Wednesday, June 8, 2011

DIY: New Table and Chairs - again ;-)

About a week and a half ago, I posted about a dining set that I was refinishing.  Well, I've finally finished with the final finish of the refinishing.  I feel like I need to say finish one more time.  Ok, I'm finished :-P

Above are two pictures of what everything looked like when I hauled it out of storage.  Note the unfortunate shade of dusty blue.  It also happens to be quite grimy with tobacco residue and had accumulated a rather tacky patina of accumulated dust, grime, and who knows what else while sitting for the past several years in a not-so-weatherproof storage building. In my defense, I honestly didn't know the roof leaked.  :-(

 In an attempt to get the paint off the chairs and about 40+ years of varnish off the table top, I bought a spray can of paint and varnish stripper.  It didn't so much as even bubble the paint, and only barely scraped the surface of the varnish.  An entire can of stripper, and hours and hours spent with sandpaper resulted in this:
As you can see, there are still large areas of varnish still all over the table.  It was extremely frustrating!

So I got some of this citristrip stuff.  It worked like magic on the varnish, and it "worked" on the paint.  The varnish peeled right off the table top like plastic wrap.  It was awesome!  The paint...  well the paint was oozing off the chairs like it was fresh.  It was coming off, but in a gloppy, slimy, smeary way that made it impossible to take off satisfactorily.  It just smeared around and dripped a lot.  I guess the bright side is, I did actually get most of the paint off with little sanding.

Even better, the citristrip didn't react on the bare wood areas that had already been stripped.  You can see in the picture above that the areas of bare wood still look like wood.  The areas that had varnish started turning a milky color.

Unfortunately, I found out a little belatedly that the chair seats and the table feet were pressboard.  Citristrip dissolves pressboard, just FYI.  No matter how much I sanded, the pressboard still looked like the half chewed leavings of some bored beaver.

 The table top came very clean!  It's a very, very old table top.  So, there are a lot of imperfections in the surface (singed spots, dings, dents, scratches etc.)  I decided not to sand them out, and not to polish the wood before I stained it.  I love stuff that shows its history, and this table top has a lot of memories for me.  Me and my Gramma used to peel apples for jelly, string beans, shuck corn, hull peas, and have lots of long, long talks at this table top.  It's been around all my life, and I love it.  The original pedestal was a daunting project all on its own, so I decided to cobble together a hybrid of my Gramma's table top and my Aunt's dining set.

Needless to say, I got absolutely filthy!
 The pedestal was a prefab job that had a formica table top, originally.  I had to add some cross pieces to the small square support you see, so it could support the heavier solid wood table top I wanted to put on it.  The vertical support, thankfully, was real wood, so I stripped it, sanded it, and stained it with the same stain I was using on the table top.  It is a walnut colored stain, and while I sanded very carefully, I couldn't get all the paint out of the divets and curves.  The walnut stain darkened the paint enough so that it no longer appears blue.  It almost looks charcoal.  It's an interesting effect that I hadn't necessarily intended, but I like it.

The table top was pine.  At some point in the course of its long history, it became fat lighter.  I learned today that not everyone knows what fat lighter is.  Fat lighter is *highly* flammable, and very, very, very (did I mention very?) hard.  It's like fermented pine, I guess.  It burns like blue holy hell, and catches fire like it's been cured in lighter fluid.  It's a little darker than fresh pine.  It almost has a reddish tinge that kind of looks like cedar, but not quite.  The top side of the table doesn't show it well, but the underside is very red-brown.  I didn't think to take a picture of the underside of the table, since I didn't do anything under there.

 This is the table top after staining.  The rich gold color of the pine blended with the dark walnut color of the stain.  Apparently fat lighter is also not as porous or absorbent as fresh wood, because while the newer wood of the pedestal soaked up the stain quickly and became very dark, the table top didn't.  It's got clearly defined grain striations, and to look at it in person, it's a color very similar to maple syrup.  I was worried how it would turn out, since I was going with such a dark color stain, but I absolutely love it!

