Ever get to a certain point in a project that you love just to have something happen that pulls the motivation right out from under you? I’m an accountant. I like to follow rules. In regards to projects, I like to do some research, map out a plan, follow the plan, and get the intended results. Let’s chalk it up to being new to this Refinishing World, but I’m quickly learning that reading a How-To article on chalk paint, distressing, glazing, waxing, you name it, is about like reading a book on parenting. Both contain some good tips and basic information, but it really all comes down to the uniqueness of the child (in this case 100 year old dining set).
I debated breaking this into two parts because there was so much work involved, but to be honest, I’d like to move past this phase in my learning curve as quickly as possible. So one post it is.
If you’ve been keeping up with these (just nod your head yes and make me feel better), you’ll recall that Part 1 introduced you to this awesome 1920’s dining room table and six chairs that had all been well used throughout the years and could use a little TLC. In that post we walked through the sanding and priming of each piece (which might not sound like much but never underestimate The Sanding).
In Part 2, I devoted an entire post to the different fabric phases of the chairs because I’m a nerd, love history, and my superpower would be time-travel.
This one is dedicated to the ridiculous struggles of finishing a project. It should not be this hard, y’all. If you’re wondering why these posts are so spread out, it’s because there are 3 month gaps in any kind of activity. For real. Let’s dig in.
Nothing’s more satisfying than busting your tail prepping the furniture and finally getting to paint it. Sure, there might be final touches to add afterwards, but the paint is what really makes the piece come to life. Like I mentioned back in Part 1, I found a blog online that I was using as my template for how to finish these bad boys out. It involved using a layer of white paint covered with a layer of grey. Then lightly hitting it with a sander in certain areas to give it a worn look. Hubs went and bought the exact paint mentioned in the blog and I got to work (and by work, I mean WORK. So.many.grooves!!) After doing a couple chairs, I decided to wait a bit on the others. I wasn’t digging it. The finish of the paint was shinier than I was expecting and I’d gotten used to looking at them with the white primer which made the grey seem pretty dark.
So they sat for a few days. And I looked at them for a few more days. It was an internal battle between “I spent so much time on them. Do they really look that bad??” and “I don’t think I like them.” It was my first time to be in this spot, but I’m sure it won’t be my last. Stick to the plan and keep plowing ahead, or call it a loss and start over? I decided to start over.
Paint Day Redo – Two Weeks (a month) Later
When I finally got over the disappointment of a failed plan (and got remotivated) I took some 180 grit sandpaper on a sanding block and scuffed up the two grey chairs. I was informed (by hubs) that they just needed to be rough enough for the new paint to stick and wouldn’t need to be re-primed.
This time around, I ditched the paintbrush and had hubs teach me how to use the paint sprayer. He’s a huge fan of the smooth finish that the sprayer leaves (and the quickness). We decided to switch gears and use a white paint since I liked the way the primer alone looked. Being the slightly lazy person that I am, I grabbed whatever we had in the garage (Roman Plaster) so it’s got a slightly more yellow tint than I wanted, but I can live with it.
Everything’s great, sprayer’s just a spraying, chairs are getting done!! I.Am.Pumped. Until I see the previously grey chairs. You guys, this will come as a surprise to very few of you, but APPARENTLY it matters if the paint is latex or oil-based (insert super sad face here). I think everyone knows what happened, but basically the latex white had no intentions of sticking to the oil-based grey, no matter how “scuffed” I’d made it. And again….motivation zapped. Fortunately, I have a husband that hates to be still and very kindly volunteered to sand them (AGAIN) and remove all the grey paint, slap some additional primer on them, and then spray them with the white. (I’m assuming that’s what happened anyway because I was DONE and had gone inside by that point (Thank you sweetie!!)).
Time to Antique – Three Months Later
As is the normal way of things when you work full time and have three small children, there’s not a ton of free time for these kinds of projects. I was settling into a new job, the holidays were upon us, and we were planning our first ski vacation. Not gonna lie, finishing this set didn’t rank crazy high on the priority list.
Eventually, I decided it needed to happen and gathered the necessary supplies to put the finishing touches on the chairs. I found a picture of the antiqued look I was aiming for online and read through the instructions on how to get the desired results.
From the research I did, it looked like the best route for me to take was to do a clear wax to seal the wood, followed by a dark wax that would be wiped off everywhere except for the grooves. Seemed pretty simple.
After a failed attempt to use hub’s shop rags to apply and remove the wax (picture tiny blue fibers all over the chairs….) I grabbed a couple of white t-shirts out of the goodwill bag and cut them into rags. This worked much better and will probably be my go-to to apply waxes in the future.
I don’t know if the clear Minwax I’d pulled off a shelf in the garage had gone bad or if it’s always hard as a brick, but I literally was having to shave pieces off and warm it up to spread it on. Maybe that’s normal? I don’t know but I can tell you it took a ton of elbow grease. I worked in small areas and as soon as I’d applied the clear wax, I took the dark wax and applied it with a brush, being sure to shove as much into the cracks and details as I could. Then I used a clean rag to wipe it off everywhere I could.
I continued with this process for the entire chair and it wasn’t until I saw the finished product that I noticed how much the dark wax tinted the white. It ended up being more of a cream/beige color. Not terrible; but again, not what I wanted. By this point though I just said screw it and let that chair be what it was going to be.
