. Remember, we did not pay much for these. Just glue them back together (be sparing with the glue if you are staining) or save all the pieces and you'll probably find another use for them later. (See the Witch's Cart following)

If your hutches have already been painted or stained before you started bashing, at this point touch up any skinned places with matching paint or stain.

SANDING
Use sandpaper to smooth any roughness at seam separations. Use a finer grade of sandpaper or an emery board to smooth off the sharpest edges of the wood. Lightly sand all surfaces if you want a smoother finish. If you want a more rustic look, wait until after painting or staining to sand. Wipe surfaces with a soft cloth to remove sanding dust.

PRIMING
If you are going to paint, a light coat of white spray paint works as a general sealer and background, no matter what color your finish will be, or of course you can use a regular sealer. If you're staining, you can spray or brush on a coat of sealer first. I use MinWax clear matte finish and apply with a sponge brush, although this isn't necessary for most purposes.

However, a coat of sealer on the edges of the wood prevents it from absorbing too much stain. Even a very thin coat of glue allowed to dry serves the same purpose.

I like to line up several hutches and spray or brush on the sealer all at the same time. My first efforts were all sprayed a butter yellow by my husband for a garden hutch club workshop; he sprayed a whole slew of them before I realized how bright the color was. I used the extras for other purposes, which explains why there's more than one yellow one!

DETAILS
If you are the type who can visualize a completed project before you even begin, you may wish to glue on new feet and extra trims before further finishing. I happen to be a person who sort of fiddles around until it looks okay, then I stop. You can always add some trims and feet later as you get further along.

With all your different elements separated and the priming and sanding done, you have a collection of bases and shelf units. Place these together in various configurations to see what furniture pieces they represent. For example, two open shelf units glued open ends together become a tall bookcase; two bases glued together back to back with a new top can make a kitchen island or a large worktable; one base with a new top can become a smaller workbench or a dressing table. Another base with a new top and a back piece added can become a sea chest or a blanket chest; with a cushion on top you have a window seat. Upper sections can be glued side by side with a new top to form kitchen cabinets, etc.

Here is a temporary arrangement with two bookcases (I eventually added a third with doors in middle) and some Mission style furniture I wanted to use in the SW study.

TABLE TOPS AND CABINET BACKINGS
Look for photos of tile or marble to find patterns you like. These can be glued to card and waxed or varnished for a tiled or marble top table, or, of course, you can make the real thing. Advertising pages for cosmetics and such in women's and decorating magazines often have pieces big enough for our purposes. A piece of heavy duty foil, dull side out, can be wrapped, trimmed and glued around a piece of balsa or matboard to make an old-fashioned tin-topped table.

Look through your stash of decorative papers or tiny print fabrics to see what might suggest interesting backings inside your hutches

FINISHING
Obviously, this is a wide-open subject. Besides staining and painting, you can apply washes, glue on paper and other coverings, try your hand at pickling, sponging or crackling, etc. Use whatever you have on hand or what your own piece suggests it needs.
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More detailed descriptions will be given with each project that I have done so far.

PROJECT 1
GARDEN HUTCH

This is one of several open shelf hutches that my husband sprayed what-was-supposed-to-be-butter-yellow for a garden workshop planned for my miniature club. Although it was a much brighter color than I intended, we used them anyway, and I had a few left after the workshop.

The only change from the original hutch was substituting dark green beads for the wooden pulls and adding paper ivy appliques. These were cut from an envelope for full-size paper decoupage ivy. (Because I was working up so many little kits to go in it, I did the hutch quickly and didn't use as much care as I might have otherwise with the paper appliques.)

For the workshop I provided a painted hutch, sandpaper and stain for antiquing (to tone down that bright yellow somewhat), ivy appliques, and kits for gardening accessories. The finished prototype is shown above.

PROJECT 2
CHICKEN HUTCH SCENE

This is another of the yellow painted hutches that I used to house a small collection of chicken items. The black and white checked trim came from a Mary Engelbreit flyer advertising some of her books, posters and cards. The white drawer pulls were made from glass headed pins. Otherwise, the hutch is as it came; no bashing. You can see close-ups of this hutch on The Chicken Hutch page.

I used another of the extra yellow hutches to showcase a similar collection of rabbits for my sister. On the rabbit hutch I used a sticker border at the top and on the drawer, giving it a folk art touch. (I wish I had thought to get a picture of that hutch before I gave it to her.)

PROJECT 3
BIRDHOUSE SHOP STORAGE UNIT

The shelf unit visible at the back of Cheeps! birdhouse shop is made of the top shelf sections from two Michael's hutches.

The shelves were left with no bottom when the hutch was separated. The trim boards were removed and the open shelf sections were glued together to form a unit. A slighter larger cardboard piece was added at the top for a more finished look and at the bottom for a more substantial base. The second shelf winds up being taller than the first, unless you add another shelf. I just placed taller objects on that shelf and it worked out fine.