I'm not nearly so thrilled with the chairs, though.  Like I said, they took on the consistency of the leavings of a bored beaver.  You can see on the seat the different texture and tone of the paint where it absorbed differently.  I am going to have to paint the chairs again, only this time I will use a can of pain and a brush instead of spray paint.  My brother warned me that spray paint was very thin.  What he should of told me was spray paint on pressboard covers about as well as a tissue bikini on a fat lady at the beach.  It's not *horrible*, but it's definitely not up to the standards that I was holding myself to.  They're passing fair, and will probably look just fine once I make some seat cushions or chair covers.  But I am just not very happy with the finish right now.  This whole project has been a definite learning experience.  I've never attempted to refinish furniture before, so I'm not letting it bother me too bad.  I knew something wouldn't turn out quite the way I hoped, and I'm just glad it was the cheapo pressboard chairs and not my Gramma's tabletop that I messed up on.

Tada!  First layer of varnish on.  I did this around 5 this afternoon after I sanded and painted the feet.  The feet have the same problem as the chairs:  pressboard.  So they look scruffy and uneven.  But again, not terrible, and shouldn't be a big problem to fix.

Second layer of varnish applied around 7 pm, after I finished painting some more chairs.

And finally, around 9 pm, all four chairs have been painted, the second layer of varnish is almost completely dry, and only a few spiders and flying things have been permanently affixed in my table top.  There are quite a few six and eight legged creatures adhering to the chair legs and bottoms as well.  Unfortunately, in spite of the sanding and dusting, the inevitable wait from dust to paint was enough time for creepy crawlies to come be curious.  Alas... they will be forever memorialized in enamel. ;-)

Over all, I am really tickled that it turned out so well.  I love love love the way the table top turned out.  It's gorgeous!  The pictures just really don't show off the way the stain and the natural wood blended.

I hope B likes them!  If he doesn't, he's going to have to be the one to do something about it.  Because I'm telling you, that was a lot more work than I anticipated.  My dad came down and chuckled at me on several occasions throughout the past week and a half.  "Lot a work ain't it, kid?" He'd shake his head and leave me to it.  There were several 12 hour days, a couple of 10 hour days, and a few 8 hour days.  I'm proud of it, though, and it only cost me a few cans of spray pain, a can of stain, a can of polyurethane, and two containers of stripper.  I have plenty enough stain and polyurethane left over for lots of future projects, too!

So, onward to the next order of business... doing something about those raggedy chairs.  I have two sets of dishes.  I got two sets because a setting for four just isn't always enough.  One set is black on the outside with a pretty blood red glaze on the eating surfaces, and the other is the same only a earthy taupe on the eating surfaces.  I have some really pretty crimson olefin yarn.  It's horrible for knitting with, because olefin is tufts of fiber twisted onto a central thread.  It's the stuff carpets are made with.  So, I am thinking I might use the spool of crimson olefin to weave some mats for the seats.  If I'm really ambitions, I might make some place mats, too, but we'll see.  I've never tried to weave much before.  I might also be able to do a spiral braid, like a rag rug.  I'll talk it over with Ms. Terri when I go visit her, and see if she has any suggestions.  She's a creative lady, and maybe she's got some ideas I haven't thought of yet.


  1. That table top is GORGEOUS! sooo envious of it. I'm sorry the pressboard gave you fits, but from a distance, it looks good. Have a great day!

  2. Thank you Aunt Fluffy :-D

    The chairs do look fine from a distance. It's only when you get up close enough to sit on them that they start to look a little funky. Most people probably won't even notice, but it just irks me because I don't like doing a shoddy job. I expected growing pains, though. Since this is the first time I've ever done a project like this, I knew ~something~ would go wrong. I'm just glad it was the chairs, and I didn't ruin the table top. That would've made me a very sad panda.


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