Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The One Where Diana Hates Stain

(Yes, that is a Friends reference.)

Many, many years ago, sometime between getting married and getting Luke, my Mom asked me if I wanted this desk: 

It was actually one of my desks in our home school years and then was used by a younger sister before likely sitting empty at my parents for awhile.  My Mom said I was the only one of my sisters to talk about possibly homeschooling (an idea Matt has since shot down) and wondered if we could use it.  I'm a little sentimental when it comes to things and said yes.  And then it sat in our basement, collecting dust, for at least 5 years. 

I finally did something about that and it took me almost a month from start to finish.  This was not a fast project by any means (the previously mentioned 10 nights away in May didn't help either, no weekends to work really slowed it down).  I got frustrated many times, had to redo pieces but I'm also pretty happy with the outcome.

The first step was to tear the whole thing apart.  I saved all the screws (although not taking a picture of which ones went where...which would have been helpful for putting back together) and had 6 other pieces: the chair (all one piece), the chair support (can't see above), the base, the desk basin, and two piece to the desktop. 

Now, my initial reaction to any future project is to paint it.  I know I've mentioned many times that I like painted wood.  Almost all the trim in our house is white which we didn't do but I definitely prefer.  I was very proud of myself for NOT wanting to immediately paint this.  I've read so many blog posts about staining wood and figured I could give that a try.  And there was still some spray painting involved. 

Second step was sanding everything.  The metal parts got a light sanding before being painted.  The wood parts needed a lot of sanding.  A lot.  And then some more and that still wasn't enough.  There was a lot of sanding by both Matt and I.  The chair was especially difficult but it's curved and it was hard to get the power sander to all the parts.  That was about when I started reconsidering staining this.

Next: spray painting, the easiest part!  Everything got a few coats of royal blue spray paint, an overnight dry, and then painting the underside as necessary.  This was definitely the smoothest part of this whole project.

Then came staining.  As the title indicates...I don't like staining.  I learned that with this desk.  Staining was a giant pain in the butt.   The desktop went pretty smooth, literally.  It was the easiest to sand because it's smooth which gave the best surface for staining.  It was more involved than I thought, took more coats, but was pretty simple - wipe on stain with a rag, let sit a few minutes, wipe off with a different rag.  Repeat many times. 

The chair was a different story.  The first stain coats went on so bad we ended up resanding the whole thing (and sanding it better) and starting it all over.  And it still wasn't great coats but it was better and good enough. 

Part of my problem initially was getting a good sand, down past all the coats of whatever was on there.  The other might have been the stain we were using - it was a few years old and one Matt had trouble with the times he's used it (on the bathroom shelves and our bedroom bookshelf).  So lessons leaned.  Also, I don't ever want to stain again.  That's the biggest lesson learned.

After letting the stain dry a few days (or our whole trip to New York), I did 3 coats of polyurethane on everything that had been stained.  That was much easier than staining, just using a paint brush to put on coats of poly and letting it dry.  Easy. 

You can tell I didn't much care for the early parts of this process because I took exactly ZERO pictures of it all.  It wasn't hard, besides the sanding, just a lot of frustration and "I should have just painted this!" yelling.

After letting the poly dry (over a long lake weekend), I spent an hour taping the crap out of the chair so it could be spray painted. 

I so prefer spray painting to staining.

To get the cleanest lines, I peeled off all of the tape almost immediately after painting it (it comes off best when the paint is still wet).  Then let it sit another few days to fully cure before reassembling.

The screws I had been so careful not to lose during the whole process...then we couldn't figure out which ones went where because there were holes that fit 0 screws.  We (Matt) went to the hardware store and spent $3 on new screws.  That and a $5 bottle of spray paint were our only costs for this project!  (We had the stain, poly, tape, etc. on hand).

Luke has been VERY EXCITED about his "new" desk.  
We were at the lake with some older cousins lately (whom Luke just loves) and he was using "his" camera to take silly pictures of them.  One of them did this with his hands and it's now Luke's go to pose for pictures.  It's hilarious. 
If you look close you can tell my sanding, staining, and poly aren't perfect by any means but I'm pretty proud of myself for trying something new and not just defaulting to my "paint everything" default.  I might not ever want to stain again but I'm glad I tried it.  
Let's talk about those footie pjs.  I took these pictures last week, on a slightly chilly but not necessarily needing footie pjs day.  It was about 70° outside.  It was also around 5pm.  Luke hasn't sleep in footie pjs in months.  He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt under the jammies.  He just found them in a drawer during "quiet time" and insisted on wearing them.  At 5pm.  In June.  He's 3.  
 For now the desk is living on our main floor and currently contains Luke's "treasures":
A random pile of things he's gotten around the house.  I have good intentions of doing some homeschool preschool with him eventually and have some books and supplies already but for now, he can keep his treasures in there.  

From starting to finish this project took 4 weeks, the vast majority of that was down/dry time but it was still a much longer process than I expected.  It was frustrating at times but I'm still glad I took it on.  And mostly glad I can check another project off my list!  It's a pretty big improvement!

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