I know. Talk about stating the obvious. Sorry. I guess I am just stating it with purpose. I apologize for being very late with this post. It has been a bear of a week. My mother-in-law, who is elderly and in poor health, fell at my sister-in-laws Sunday night. She was down there visiting and, from what we understand, fell over her oxygen line when on the way to the bathroom. Well, I am sure you already guessed, she broke her hip and, yes, needed surgery. So, they did the surgery, and she ended up experiencing what is called “Postoperative Delirium”. That means, in a nutshell, that she is not regaining her full cognitive function. She is having difficulty speaking more than a word or two, she cannot chew and swallow, and she is not able to focus on anything. She is in a hospital 2 1/2 hours from home and the weather is typical Texas spring weather. Beautiful and balmy Monday, freezing rain and sleet Tuesday, overcast and cool Wednesday. You get the idea. Nothing much is getting done around here.
I did accomplish some more of the little chores though. I get a wild hare once in a while and push something through between cooking, cleaning, and laundry. This week I worked on an old coffee table that I am refinishing. It has been in the collapsing storage out back for about 13 years now. Originally it was a small dining table that my husband and I cut down into coffee table height for my father-in-law about 15 years ago. He used it for the last couple of years he was with us and we deemed it his “command center” . I guess no one around here wanted to deal with it after his passing so it just sat out in the gathering elements. Amazingly it was still in good condition and it is solid wood, so of course I saw an opportunity.
My whole adult life has been a process of looking for something that is discarded but salvageable, bringing it home (to my husband’s chagrin), and reviving it. For several years we had a retail store where we sold the multitudes of items that I reworked. We dealt with several interior decorator’s in Florida, supplying them with one-of-a-kind designs. I even used my own homemade milk paint and stains. In 2013 we lost everything we had to our name in a fire that consumed our store and our apartment above. With my health issues I did not have the ability to start from scratch again, so now I am back to the beginning. I find pieces and create my own art for personal use and, once in a while, I design and develop items for gifting.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I will now. My mantra is “I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.” I try to work on this little concept of joy as often as I can because it helps me forget about the sad things for a while. Anyway, I wanted to share what I have accomplished so far because I am trying a new twist to my design this time. I am combining two of my favorites; distressed and reverse stenciling. So far I am loving it. I am still working through what look I want for the apron and legs, so it will be a few days, health willing, before I actually get back to it. (That ought to drive my husband sufficiently crazy.)
I started by lightly sanding the table just to open up the pores a bit. I don’t sand too much when I am working on a distressed piece. The only way to get a piece that looks authentically distressed or aged is to keep the characteristics that are unique to that aged piece. I am absolutely, positively, 100% opposed to the common craze of Chalk Paint followed by wax. If only folks would take the time to create, really create. Chalk paint has a devastating affect on wood and the faux look of multiple layers and colors followed by waxing grinds me in a dozen different ways. There. Said. I just refuse to do it.
Once I had the sanding done, I covered an entire section of the top with painter’s tape. I love the Frog tape but any removable tape works, even simple old school masking tape. (I would never try duct tape or desk type tapes.) This is where the reverse stenciling comes in to play. I have done this a couple of different ways, but I find what works best for me is to trace the stencil directly onto the tape. Then, with an exacto knife, I cut very carefully around the tracing. You can cut directly with the stencil as a guide if you choose, but I like the ability to change my design up a bit so that it isn’t quite so perfect and with tracing I have the option of doing that without cutting through the stencil.
After I removed the excess tape, leaving the design on the surface, I painted over the entire table top and sides. With this particular project I used a can of spray paint. (Normally I would make my own organic milk paint, but due to money constraints I have not been able to replenish my dye lot.) I chose a slightly off white color, not quite ecru, and I put a fairly stiff coat over most of the surface, especially around the taped design. I removed the tape from the top about 7 days after painting because I wanted a very well cured surface. By opening the pores with the sanding, the paint adheres very well once cured.
With the tape removed, the reverse pattern is very visible, as it is the original wood surrounded by an off white paint. Generally I would leave it as is and apply a nice paste or citrus wax protective coating and be done. The perfectionist in me loves the sharp, crisp lines of this style. I took this look and totally messed it up on this particular project. I put a 220 grit sandpaper on my little mouse sander and I went to work. This is the distressing part of the design element (and another disconcerting area for me when I walk in to practically every shop that advertises distressed, farmhouse, coastal, or rustic furniture and decor).
When you choose to distress a piece, you really should take heed to study the item and consider the use it would receive over the years. For instance, this coffee table. If it were newly painted and then sat in my living room in front of my sofa for 10-15 years, where would it most likely see wear from use. Well, I sit on my couch with the table in front of me and I put it through real life situations. Where do my feet land and rub if I put them up? Where would my magazines be when a drink gets spilled and causes the cover to stick? What type of scratches would appear if I were to throw my keys or my purse on it surface? Now you understand, this is exactly where I used my sander and a few other items to put the stress marks on the table.
After creating a nice, not overly processed, design on the table top and sides, I use the 220 grit and lightly sand the entire surface so that the paint will no have a sheen. This is a crucial piece before the next step because the stain will not adhere to a bright paint as well. Yes, stain. I know, I know. I argued for a good 15 minutes with the salesman at the Sherwin Williams store where I bought my stain. (Again, I just have not replenished my organic stains that I prefer.) This gentleman asked what I would be using the stain for and when I told him he said I would not be able to put stain over paint. He told me that I would need to glaze over the paint or it would never dry and cure. I explained that as long as it was water based paint and water based stain it will work and I have been doing this treatment to furniture for over 25 years. He disagreed with me and claimed he had tried this and it had taken over 3 weeks for his project to dry beyond tacky. He almost lost a sale by arguing with me so much but that’s another story.
I am here to tell you that if you are sure to use a latex paint (or an organic milk paint), sand lightly to take the sheen off, and use a water based stain (or organic fruit, nut or wood stain), this will work perfectly, it will dry quickly, and it will cure within 48 hours. If you finish the surface with a paste wax or citrus wax I would suggest curing for 7 days to get a very strong bond, but you do not have to wait that long. You will get a successful finish if you wait only 48 hours between application of different mediums.
You may wonder about using polyurethane as a final finish product because of it’s durability and shine. That is perfectly fine if that is your choice. It works just as well as long as the poly is also water based. The reason I choose paste wax or citrus oil blend is personal choice. The citrus oil blend nourishes and seals the wood. Paste wax seals and protects the wood. Both products are free of VOC’s. Since I have severe asthma, I do not want the VOC’s in my air. Quite frankly, I am tired of eating, breathing, and drinking all of the chemicals that are poisoning Americans today, also.
To wrap this up for today, I have stained the table and it has dried so I am just waiting 5-7 days now before I put the citrus beeswax on it. Plus, after thinking about it, I have decided to paint the apron and stain the legs. We will see the finished project if the weather ever clears up and quits blowing gale force winds so I can get outside to sand and paint.