Our neighbors are so supportive of our work and often come to us for help with their projects. We worked on this Ashley Furniture dining table for one family. This pub-style dining table had been well-loved for many years, and the family is working to move from warm brown tones in their home to cooler gray tones. They wanted to update their table with a new finish and a stain color that would help them transition their space as they update their home. We chose to make a custom stain for them to blend the warm and cool tones together to help with a seamless transition.
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We got an early start on the day, and it was time to take the seats off the chairs before moving forward on varnish removal. Once the chairs' seats were off, we placed all the pieces out on a tarp in the driveway and painted on thick layers of Citristrip. Be mindful of using rubber gloves as you apply Citristrip. We let it sit for approximately 1.5 hours before using a plastic scraper to remove it. Thankfully, it doesn't smell too bad, but it can be sticky and a pain in the butt to remove. The scraper helped to get a good deal of varnish off; however, we needed to use #3 steel wool to get off thicker chunks of stain and varnish, particularly off the decorative edges of the table. This process took several hours to complete.
Well, we didn't finish scrubbing off all the varnish as planned yesterday because of our work schedule. So we were back at the scrubbing again today. We continued to use #3 steel wool and Citristrip to remove the varnish. Then, we used a finer grade steel wool, such as #0, to wash each piece down with mineral spirits to get them all cleaned up.
The Citristrip did most of the work for us, but we still needed to sand the tabletop and seat tops to get the remnants of the stain out of the wood grains. We used an orbital sander for the table, and we hand-sanded the seats because of the contouring. We also hand sanded the decorative edges of the tabletop. The best way to get a smooth surface is to start with 60-grit sandpaper and to progress through the various levels. The extra time and energy are well worth it. We moved from 60 to 120-grit and then on to 220-grit. Once this was complete, we vacuumed the dust and wiped it all clean with a damp cloth. This process is called raising the grain. Once dry, we did a final sanding with 320-grit sandpaper. Next, you need to wipe of the dust with a dry cloth to keep the smooth wood you just created.
We are plugging away with this project and want to finish it promptly since our neighbors are without a table until we are all done. It is time to move on to getting this stained. Our neighbors wanted a grey stain as they worked on updating their home with grey tones throughout. However, they still have some brown and tan colors in their home, such as in their backsplash or countertops. So we tested out a few stain colors on the bottom of the table to get an idea of what might blend well with the greys or browns.
The first blend we tried was a classic grey and sunbleached, but the grey tone was still too much. We kept a 1:1 ratio and added Early American stain to the blend for the tone at the bottom of the picture above. After looking over the options, we agreed that this was the one that would fit the best for their space.
We moved the tabletop and seat tops inside since rain was in the forecast. We flipped each piece over and applied pre-stain and stain to the backsides as well. We didn't focus on perfectionism with the bottoms since they would not be in view once put together, but we did want them to match in color in general. We let these dry overnight and planned our next step for the finish. We typically would be multi-tasking by painting the legs and chairs simultaneously; however, we are waiting for a new spray booth to come in the mail, so we occupied our time with other projects. Thankfully, our neighbors are very patient with the process.
We did not intend to sand down the base of the table and the chairs since we would be updating the black color; they needed to be cleaned up well before adding a new coat of paint. We used Krud Kutter to clean up grease and food stains that could not be seen without close inspection. We could tell that using this product made a huge difference, and we plan to use it again when refinishing furniture. The bottle claims that it does not leave a residue; however, we felt that the material felt slightly tacky, although this could be because it previously had varnish on it. We just used a slightly damp washcloth to wipe it down one more time before painting.
Day 7Sydney wanted to use the Wagner Spray Gun for this project, so we set up our new Wagner Spray Tent and went through a huge learning curve to use the sprayer for the first time. We still have a lot to learn about spraying and getting the perfect finish. Sydney started this process, and we ultimately decided we were not happy with our coverage. We think this was user error more than problems with the gun. We plan to take some time for YouTube education to become better at this process.
After we took the time to accept the mistake and plan how we wanted to move forward, it was time for the tedious work of doing light sanding on the two chairs that were sprayed so that we could hand paint for consistency.
Thankfully, we chose to move to hand painting early on in the process, so we only had to lightly sand two of the chairs. We used 120-grit sand to smooth out some overspray spots and give the new coat something to grab onto. Since this was not raw wood, we did not need to move through the sanding progressions as we usually do.
We set up the tents again so that we could have workstations that were clean and free of dust and bugs. If you live in North Carolina, you know how that goes. Josh and Sydney tag-teamed and painted two chairs in each tent. Then, we hand-painted one side of the legs at a time. We allowed them time to dry prior to moving them inside. We gave it the evening/night to cure prior to putting on a second coat.
After making some space in the garage, we set up painting stations for the table's chairs, legs, and sidewalls. We find that the second coat is always easier. This is because the paint usually glides over the first coat and because we have an idea of how we go about the painting. On the second day (Day Nine) of painting, we used painter's tripods from Lowe's and painter's pyramids from Amazon to help with the process.
It is time for the finish, and we're equally stressed and excited to complete the project. We chose to use Minwax Polycrylic Matte Finish on this project because we wanted the paint and stain finishes to match. Polycrylic is easier to apply and dries more quickly than polyurethane. It also does not have a yellow tint as it ages because it is water-based. You will need to use a synthetic brush for this process, such as Purdy Syntox Flat Nylon Brushes. We love these because they are also easy to clean up with dish soap and water.
This process took several days as we only had limited space in the garage to spread out. Plus, we had to wait for the pieces to dry.
In between each coat of finish, we used 320-grit sandpaper to sand each piece lightly. Then, we used a damp cloth to clean off the dust. This helps to get rid of dust particles that might fall into the finish and rids the finish of any air bubbles that might arise during the process. The smooth finish at the end is well worth it.
The fun but challenging part of this project is to put all the pieces back together, including the butterfly leaf, on this Ashley Furniture original. We took some pictures when we took all the pieces apart, and now I'm very glad that we did. The only thing I wish we had done differently was writing down the order that we went while taking it apart so that it was easy to do it reverse. However, it wasn't too bad, and everything came together nicely.
Delivery day! We got to deliver this back to our neighbors, and it looks awesome in their home!
Josh and Sydney are life adventurers that love to learn and create. We are exact opposites and enjoy gaining new perspective. Our home is where our varying personalities shine, and we use it to gather our friends and family together.