Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kid's Table and Chairs - Finishing the table

I have found that among the DIY home improvement projects I have done, the biggest bang for my buck, as well the biggest and most dramatic change, has been in painting walls. Taking down wallpaper or just painting over the existing color will transform the entire feel of the room, even if no other changes are made. The same can be said for finishing this table.

Maybe I have been looking at the unfinished, light colored wood for too long, but when that first coat of poly went on the table really came to life.

I chose wipe on polyurethane as the finish for two reasons. It's very easy to apply and it will stand up to the beating I expect the boys to give it. If you follow me on Google+ you may have seen my posts about Steve Mickley's, of Hardwood Lumber and More, article about putting poly on wood. I came about this article by a tweet from Morton. There are two things I took from this and used when finishing the table.

1) I made my own wipe on poly by thinning the full strength version. In this case I used Minwax's gloss finish. You can save some money doing it this way, if purchased in semi large quantity, but I think the better reason is to be able to play with the ratio of  poly to mineral spirits and create your own recipe. For this first time around I made a 1:1 concoction as recommend in the article. This made a very thin liquid that was dead simple to apply (more on that in a sec), but it took six coats to get to the final finish. I think the next mixture will be a little thicker, maybe 3:2.

2) I applied the poly using "the same technique the kid at Denny's uses to clean the table". This quote from the article provides a crustal clear image of what to do and is in complete contrast to all other instructions for handling wood that tells you to with the grain. After bussing my own table, I followed that up with some long, straight, smoothing strokes.

Six coats with minimal sanding in between for the the top and three for the base later I have a nice finish that highlights the grain of the birch. I may have made a few mistakes along the way with dimensioning and assembly, but I think I nailed the finish.

The table top is made of sixteen pieces. I spent a fair amount of time putting them in an order which I thought would look nice. I basically started with the middle two pieces and essentially tried to book match out to the ends. Kind of like playing chopsticks on the piano. The end result is a visually pleasing mixture of colored grain and figure that is really enhanced by the finish.

The base of the table doesn't have any figure in it but the aprons have relatively straight grains and the laminated table legs give a cathedral grain effect. This photo doesn't do the finish or grain justice, you'll just have to take my word for it.

I am considering waxing the whole thing, if not for any reason other than just to try it. I am inspired by the finishing video in Season Three at I like the finish the way it is now and I may be fixing something that isn't broken, but I think I am going to try it anyway.

Attaching the table top to the base will be the final step before delivering it to the play room. I am going to let the finish cure for a couple of days first, so the ETD is Friday. I'll do a quick post of the final product with some pics next week.

Thanks for reading.

PS - The covering on my bench and table saw seen in the pictures are posters created at the company I work for. They are huge 3'x4' and longer mistakes that my step father delivered to me (we work at the same company). The grandchildren call him Doc, so the paper has been dubbed Doc Paper. And for clarification, he didn't make the mistakes, he just collected them for the grandchildren. We have hundreds of dollars worth of Doc Paper (rolls of poster sized HP photo paper is silly expensive) that gets used for table coverings at craft time and protecting my work surfaces. Thanks Doc!

Link to the entire "Kid's Table and Chairs series"