I tried the same technique on another chair but applied as little of the dark wax as possible, worked in smaller sections, and wiped off immediately with the same rag I’d applied the clear wax with (I’d read that it would take off more of the dark wax). The results were better, but still too yellow for me. Looking back, this yellow tint probably had more to do with the shade of white I’d painted the chairs but oh well. I was in no-turning-back mode by this point.
The Rest of the Chairs
So after another couple of disappointing experiences, I let the other chairs sit until after our vacation when I could attack them with better energy. I did some desperate research that my IT friends are probably still giggling over (“why are my white chairs turning yellow” “how to antique furniture while keeping white tint”) and finally found a video of someone using GLAZE instead of wax for the antiquing and BABY WIPES to remove the excess. GENIUS! She also emphasized how important it was to allow the protective coat of clear wax to dry completely (why didn’t I consider that??) before adding the glaze.
Again, I grabbed whatever glaze we had in the garage (she made hers using a clear glaze and some brown and black acrylic/latex paint but I’m too impatient to run to the store if I don’t have to), and the remains of the tshirt, but when I went to grab the wax off the shelf I re-evaluated my running-to-the-store stance because of my previous experience. Surely the rock hard clear wax wasn’t normal. I decided to head to Home Depot and found something by SC Johnson (my only options were that or the Minwax I’d already tried).
This time around I grabbed all four remaining chairs, pulled them into the backyard with the puppies, and spent an afternoon listening to Pandora while applying clear wax to them with the remainder of my tshirt rags. I let the wax harden overnight and then applied the glaze. Glaze has a much different consistency than wax. It was drippy and messy but a breeze to apply using a cheap paintbrush (I’m not allowed to use the good ones). The baby wipes worked amazingly to take off the excess and I was able to remove all the tint while leaving it in the grooves and details. I still had to work in small sections to keep the glaze from drying, though. And if you use this method, be aware that you’ll go through PACKS of baby wipes. But finally, FINALLY, I had the results I wanted (or at least a lot closer).
What happens when a table sits in the garage for several months? The same thing that happens to any other flat surface in our house: stuff gets put on it. Unlike the chairs, the table wasn’t as much in the way as it was kind of handy. The sense of urgency to get it finished wasn’t as strong. Eventually, though (probably on a rainy morning when I had to lug three kids to the car carrying an umbrella and cursing the fact that I couldn’t park in the garage) I decided that this project needed to be wrapped up pronto.
After finding homes for all of the random items that had collected on it over the months, wiping off all the dirt and sawdust from the husband’s furniture building projects, and lightly sanding off “whatever that was”, it was ready to be painted. At least this time I’d start with the right color!
I decided to hand paint the entire table since it has several spindly legs and pieces that I thought a paint sprayer might have some trouble reaching. Once dry, I waxed it using the abovementioned Johnson’s Paste Wax I’d found at Home Depot during the chair fiasco. Since the top was such a large, flat surface that I didn’t want to discolor, I spent a lot of time on it and added an extra layer of the clear wax.
I let the wax dry overnight and then I was ready to start on the finishing touches: antiquing! I grabbed my supplies, turned on some music, and got down to business. Except….the glaze didn’t want to come off as easily. I scrubbed so hard with the baby wipes that I’m surprised the paint didn’t come off! After a leg or two (and getting kind of frantic) I decided to only put it where I wanted to accent. There really was no turning back at this point. I’d already tried other means and methods on this set and this WORKED on the chairs!! Onward I went, unhappy with my results but lacking the will to change courses (i.e. start over again) and the thought of keeping it in my garage another few months was a no-go.
I got all of the legs and details finished and there were definitely some areas to touch up, but nothing a little mineral spirits couldn’t handle I assumed. I decided to not touch the table top at all after seeing how the glaze soaked into the legs. But there were a couple little knicks and dings that I thought would look really good just a hair darker. So I barely (BARELY) touched them with some glaze, immediately wiped the excess off, and IMMEDIATELY knew I’d screwed up. Big time. I scrubbed, I cried, I panicked and decided a tan table would be better than a blotchy table so I had the brilliant idea of covering the entire top with glaze in an attempt to salvage this project….and then I admitted defeat and went to get boss man.
Although he did attempt to tell me it looked fine, I easily read through his words (in his mind he was saying “I really want this project of hers over with so I’ll have more space to work in my garage….”). Regardless of the reasons, he eventually volunteered to “take care of it” which means he sanded off the freshly applied glaze (using an electric sander this time), repainted it (using the paint sprayer), and then instead of sealing it with the wax, used a spray poly to really lock it down and keep the glaze from absorbing. I know, I don’t deserve him.
It wasn’t until I saw him later that day staining a doghouse he’d made that I realized the can of STAIN in his hand looked just like the can of glaze I thought I’d used on the table. That’s right…. I’d grabbed the WRONG can off the shelf that morning (can’t make this stuff up). But at least that explained why the “glaze” was setting into the table differently than it did on the shelf. *sigh* Live and learn.
SO, after I use the GLAZE (will be triple-checked) on the table sealed with poly instead of paste wax, I will finally be done (and hopefully a lot less speckled…). Then it’s off to the fabric stores to pick out something for the chair seats. Next time you see a post on this Dining Room set, it’ll be the before and after recap. I’m knocking on a lot of wood over here, guys.
Until next time,
3 thoughts on “1920’s Dining Room Table – Part 3: Finishing Fails”
I think I need to take you out for margeritas!!! Lots of them! Now I know why I was lazy for 20 plus years!!!!!
Ha! I will take you up on that offer in a heart beat!! But don’t blame the table….these minor fiascos were all part of my learning curve for sure;)