Thursday, October 10, 2013

Butcher block cart makeover

Way back in the day my parents got us this little butcher block topped cart for our teenie tiny apartment kitchen. It was a godsend at the time since our kitchen had almost no storage space what-so-ever (our microwave had previously lived on the kitchen table)! When we moved into our condo it came with us and has been holding everything from our mail, bibs and phone books to coloring books and crayons ever since. After I finished my two-toned dresser (here) I looked around my house for something I could finish the same way and  BINGO! I've never been a fan of the finish on this and staining the light, almost raw wood butcher block with a darker more sophisticated color seemed like a no-brainer. This little fella is a plain jane work horse just begging for it's crown of roses!

Utilitarian cart ready for it's makeover!

The lazy side of me almost won out but I ultimately decided to take the whole butcher block top off and detach it's 2 drop sides. The fact that it was just a handful of screws was the deciding factor :) Off came the top and drop sides followed by a light hand-sanding and 2 coats of dark walnut stain (top and bottom). The bottom of the cart got spray painted Rustoleum's Heirloom White. Easy peasy. Next came polyurethane on the top ( 2 coats) and re-assembly. This little cart is ready for it's reveal!

Let's get this party started!

Ready for it's close up!

Close up of it's shiny, reflective surface.

I love how it came out! In the past I have passed over pieces of furniture based on the color of the wood but now I know better. If you can learn to look past a piece's surface presentation to consider it's potential you never know what favorites you might find that are hiding in plain sight!

Lessons Learned

1). Don't get so excited to get started on a project that you forget to clean your piece thoroughly FIRST. I cleaned the top and completely spaced on the very bottom (near the wheels) and didn't notice the collected dust until my first coat of spray paint made it very obvious. Oops :) I made the best of that situation but obviously it would be better to not ever have that problem.

2). Come up with a plan for wheels before you start painting. Oops again. I was in a rush with this one, anxious to have it back in use (my kitchen table was covered in all the things we usually keep in it the drawers!) and I just started painting without considering the wheels. I never covered them so they got paint on them which I remedied by continuing to intentionally paint them but because they didn't get cleaned first they are pretty rough looking. Luckily, no one looks at the wheels under it (they'll be too busy looking at the gorgeous top)!

This was little effort on my part with BIG payoff. It honestly took more time (and patience) than effort to take something plain and make it over into something more my style. Why replace when you can re-finish? Is there anything you have laying around that might be a hidden gem?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Little side table

My neighbor has seen me make over numerous pieces this summer and asked me if I would re-do a little side table of his. His teenage daughter used it in her room and it had definitely seen better days. It was stained and scuffed, with soda can rim marks, a piece of tape and something else I couldn't quite identify. This is the story of this troublesome little table.

Stripping and getting ready for a make-over!

I spent a good amount of time cleaning this up before I even started stripping or sanding it. I stripped both the top and bottom surface of the top shelf with the intention of re-staining it. I left the rest because it was just easier to paint it and I'm totally loving the two-toned finish these days. I had to work particularly hard at getting the tape off though. The plastic strip of the tape came off with the stripper but the adhesive stayed behind trapping the old finish under it. It was weirdly hard and un-scrapeable. I tried Goo Gone (a citrus based de-gummer) but as I suspected, if paint stripper wasn't going to take it off neither would that. I just sanded it with a course grit paper and was able to get it off but I was left with a weird looking spot where the wood was more exposed and raw than the rest which had just been stripped bare. I was hoping I would be able to cover it up but wasn't really sure what I was dealing with.

My neighbor had given me a can of stain and polyurethane in one product (Minwax Polyshades) in a nice mahogany color so I thought I'd use that. I still had the natural bristled paint brush that I used to polyurethane my dresser so I pulled everything outside and got ready. My brush was stiff even though I had cleaned it really well with mineral spirits after using it last so I tried to bend and flex the softness back into it. It kind of worked so I proceeded. The stain/poly product was thick and congealed at the bottom of the can so I mixed slowly to reconstitute it and stopped when I thought it seemed like the right consistency but I have never worked with this mixed product before so I was totally flying by the seat of my pants. Well it was either that or the stiff brush but it looked horrible; streaky, thick and totally inconsistent. I promised to share my failures with you too, didn't I :) Well, nothing to do for it except to try and fix it when it was dry.

That weird looking spot in the upper right portion is where that blasted tape was. I had to work hard to get it off so the wood absorbed the stain differently. Luckily after 2 coats you couldn't see it anymore.

The next day I sanded it down with 220 grit sandpaper to level out any ridges left by the brush strokes and get down to a thinner layer of the stain/poly coat. I headed out to a local discount store in town and bought 4 new natural bristle brushes for less than $1 each, plus a bar clamp that I've been considering getting (at the price they had it for I snatched it right up!). I will DEFINITELY be shopping there again! After venturing out to pick up my next project (a free round table and 3 chairs) I got home and got another coat of the stain/poly coat on with one of the new brushes and *phew!* it went on much nicer. See Lessons Learned section for my thoughts on this finish.

I let that dry over night and got to priming and painting this little bugger. I had only lightly sanded the legs on this but had stripped the bottom shelves when I stripped the top. The primer was going to have to do the heavy lifting on the legs 'cuz there was no way in you-know-where that I was going to sand down those curvy spindles!!

After one coat of primer

After one coat of primer and one coat of paint. Clearly this was going to take some time.

It took one coat of primer and two coats of paint to cover it but once it was dried it looked great. Once more it dried overnight and then I carefully distressed it lightly in what I felt were natural-looking areas and then used the antiquing glaze to add a light patina of age to it. While I'm definitely not sold on the stain/poly combo product overall I think this little table came out pretty nice.


A close up of the antiquing finish.

Lessons Learned:

1). Having now used stain followed by polyurethane and the combination product I would personally recommend using a separate stain and poly. Using stain allows significant control over the color you're looking for since you can put in on relatively heavily and let it really soak into the wood before wiping off any excess. This control allows for as much absorption or as little as you'd like. You do not have this control or flexibility with the combination product so your application needs to be perfect (it is NOT forgiving). Also, using a separate polyurethane coat allows you to choose your desired sheen. I like shiny things so I chose to purchase high gloss and it's really something spectacular. I can literally see myself in a 3 coat finish. This combination product gave more of a satin sheen than a gloss and rather than the depth you get with a separate stain/ poly application the combination product looks more like opaque wood colored paint.

2). I found out why your parents told you never to put tape on wood furniture! Who knows how long this tape had been on there but it had made some kind of permanent bond with the finish and was a real *B* to get off!

3). Hand painting spindles is not my favorite thing. Next time I'll go with spray paint and color match it if I absolutely have to hand-paint parts of a project. Its hard to get paint to go into all the crevices smoothly and not leave brush strokes and drips all over the place. Multiple light coats of spray paint would have worked much faster and easier.

For my first commissioned piece I'm pretty happy with it. I am fairly sure I won't be using that combination product again but it was good to try it out on something fairly small. I'll still consider this one a success, but just barely!