Prison upholstery shops & four more handy tips for renovators

Reader Johnny Ringo sent me five tips to consider for the blog:  New ideas on sources to try for getting chrome replated, refrigerators repainted… and then there’s the bit about the prison upholstery shops, which I didn’t quite believe but then I googled it and gosh darn wouldn’t you know. Johnny Ringo writes:.

I  want to offer however 5 quick tips for renovating and restoring:

  1. Small metal parts, such as drawer pulls, vent registers, lamp finials, etc. If you find yourself needing to have these things re-chromed, check out your local gun store. Chances are there is a business card their from a guy who makes some extra cash in his garage or basement by doing nickel and chrome plating on guns. He will cost less than a professional plating shop and is more adept at handling small parts. Even plastics can be plated through the electroless process.
  2. Most cities have a car shop that works on classic cars… your kitchen appliances and especially refrigerators are not that different in terms of fixing dents and painting. On that note, next to that classic car shop is probably a metal shop with a little old man very skilled at polishing the chrome, stainless steel and aluminum trim from those old cars. He can do the same to the metal skirts on your formica table.
  3. Most of us live closer than we realize or care to realize to one of our state’s correctional institutions. Most states have prison work shops, and some states allow the public to get work done there too. Upholstery shops are big prison industries, as are wood and metal shops. Check them out, and if your squeamish about prison labor, don’t be. Chances are the milk, toast, and eggs you ate this morning were all produced with inmate labor either in a prison factory or a private one that rents the inmates from the state. Nearly all U.S. made furniture especially your mattress, is made in prison factories
  4. On a similar note as above, don’t forget high school and junior colleges have various shop classes, and trade schools too, and often will do work for everyday folks on the cheap as classroom projects.
  5. Home Depot and Lowes are nice, but don’t forget your neighborhood mom and pop hardware store. Small Ace, True Value, and Sentry stores, among others, especially if they have been around a while, are better sources to find dead stock and NOS parts as they don’t have any corporate floor plan or stock rotation requirements. The True Value I worked in in the 90’s (in business since 1942) still carried a lot of old plumbing supplies, bakelite electrical parts and knobs, out of production light bulbs, etc.

Thank you, J.R. I’ll show your bathroom pics soon. 🙂 Note, that’s Astro in my living room on a sofa I had reupholstered but not by a prison. Honestly, they probably would have done a better job. I’m not too happy with the way the back is lasting, or not. I got the fabric cheap from the Waverly outlet in Adams that closed a few years ago. I actually love the fabric – the threads are kind of kind of looped like a carpet, and I find that this shade of blue, with a greyish tinge, adds warmth but almost reads like a… neutral. It’s a very malleable color.

  1. Beth says:

    Here’s a dumb question—how might someone go about getting a refrigerator to an auto body shop? Thanks!

    1. J.R. says:

      First off, talk to the guys at the shop, tell them what you want, they might look at you like they are trying to make eye contact with a unicorn, but right now the economy being what it is, more places will work outside of their normal gigs just to stay afloat. Chances are they will realize a dented Chevy and a dented Maytag are not too far apart and take the job. After that, it’s a matter of a pick-up truck and muscle to get it there.

Comments are closed.