My family and I recently went through the highly stressful and painful process of dispensing with all of my dead grandmother’s possessions. Mercifully, the loss was not fresh as she passed on several years ago (at 100 years old, in her own home, surrounded by her family – how badass is that?) and for reasons I’ll not burden you with here, we only just got around to selling her house.
In any case, I wound up with her much-loved little kitchen set:
If you’re a regular vistor to this blog, then you are probably aware of the fact that I have been in desperate need of a project lately. So, in typical Sarah fashion, I started about twelve of them. The first of which was re-finishing this table:
I posted several pictures of it on facebook and a few people inquired about the process so I thought I’d post the instructions here.
- 1 empty glass jar (I used a pasta sauce jar.)
- Fine grade steel wool
- White vinegar
- 2 smallish sponge brushes
- 6-8 tea bags
- Large glass bowl
- Some type of primer/sealer. I used the Martha Stewart brand because that’s what Paul at Home Depot told me to get.
- Power sander and fine to medium grit sand paper
[Note: I got the instructions for the next part here. The fact that we refinished the exact same table is purely coincidental, I assure you. I obviously did not employ all of her techniques because I was going for a very different aesthetic. You know, that shabby chic kind of vibe? Yeah…that’s what I did… But seriously, her table came out WAY better than mine, so you might want to follow her instructions instead.]
Prep: Steel wool and vinegar mixture
- Stuff a bunch of fine grade steel wool into a glass jar.
- Pour vinegar over it.
- Seal the jar and let it sit and bubble for 24-48 hours. If you don’t cover the steel wool completely you’ll get a rustier color, you know, cause it’s metal and it’ll rust. Which is totally cool, if you’re into that sort of thing.
[Note: This shit stains! I ruined my second favorite pair of jeans (my own stupid fault for wearing said jeans in the first place, but never mind) and stained the underside of my fingernails for a week. AND I was wearing gloves! (They ripped several times and I was too lazy to go inside and get a new pair, but still!) Just please be aware.]
Sanding is miserable, thankless and unfortunately necessary work. Especially sanding chairs. My god, how I hated sanding those infernal chairs! For this stage you’re gonna want to get yourself a power sander. I bought this one. Not only was it the cheapest option, but also the smallest, which was marginally helpful when it came to sanding the chair legs and all those blasted rungs. But even with the sander, you’re still going to need to sand some bits by hand. I used 120-180 grit sand paper, as that’s what I had lying around the house.
[Note: I would avoid sanding indoors if I were you. Unfortunately, because I am me, I did not avoid it and made a huge mess in my parent’s basement. Dust everywhere. It seriously took me almost as long to clean up as it did to sand.]
Step 2: Tea staining
- Boil some water and brew 6-8 tea bags in a large glass bowl. Let cool.
- Wipe down your freshly sanded surface with a dry cloth to get all the dust off.
- Using a sponge brush, apply tea to your freshly sanded surface. (Some people recommend using a regular paintbrush for this process, but I found the sponge to be much more efficient.)
- I applied two coats and had just enough to cover the entire table and chairs. (I hadn’t decided to paint the chairs and the table base as of yet so I stained everything, but it’s not necessary if you’re going to paint.)
Step 3: Apply vinegar and steel wool mixture
- After the requisite 24-48 hour waiting period, pour the HORRIBLY FOUL-SMELLING mixture into a container that you don’t care about and won’t mind throwing away because it’s going to look and smell like it has a demon when you’re through with it. Seriously, do this part outside. Trust.
- When you first pour it out, the mixture looks like a totally innocuous, clear, watery substance that couldn’t possibly stain anything.
- Do not be fooled, my friend. After a few a minutes of being exposed to precious, precious oxygen it turns into this…
- Using another sponge brush, apply a thin, even coat, working with the grain of the wood. I started out using an old, crappy paintbrush, but again discovered that a sponge was clearly the way to go for a more even coat.
[Notice how it brings out all the imperfections of the wood? Okay, I’m pretty sure it just shows what I poor job I did of sanding, but whatever.]
This is what it looked like when it was dry. Kind of a chalky, Hersey bar sort of color…
Then things got weird.
Originally, my plan to was to darken the wood so I could paint a light bluish green patina over it (a faux aging technique that I read about somewhere on the interwebs) so I applied the Martha Stewart Primer/Sealer that Paul from Home Depot told me to buy.
It was not good.
I don’t know if I used too much, or if it was because I was working in direct, sweltering sunlight, but it immediately started to bubble and peel…
Then I freaked out and frantically started sanding it all off – by hand this time because I couldn’t find the extension cord that would enable me to use my power sander outside. I didn’t give a thought to sanding with the grain this time. I just sanded my little butt off all willy-nilly like.
This is what it looked like when I was done:
Mistake or not, I dug it. It sort of looks like it’s been burned with a blowtorch, which is an aging technique that totally intrigues me, but that I’m way too afraid to try because unless I’m outdoors and surrounded by a bunch of people wielding marshmallows on skewers singing Kumbaya, I’m not entirely comfortable with fire.
So…contrary to all common sense or reason, I once again applied a (much lighter) coat of sealer/primer. In the shade this time.
Here’s a close up:
Not bad, eh? I mean, for a perfectly good table that now looks like it’s been through a horrific fire.
Tune in next time for part 2 – aging the table base and chairs using crackle paint! It’s gonna get messy…and sticky. Intrigued? I know I am!
Later, space cowboys