Sometimes things take longer than you think they’re going to.

Like being pregnant.  It takes a really long time to produce a baby…  when you think about it, you may as well round up and call it a year.  I’m about 5 1/2 months along now.  Gratuitous pregnancy shot, thankyouverymuch, with a sneak peek of the table.

pregnant 5 1-2 months

Or like learning a new operating system.  Posts have been thin this past month, partly due to the holidays, but partly because my dear Chief got me a new laptop as a surprise for our anniversary to replace my long-dead one, and it has Windows 8.

Have you used Windows 8 yet?  Things are not where they are supposed to be.  When I finally got around to loading my camera software on the lappy, I spent 20 minutes trying to download and edit photos and having ZERO SUCCESS.  Right clicking a pic does not produce an “open with” or “save as” option.  There is also some strange new photo editing software pre-loaded on my lappy that I did not understand.  I was just trying to do a quick transfer of two photos off my camera and onto a written draft… and I could not do it.  I could not even get them off my camera to my computer.  I had to quit.  Le sigh.  The next day I googled how to edit pics in Windows 8 and that helped.

Other things also take longer than you think they’re going to.  Like pretty much any DIY project anyone ever tried.  For example, when remodeling a room, the Chief figures that the last 10% of the work takes 50% of the time.

All this to say, THE FARMHOUSE TABLE!

It was a  bit more work than I thought.  I didn’t mind it – woodworking is very soothing to me – but I sure underestimated the hours.

Here’s what I started with: a solid maple gold and white blah thing.  In good shape, great legs, not my colors.

Kitchen Table before

Now how’d I do it?

Step 1.  Paint stripping – I did a post on that here.  My mom did a bunch of it, thank you Mom!

stripping paint from table leg

Step 2. Sanding off the remaining paint with 60 grit sandpaper – For the flat surfaces of the table and apron, I busted out the orbital sander as the lazy and chemical free way to get the rest of it off.  I had to a lot of hand sanding on the turned surfaces of the legs and the rounded edges of the drawers, tabletop, and apron because the paint stripper left a lot there even with repeat applications – especially on the legs, golly!  It took several Saturday mornings to get through all the paint removal.  There was some paint left in the crevices of grain anyway, but I decided not to worry.


Step 3.  Sanding everything with 100 grit sandpaper.

Steps 4-6. Sand sand sand sand sawdust in my hair.  Use up sandpaper.  Scrape up cuticles.  Straighten up from a hunch and stretch my tired back.

Step 7. Sanding everything, again, with 150 grit sandpaper.  Last sanding step!  Generally 220 is recommended for a final sanding, but the research I did for the type of wood my table is made of (maple) suggested that stopping at a lower grit would help it accept stain better.

So there we were.  Regarding this process, I could have just said, “Then I sanded everything with 60, 100, and 150 grit sandpaper” but that would not have properly conveyed that this was the longest step in the whole long process!  I like to give you a real life inkling here on Fig Tree Sundays.


Step 8. Get alllll the fine sawdust off of and out of allll crevices and surfaces in preparation for staining!  This was exciting. 

There were two stain color possibilities I picked up from the store.  To help the maple accept the stain evenly and with less blotching, I decided to pre-coat the wood with a treatment.  I did a test with two kinds of treatment and tried both the stains on top of them.  (Sorry for the cell phone photo, it was all I had on hand.)

On the left is the Minwax Wood Conditioner.  On the right is a concoction recommended on a woodworking site, made of half Minwax Wipe-On Poly and half mineral spirits.  On top of each area I tried the Minwax English Chestnut stain (from Home Depot) and the Cabot Pecan stain (from Lowe’s).  The clear winner was the pecan.  It had that nice medium reddish-brown that I was looking for.  The English Chestnut looked red-brown on the label but it turned out more like a walnut stain, more of a mid neutral yellow brown on this piece.  As for the pre-treatments, there wasn’t a glaring difference, but the half and half mixture seemed to result in a little more consistent stain absorption.  You can see the butcher block looks less stripey on the right.

So I asked my husband to pre-treat the rest of everything (mineral spirits smell!) and gave the old girl two coats of pecan stain.  This was the back of the table – my piece to learn on.  Mainly I learned that the Cabot brand of stain dried FAST in 75 degree weather and I had to do just a quarter of the surface before stopping to wipe it off – after just 60 seconds it got sticky and very difficult to scrub off, and my cloth left marks if I wasn’t very careful.  So doing the underside was good practice.  It didn’t turn out perfectly and obviously it’s patchy where the test stains went, but that is just fine since the only people to see will be our kids when they make forts underneath the dining table.

2 coats pecan stain on maplen - underside

Once everything had two or three coats of stain (some pieces were less absorbent of color than others) I let it cure for a week and then began sealing it.  Next time I might use Waterlox or Acrylacq which I have heard good things about, but they are not as easily available as the Minwax Wipe On Poly which I decided to use.  This polyurethane coating is thinner than brush-on polyurethane, which makes it a bit less durable but infinitely less plasticky looking.

I did six coats on the tabletop and three on everything else.  That took three weekends because it rained a lot.

And then…

Just in time for our New Year’s Eve party…

We assembled the table and put it in our newly remodeled dining room (more posts to come on that) and jumped up and down clapping our hands with how awesome it all was.  Well at least I did :)

farmhouse table maple wood with cabot pecan stain

Don’t the turned legs show up so much better when they’re stained?

table reveal2

Ophelia wouldn’t stay out of the photos so I just had her model the legs for me.

tablereveal3 ophelia

For its first ever load of food I put a paper tablecloth down for the party, but that was just a temporary concession.  Our table will have to put up with our daily non-tablecloth-using ways.


Here’s the skinny on material usage:

  • Table: $60 on Craigslist
  • 2 quart bottles of paint stripper, $20 (gift from Mom)
  • 2 pints wood stain: $10, free with gift card
  • 1 quart of wipe-on poly: $12
  • New drawer knobs: $2
  • Sandpaper: Had some on hand but had to purchase finer grit, $6
  • small amount of mineral spirits for pre-treatment: free, had on hand
  • The satisfaction of getting just what I wanted and making it myself:  yes, you know how the line goes… priceless
  • TOTAL: $110

Now we just need chairs.

You can’t possibly love this table as much as I do, having lovingly been over every inch of it many many times (don’t you know I’m a quality time girl) but how do you like it?  Aren’t you excited to see the rest of the dining room evolve?  I’ve got some neat posts lined up about how we’ve been remodeling and I can’t wait to share more details with you.