Last spring, we really needed some end tables, so I picked up a pair on Craig’s List. They weren’t particularly pretty, but they were inexpensive, and at the time I figured that, in the abstract, I could do “something” with them later.
In their favor, they’re reasonably sturdy (or will be with a couple extra screws in the leg joints). The con is of course that I don’t love the stain, the wood pulls, or the green legs.
So, I decided to make them over: refinish the tabletop, paint the legs black, and replace the pulls. Let me be clear, I have no real clue what I’m doing. Painting, ok, I’ve done walls and cabinets, so this can’t be that hard. But staining is definitely outside my repertoire of tricks. But I figured, how wrong can it go? The unlikely worst case scenario is ruining tables that cost me $15 each. A middling scenario includes the staining not working out and the tables just getting primed and painted all black. Still not a big loss. For the win, I could learn a little about staining and come out with a pair of more attractive end tables.
So I embarked. First to Lowe’s, to buy stain and related paraphernalia. (We already had paint and primer.) I checked out the sample pieces of wood, and opted for Cherry #235 – only the half pint size, since this could still be a colossal disaster in the making. I liked the sample piece of oak stained in that shade at least as well as any other shade, and I gravitate toward cherry (or maple) furniture generally, so it sounded reasonable enough. I also picked up polyurethane (half pint again, same rationale), foam brushes, and 220 and 60 grit sandpaper. (We already had 100 and 120.)
First, I sanded down the tops. And wow, was I unprepared for the effort that would take. It was pretty brutal even with a sanding block and the loan of a power sander from our next door neighbor (who rocks, by the way). Whew! Several straight hours with the sander and 60 grit sandpaper, followed by the sander with 100 grit sandpaper, and finally hand sanding with 220 grit brought me here:
Happily, they sanded down pretty nicely and evenly. I put the first coat of stain on, and it soaked right up:Ah! Potential! Not bad, huh?
Coat 2 darkened up the table top:
Hoping for just a little darker, on day #3, I applied a 3rd coat:
Ahh! So much prettier than the original yellowy oak stain. Onward with the polyurethane to protect my handiwork.
I opted for a satin finish, mostly based on my experience with paint that anything much glossier will show every imperfection in the surface. Having a lamp on the surface can’t possibly help with that.
Like the stain, I’ve applied the first two coats of poly with a foam brush. It’s coming along nicely, but there’s not a whole lot to see. Coat 1 left the table top surprisingly rough, so I lightly ran the 220 grit sandpaper over it and wiped it off before coat #2. It’s now starting to look much smoother, and the sheen is looking much more even. It will be at least 3, but maybe more coats until it’s finished and I’m ready to move onto the legs of the table. So far I’m pretty excited about how it’s turning out.
Painting and new hardware, coming soon…