The shelves were sprayed with a paint called gray flannel to match all the other wood, then antiqued. (It has a pinkish cast in the pictures.) Because everything is glued down in the birdhouse shop, a full view is impossible to show.

The Birds poster covers the joining on the back.

PROJECT 4
WORK TABLES

This worktable is two hutch bases glued back to back, doors removed. The base was spray painted gray flannel.

Birdhouse cutouts from a mail order catalog were glued to either end. The grass was from a sticker border. A new matboard worktop was painted white and given a look of wear by poking and pummeling. Lastly, the entire unit was brushed with stain, then wiped with a soft cloth.

Originally planned for the birdhouse maker's worktable, it proved to be too big and will be used in a garden shop.

SMALLER WORKTABLE, SINGLE BASE


For the worktable used in the birdhouse-maker's shop, I used only one base with a larger matboard top. Since it is glued in place, it isn't as easy to photograph. However, you can get a glimpse of it here, partly visible past the checked stool top. A box of wood and some paint cans are on the open bottom shelf.

The top for this unit was finished the same way as the double-base worktable. The base was painted red and a paper birdhouse border was glued underneath the table top edge. Here is a glimpse from the back.

Here is a view of the worktable top. Go here to see Cheeps! Birdhouse Shop in great detail.

PROJECT 5
POTTING SHELVES

The shelves in this potting scene were made using one upper section that contained two shelves and an open bottom.

I removed the trim board, used some scrap molding at the top to make a recessed shelf and added a new base. Go here to see the Potting Cart in detail.

PROJECT 6
WITCH'S POTION CART

When I was trying to pry off the back of one of the hutches, the whole thing came apart. A Halloween scene was on the workbench at the time, containing the above witch's shelf, made by another El Paso miniaturist friend years ago. So I decided to use the pieces from the disintegrated hutch to duplicate this shelf.

The sides were cut and sanded to form a rounded top. I glued beads to the bottom as fake wheels. The unit was painted black, then dry brushed red iron oxide, then gray in a random fashion. The cobwebs were made of strings of hot glue. I filled it with more witch's potions for a scene in a glass dome that I was making for a friend. I didn't think to make a picture of the new creation before I gave it away, either! Nowadays, I am photographing everything! Similar carts could be used in myriad ways - in kitchens, bathrooms, workrooms, etc., although obviously not this grungy! lol

The witch's cart can be seen in the Halloween pages.

PROJECT 7
MAKING THE PROFESSOR'S STORAGE CHEST

This chest will go into the Archaeologist/World Traveler's study.

The Hoosier-type hutch was separated and the knobs and top removed from the base.

Wood glue and weight helped to fasten the doors more securely.

 

Even after using wood glue they looked warped, so I used a steel pin as a nail to reattach them. Naturally, I split the wood!

So I had to glue cardboard to the ends, as well as to the front.

After sanding the base and top, I wasn't sure what I wanted as a finish. So, I looked through my stash of fabrics intended for the Professor's Study to see if anything suggested itself.

They have an exotic look, so I decided on leather for this storage bench/table that would display some of the Professor's collections from his travels.

In my leather supplies I found an old belt bought for 15 cents at a garage sale. I separated it from its lining. (By the way, the antique silver buckle from this belt will make a great Art Deco wall decoration of some sort for another project.)

Its texture suggested elephant or rhinoceros hide, so I used the rougher piece for the base and the thinner lining piece for the top.

The original feet were left on. They and the base were painted black, as was the inside. I didn't hinge it, but it could be done later.

PROJECT 8
COW SHOP STORAGE CHEST

The partly-open red storage chest on the right side of the cow shop photo was made with a base like the one used for the Professor's chest. The knobs were removed and the top (which became the lid) was prized loose. A new cardboard front was glued in place. The lid was hinged with paper and all pieces were spray-painted barn red.

The cushion was made of padded cardboard covered with feed-sack print fabric. The chest was filled with cow-and-barn-related pillows. Check out Moo-Moo's Cow Shop for more detail.

I keep bashing hutches and will post more tutorials one of these days.

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And speaking of Michaels hutches, I was watching one of those makeover shows on the House & Garden channel, and one wall treatment consisted of these hutches all painted white and arranged in a grouping. There were four rows of 3, with each row being a different style. They weren't filled; just served as art by themselves. It was really neat, especially against the dark paint of that wall.

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NOTE: JANUARY 2013

I have added a page to my website about making houses from these hutches. You can see several of them here.

In addition, you can read about my visit to one of these Halloween Houses in The House Behind the Green Door, which you can find here.

After someone mentioned the Harvest Hutches I did as a small workshop, I decided it would be good to link to them.

And here are some additional projects using those hutches:

My grandaughters Jenna and Laura did cat-themed hutches. They and their brothers also used one in The Witch's Supper settings.

Jenna did a fairy in a swing in one of those hutches, as well as a Christmas Cupboard and a Gingerbread Visions.

There are probably more scattered throughout my website. I have used a lot of them over the years.

 

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