[This post is my repayment for all of the blogs I enjoy reading that discuss home projects and experimentation. This is my attempt to share my experiences so others can learn from my mistakes. The proper safety equipment is a must, of course, and the wonderful reader is responsible for his or her own safety, as there is no expert advice here.]
Once a year my OCD sets its laser sight on Craigslist, and I end up cycling through ads looking for used furniture to replace our old used furniture. Example: I just replaced the dining room table and chairs that I bought on Craigslist with another dining room table and chairs I bought from – wait for it – Craigslist.
But why stop at one dining table when you can buy two?
Yes, I bought a second table to use in our new kitchen, which I still haven’t posted pictures of, as I think the experience of remodeling it drained every bit of my willpower and energy to think about anything related to kitchens at this point.
The good news: my wife loves her new cocina. She’s upped her cooking skills in it, resulting in some outstanding culinary experiences for us. Amazing what going from cracked tile and grout to nice new smooth quartz countertops can do.
My kitchen mission is complete. Next project, please.
Hello, beat-to-hell, left-outside trestle table with a crack down the middle of it.
It was listed on CL for weeks at $400 than $300. I passed. But they were moving and needed to get rid of it. So, I offered $100 and got it. I figured at the very least I could repurpose the top for another project and use the trestle base with a reclaimed wood top. With that in mind, I decided I had nothing to lose on the table and could experiment.
I discovered a homemade-stain recipe on the Internet using vinegar (white or apple cider) and real steel wool. What the heck. Why not. I like the smell of vinegar better than commercial stains.
Lesson Learned #1: Use the same type of wood to sample the stain color. I used some small blocks I had around from when I shortened the legs of a table and added wheels. Not a good idea because they weren’t sanded at all and were probably a different wood.
Lesson Learned #1.5: According to some of the blogs, you can use brewed black tea to add tanins to the wood. I tried this on a sample piece of wood but it colored the wood a shade of ebony. If you want black stain, this may be the perfect method for you. Some blogs said to add used coffee grounds to the mix for a deeper shade of black.
Lesson Learned #2. I used 50% Liquid Plumr and 50% water on the wood prior to staining. The sodium hydroxide works really well with pine to keep the stain from blotching on the wood. But I think it may have killed the gray/driftwood look I was shooting for. (Note about this technique: It’s potentially dangerous and you have to gear up with a mask and safety googles that protect against liquid splashing and you have to wear protective gloves and clothes you don’t care about. And it’s nerve racking applying it. Yes, it’s a pain, but safety first.)
That’s the story of my Craigslist table and homemade stain.
Here is a list of lessons learned:
- Don’t wear your sunday best – it may be a natural stain, but it still . . . stains.
- Use a strainer (I bought two made out of a mesh material at Home Depot) to pour from the master container into a smaller container. And use the small container to dip your brush.
- No puddles allowed – When the stain is drying, look for puddles and spread them out. These puddles will leave stains in the stain, like a water-glass can on wood.
- Every wood reacts differently to the stain. If possible, test a sample piece first – of the same wood, if possible. Apply your finishing coat to the sample too. You want to see the entire look. When I applied the wax, the table turned brown. You may have to experiment with different protective finishes for the look you want.
- Drying in the sun may affect the look. The table dried on a hot day. When I stained a bench on a cold night in my garage, it dried differently.
- The vinegar stain needs to sit at least four days in a sealed container. Shake it every day. This was the first point when it started to color the wood. Some claim 24 hours, but it did nothing for me after a day.
- Not sure if Liquid Plumr helped or not. Working with LP makes me really nervous and I have to gear up in my hazmat suit. Not sure I’d use it again. Maybe I’d use a pre-stain conditioner if I’m using pine.
- Work quickly – avoid drips or stopping on a surface midway. Having a helper makes a big difference on large pieces like a table.
- Stain gets everywhere. Use drop clothes. It’s very thin and drips all over the place. Well, maybe not for you. But I was working fast.
- Don’t oversand. I learned this lesson afterwards when I read a book by an expert on finishing. 180 grit is the point where the human eye can’t see scratches. That’s where I’m stopping from now on.
- Write down how much steel wool and vinegar you mixed together in case you ever want to duplicate the color, though I have a feeling it all ends up the same no matter how much steel wool you add.
All the best to you on your project. Please share your lessons learned, comments and/or pictures.