After moving from California to Minnesota, Dave and I were on the hunt for our very first house. A couple months after moving back, we found it..the problem being that we now had to furnish it. Being the economically conscientious people that we are, I opted to check out Craigslist for a few household items. For years we had been using my Grandmother’s old “four” (really two) person dining table and I knew that on the top of my list would be a bigger, more functional table.
The wish list included leaves, 6 chairs, and rectangular-shaped, because our dining space is more of a large eat-in section of our kitchen and I knew a round table wouldn’t fit. I also wanted to find something quickly so I could redo it before moving into our house. I ended up finding a table and six chairs with drop-down leaves for $120. I thought this was a good deal since it was a fraction of the cost of an IKEA set with 6 chairs (I often use IKEA as my benchmark.). I was drawn to the detailing in the table (the legs are so intricate and beautiful!), I also liked that the chairs, although not matching the table, are ladder back (for full back-relaxing support), and that the seats were cushioned. That being said, I didn’t like the dated fabric on the chairs and that the woods on the table part and the chairs clearly didn’t go together.
Nice, right? And my parents were kind enough to let me take over their garage for my project. So not only were my two kids, husband, and I living with them but we had fully invaded their space. My family is really good to me.
I decided to just stain the top and paint legs of the table and the chairs the same color. I did this partially because I like the look of painted tables and partially because sanding everything down to absorb stain is a lot more intense than sanding it down to paint. There’s no way I was going to fully strip all the intricacies in the legs and the slats on the chairs. But stripping a flat table top? That I figured I could manage.
After doing research online (seriously, how did people know how to do things before the internet?) I learned all about sandpaper and grit. I started with 60 grit sandpaper on my dad’s little mouse sander (and contrary to what the inter-webs claimed, the mouse sander was a workhorse and did a great job with the table). The 60 grit was coarse enough to strip the old stain off the wood, then I went over it with a fine 120 grit to help smooth the top out, and finished with super-fine 220 grit to make the top as smooth as possible.
A little dusty, but definitely prepped for stain! To get rid of all the dust, I cleaned it off with a damp cloth, making sure to rinse the cloth and wipe the table until all the dust was gone. Then I took a dry cloth and wiped to ensure all the dust was gone.
Next it was time for the stain. I used Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut. My husband and I applied one coat with a brush and let sit for about 10 minutes before wiping off with a lint-free cloth. (Do you see a peek of the face mask? I used these all during sanding and staining. I also used latex gloves. Safety first, people!)
(Note: cut-up, old, clean t-shirts are perfect for wiping off stain. But since the stain is oil-based, go ahead and throw away any used cloths when you’re done.) After about 4 hours, we applied a second coat, leaving it sit for about 10 minutes and wiping it off. What resulted was a perfect, walnutty color.
(In this picture, the stain is still wet and when it dried, it was not streaky like the photo would suggest.)
Hooray for first-time DIY success! (This statement is RARELY uttered around these parts. More often than not, my DIY projects result in tears and exclamations along the line of: “this was a COMPLETE disaster!!!!”) Also note: however long you think a project like this will take, quadruple it. And however many trips you think you’ll make to the hardware store: triple it. The good news is that after you have one under your belt, any subsequent projects will take about half the time.
In Part II, I will show you how I painted the legs and chairs and Part III, I will be reupholstering the chair seats. Stay tuned!