Monday, October 18, 2010

Staining Again!

If you remember back in March I bought some tables for craft storage in the basement. I loved the size, storage and shape but didn’t love the color or broken and missing handles.  I finally got around to revamping these tables!





How’d I do it?

Before staining you may need to make repairs to your furniture (such as filling in any scratches, holes, etc.) so now is  a good time to do that.  I did have to fill in a few small holes from the old handles but for this project, I was lazy and decided not to fill in all the big holes and center the handles on the drawer fronts.  I like how it turned out but some of you may be cringing – I apologize for offending your eyes.  :)

Step 1: Sand, sand, sand. You may want/need to wipe your surface down first but mine was wiped down when I first brought it into the basement so I skipped that step. I used my Black & Decker Mouse sander to sand every surface on the tables and the drawer fronts and tops with the direction of the grain.  If you sand against the grain you will end up with scratches that don’t look so great once they are stained.  Luckily these are solid wood pieces so I used 80 grit paper to remove the old finish and then quickly used 200 grit paper to smooth everything back out.

Like I said, my pieces are solid wood but you can stain veneer as well as long as your veneer is thicker than a dime (meaning it can be sanded).

IMG_3998 Step 2: Gather supplies needed for staining.


  1. Rubber Gloves
  2. Tack Cloth
  3. Stain  --- I used Minwax’s PolyShades in Bombay Mahogany Satin --- I do NOT recommend using this! (details to come)
  4. 2” angled brush --- I used a cheap brush since it was tossed after this project
  5. Extra Fine (grade #000) Steel Wool
  6. Cotton rags --- optional.  I ended up using mine just to catch a few drips.

Step 3: Wipe down everything you sanded with the Tack Cloth to remove fine debris. I also used the Shop Vac to clean out drawers and get in nooks and crannies. 

Step 4: Stain! I applied a thin, even coat of the stain with a brush making sure to apply the stain in the same direction as the grain. Make sure you maintain a ‘wet edge’ so that your stain is even and seamless. As I mentioned, I used Minwax’s PolyShades which is stain and polyurethane combined.  I chose a liquid stain vs. gel stain since I’ve only ever used liquid and I didn’t want to try something new. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the combo stains but I was being lazy (plus the weather was working against me) so I opted for the easy route.  Note to self: do not take the easy route. **

When in doubt, talk to your specialists at the Home Improvement store! There are so many choices for stains and polys and I know very, very little about them so I can’t offer much assistance other than what I used and what I liked/didn’t like.

IMG_4002 Step 4: (I skipped this step) Optionally, use the rags to wipe up any extra stain after letting your stained pieces sit for at least 20 minutes.  My pieces soaked the stain up and there was nothing to wipe so I proceeded to step 5.

Step 5: Let surface dry for six hours. Do not try to do anything sooner or say, late at  night when it gets much cooler outside because you know what you are doing because you will end up with streaky furniture that you have to sand back down and start fresh with (yep – I screwed up one of my tables). Gently rub the surfaces with extra fine grade steel wool to smooth the pieces out again (use grade 000 and higher ONLY).  You may get debris or small bumps from staining and the steel wool removes all of that.  Remove all dust.

Step 6: Brush on a second, thin coat of stain making sure to stain with the grain of your wood.  With this stain, two coats are recommended but you could apply as many coats as you want until you have the desired color.  I applied two coats – the first was soaked right up and didn’t produce the deep color I wanted but the second was perfect.

Step 7: Allow furniture to dry completely before bringing into home. Haul all pieces to the basement, while trying to stop a fat cat from escaping.  Oh wait – maybe this only pertains to me.

**Why didn’t I like the mix of stain and poly?  I have a few spots where the stain just didn’t take right.  It looks like there are water droplets in places (even though I mixed the stain before and during application) and I just didn’t like how it applied.  I’ll go back to using stain and then poly in the future.

IMG_4075 Depending on the light, the tables have a red sheen to them, while other times they look like a chocolate brown. Yes, I still need to finish the caps on the front legs but well, I forgot and already lugged these heavy pieces back into the house so they will just have to wait.


Some people love the fun handles you can buy at Anthropologie or Hobby Lobby and I’m one of those people.  However, for stained furniture like this I like for the knobs to blend in with the wood – I don’t know why but I do.  If I had painted these white (or gray like I originally contemplated) I would have bought different handles.

I got these handles in packs of 10 at Target on clearance for $5. That’s right- 50 cents per handle.  Sure beats the $3+ that I would have paid for EACH fancy handle!

IMG_4091 So there you have it – my revamped storage tables in the basement.  I wish I could say I was finished but you know me, I have yet another project in mind.

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