30 June 2014

The Pedestal Table Is Finished - And My Thoughts On The Refinishing Process

I have fallen in love with a table. 

She has been transformed from an ugly, scratched, and dated Craigslist find to this classic beauty:

I do assign gender to inanimate objects, and this table is a lady, my friends.

I only wish I had tackled this sooner but I was waiting for the weather to break. So naturally, in the frozen tundra North Dakota, that meant I had to wait until the end of June. 

I followed this tutorial from Centsational Girl, but used Minwax Polycrylic to seal the finish. Somewhere in my research I read that this option is better for high-traffic surfaces, and water glasses won't leave that white ring. I don't know how much use this table will see in the formal dining room of the new house, but I went with Polycrylic just the same. More on my experience with Polycrylic later...

The sanding was the hardest part, and also the most gratifying. I lived with these ugly marks and gouges for nearly two years.

The finish was completely worn off in some areas, and another area suffered from having nail polish remover spilled on it. So sanding all of that away and revealing the raw wood beneath it was wonderful. Free therapy from a free table.

And yes, my girls have received the message, delivered with a hefty dose of stink-eye, that this table shall never again see the likes of nail polish or remover. 

Here are some of the lessons I learned from this experience, and I will admit these are not rocket-science and are probably common sense to most people. Unfortunately I can't learn from other people's experiences. I have to do it myself, then say, "Oh...that's why they do it that way."

Lesson #1) The sanding process goes a whole lot faster when you use the appropriate grit sandpaper. Duh. I was struggling all afternoon with a medium grit sandpaper, when it dawned on me to search for a grittier grit. Of course my husband had a whole drawer-full of options! Once I made that change, the finish came right off. In fact, I had to be careful not to remove too much wood in the process.

Lesson #2) Stain is messy and stinky. Use gloves and a mask. I know, duh.

Lesson #3) It doesn't matter how dark the stain is, oak will have stripes. I don't love oak for that reason. As I understand it, some people love the look of stripey oak. The crazier the stripes, the better. But it feels busy and loud to me. I prefer a calmer, smoother wood like walnut or cherry. While the dark stain blends the stripes, they are still there. (insert metaphor about a zebra and its stripes)

Lesson #4) Sanding by hand sucks, but ultimately it was the best choice for this project. After I finished sanding the top and sides, I settled into the knowledge that I would not be able to use the orbital sander on the base. That would have to be done by hand. I considered painting the base white or turquoise, and pinned several images on Pinterest that looked nice enough. Ultimately I knew this was just taking the lazy way out. The table I wanted was stained dark wood, top to bottom. As it happens, there was far less top-coat on the pedestal than on the top, which makes sense, so it wasn't too bad. And I got a nice arm workout in the process.

Lesson #5) Sanding between coats of poly isn't as scary as I thought. This step has always freaked me out. It seems counter-intuitive to rough-up a shiny surface you have just lovingly protected with poly. This is just a quick, soft sanding with a fine-grit paper. I used 200 grit, and just skimmed the surface. This helps the next coat of poly adhere, and it works beautifully. 

Lesson #6) Use long, end-to-end strokes for a seamless appearance. I applied three coats of poly, per instructions on the can. When I checked on her in the morning, the edges showed smudges and brush marks where I had overlapped and over-brushed. So I quickly sanded, and applied a fourth coat, being careful to extend each stroke from one end of the table to the other end, no overlapping.

She is so proud with her shiny coat.
Lesson #7) I am in love with Polycrylic and may never use Polyurethane again. I have two dressers and a small table to refinish, and this is the top-coat I'll be using. The reason I'm refinishing these things is because the polyurethane has yellowed and started peeling off. Polycrylic, on the other hand, doesn't feel sticky or soft, and the finish just looks professional. I am a convert.

So after two coats of Minwax Dark Walnut, and four coats of Polycrylic, here she is, back in the kitchen.

She looks like an actual table that someone would want in their home. A table that you would go to the store and buy. By choice.

 photo c44d9eee-e722-4c7c-8035-483a6e49f131.png
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