Painting end tables 101 pre-req

I have spent this last week refinishing an end table.  I purchased the end table off of craigslist for $20.  It was horrible.  The previous owners painted right over the varnish.  I stripped the paint with citristrip (who is, by the way, quite terrible at responding to email inquiries about their product).  Citristrip really needs to stay on for an hour or more for this type of work – 30 minutes didn’t cut it for a first try.  Here it is in the process of being stripped (the area at the bottom is stripped):

photo 1

Then I washed the stripper off with a sponge and water.  I next sanded it with my little electric sander.

First lesson: Don’t sand against the grain.  Once I had rough edges I wasn’t sure how to recover and they don’t go away under paint.

Second lesson: stripping paint is a much easier way to take it off than sanding.  Don’t be lazy; strip it all.  Here it is after stripping and you can see I was very lazy on the legs – they are still blue!

photo 2

After sanding, I washed it with water and let it dry again overnight (No photos).  Then I primed the table with Zinsser BIN primer.  This primer DOES stick quite well as I later learned while accidentally screwing up my finish.

Third lesson: Roll on the primer.  Use spray paint to fill in any hard to reach corners.  Then roll again to smooth out.  Do not start with the spray paint.

I let the primer dry for 3 hours, which isn’t long enough probably.  For heavy traffic tables, two coats and another overnight dry is what I find on the internet.

After priming, I painted the table with semi-gloss latex Behr paint using first a paint brush for edging, then a small roller.  I put on two coats of paint, letting it dry in between coats.  I used kebab sticks (wooden) to collect paint in the ridge around the end of the table so that the paint didn’t smooth out the corner.  This was a good idea all my own.

Fourth lesson: If there is removable hardware, remove it.  Otherwise it will look ghetto and bother you, even under the table.

Fifth lesson: Purdy smaller rollers suck and do not roll as well.  Perhaps it is because the roller radius is too small.  I threw out this expensive piece of junk.  I ended up use a full roller with a Purdy tube because that is all I had, but the little cheapy rollers from home depot are best.

Sixth lesson: Semi-gloss is just a little glossier than I would’ve liked for this wooden piece.  Bummer.

I let the latex paint dry 24 hours.  After turning the table orange, I felt like something was missing and I wanted to accent the edges.  We went to home depot and some Martha Stewart metallic paint caught my eye.  I bought a bottle of platinum called Thundercloud or something like that.  But, I had a hard time deciding how to apply it.  I didn’t want the table to look antique since, well, let’s face it, there are no orange antique tables.  After reading online, I concluded that glaze works as glaze (brush it on, wipe it off, highlight the defects) because it is thin.  So, I thinned down a small amount of the platinum paint until it was ~60/40 paint to water.  It was thick enough to paint on like paint, not ball up like water, but easy enough to wipe off.  Perfect.  I lucked out and really should’ve measured the amount for the future.  I painted it along the edges that I wanted to accent and wiped it off, then I did the legs and eventually the whole top.  Strangely though, I noticed there was a small stripe of bright orange at the edge of the surface, exactly where I wanted it to be darker silver.

Sixth lesson: heavily-water based paint, when applied in large quantities can wet other water-based paint that hasn’t completely dried.  If I’m going to do this glaze again, work quickly so that it doesn’t absorb into the old paint.  Also, the strip was being caused since new layers of silver paint, meant to darken the old coat, were actually wiping the old layers off and making the strip worse.

Seventh lesson: If this coat of paint is done, but not exactly how you want it to look, WALK AWAY.  Do not go back to just fix that one spot.  You can fix it with the next coat more easily.  Here’s how the REAL trouble started:

photo 3

At this point, I decided to hit the table with the sanding block to try and sand off the paint in the middle and buff up the edges.

Eighth lesson: For the love of God, DO NOT TOUCH the sanding block if any paint is still well.  The paint will come off in clumps, damaging your beautiful finish.

I fussed around a bit more, but made absolutely no improvements to any of the above problems, plus I think it’s possible that I added some water spots to the whole thing.  I finally managed to walk away to write this.

When it is dry (tomorrow?), I may hit the table top with the sand block again.  Then I see a couple options:

  1. Resand the top and just do the whole mess from scratch again.
  2. Paint over the whole thing with platinum paint and have a platinum table top.
  3. Paint over the whole thing with orange and then try my metallic distressing again.
  4. Hit it with the sand block again and try to lighten the distressing on the top.  Then, use slightly less water and try the top again.  Aim for evenness rather than a starburst pattern.  Paint and wipe only once, then walk away….
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3 thoughts on “Painting end tables 101 pre-req

  1. This post cracks me up! How brave to tackle a refinishing project. I have had a table sitting in my garage for a year trying to decide how to refinish it! I’ll keep your lessons in mind 🙂

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