Thursday, September 29, 2011

The one with the Table

OK, so I posted a few pictures a little bit ago of some new pieces that I was getting ready to refinish. Well, FINALLY after lots of experimentation I finished one of the two pieces. I know I know, it took forever but having a plan of refinishing and then actually executing it are two entirely different beasts. My fluffy dreams of re staining this coffee table were replaced by the realities of 100 degree weather, sanding, wind, more sanding, not having hours on end to wait for the stain to dry, did I mention sanding? So I might be exaggerating a bit but it did take alot longer than I had anticipated. I'm gonna try and make this short but I have a feeling that I'm channeling Storybook Lady from "You've Got Mail" today so bear with me.
I found this table at Goodwill a few months ago for $15. I immediately thought that I could fix the little stubby table in no time flat ( it may have been wishful thinking at that point).

I took the little guy home and then he sat. He sat in the garage for awhile. He waited so patiently for me to make him handsome. Poor little coffee table, he was neglected in the heat for a lot longer than I wanted him to be. But I finally remembered that he was out there still waiting for a makeover and decided to get started. My vision was for him to be super dark, an almost black stain at first. But, I changed my mind and thought that a dark brown would be a little bit warmer and bring out the grain a little better. I also realized after 30 minutes of trying to hand sand this table, that I ABSOLUTELY needed a different approach. See, I'm working on the whole patience thing but I haven't quite got the knack for it yet. Time for a Lowe's trip! I did a little research so I was 90% sure that what I needed was an orbital sander. It's a great tool for refinishing as well as lightweight and pretty inexpensive. I was pretty excited to buy my first power tool I have to say. See, I've used plenty of power tools but I haven't actually purchased my own, I normally rely on dad's garage for that.  It was pretty monumental I have to say. I picked the De Walt because it's one of the best brands of power tools (thanks for that tip dad) and it was the best price too.

Power tool!

Oh my goodness, did that orbital sander makes things easier. That table went from an ugly stain (see picture above) to this in only around 30 minutes!

Some of the scratches that went pretty deep.

My moment of excitement wore off once I realized that there were a few deep scratches in the table and I decided that I needed to sand it down to the bare wood with no stain showing. After a little bit more time I got it to look more like this:
Almost there!

Finally I got most of the scratches out and got the stain off.

Woo hoo! Sorry for the excessive amount of photos during the staining process but it was completely gratifying to take it back to the bare wood and start over from scratch. I went over the table with a finer grit sandpaper as well to achieve a smoother surface that would soak up the stain more evenly. Sandpaper tip: the higher the grit size (120,220 etc.) the smoother the outcome on the table. I started with a lower grit to get the stain off, it was about an 80, then switched to a 120 and 220 to achieve the smoothness I was looking for.

Next was time to stain. Since I'm a beginner at the re-staining process I decided to start with the bottom of the table just for practice. I removed the legs, went ahead and sanded the bottom and got to work.

Ready to stain. Sidenote: Getting the underside of this table to this level was quite extreme because, you see, those little decorative pieces, they're glued on, so it made the sanding process a little more difficult. Luckily, they are on the underside so I figured that you wouldn't see them very easily.

I also added these braces on the underside so that the table would be a bit more sturdy. The planks were a little loose so with this addition and the tightening of the brackets, it was as good as new.

These little cuties were also a little obstinate. They did not want to lose their stain. It was like an episode of "What not to Wear". I had to put them in a 360 degree mirror, tell them they looked awful and then reluctantly shed them of their former shell to show them what pretty feels like.

My supplies: A staining brush, Minwax Dark Walnut stain (I really love this color- it's warm and beautiful), paint thinner and a jar to clean my brush.

The next few pictures are the process of the stain. Paint it on, wait 20 minutes, wipe it off, wait 3-4 hours and start over. It was a little tedious but the outcome was well worth it.

I learned that it is really important to try to achieve an even coat and equal time over the table (i.e. start on the same side of the table for putting the stain on and wiping it off for a more even finish). I also really loved how dark it looked with the stain on, just not the sticky part.

Finished underside

Sanded and ready to go!

Again, I loved the way the stain looked before I wiped it off, I'll have to figure out how to achieve that look for the next time.

Almost done...

I finally finished, and I thought I was done. But I was wrong. Why is it that projects ALWAYS take longer than I think they are going to? It was pretty vital that I add a top coat though. I didn't want the stain to chip or yellow or I had to add a layer of Polyurethane (I stuck with Minwax for the poly too). The next challenge was to add the poly without letting any dust or dirt, leaves or various other debris blow onto the table. So, I set up a little top coat tent. Yep, you heard me right, top coat tent. It was pretty ingenious. I found a canopy in the garage, as well as some industrial plastic wrap. I managed to wrap the plastic wrap around the poles of the tarp so that it was  now wind proof! I'm sad to say I didn't take any pictures of it though ( I'm actually really sad I forgot about this because other than looking like something out of a sci-fi movie, it was pretty cool). 

Then, wait for it, I was done! I kept the jumping for joy to a minimum don't worry but I love the way that it turned out, here it is all finished:

I mentioned earlier that this was a completely gratifying process, to take something cheap, strip it down to the bare bones and build it back up again. Even though it took longer than expected, I'm actually really proud of this little guy for pulling through. It just shows there are amazing things out there if you can only see the potential. Being in the design world, I've been learning that all the time. People tend to overlook the cheap and put the pricey on a pedestal. While I have all the respect for pricey (there are some magnificent designs and sometimes you do get what you pay for) there is also something to be said for making that beautiful thing for yourself and letting your creativity shine through. Whew, I told warned myself that this one was going to be a long post, and  I have a new little nightstand I'm ready to tackle next so I better get started soon!  Let me know what you think or if you have any tips of staining!