Tables and Meltdowns


I just wanted to give a follow-up post about how we made our table.  As I mentioned before, we sold our espresso dining table and 8 chairs on Craigslist. I was shocked to have it listed and sold within a day or so. And I was amazed that I was able to get over $500 for it! That covered the cost of the entire new table and several new chairs. 

To start, I just wanna say that this table was hard for me. When we (by we, I mean Pete) had the idea to do a butcherblock with hairpin legs, I totally just thought, "Cool, we buy an IKEA top and just screw in some legs!" I did not factor in all of the work between those two steps. Plus, it was one of the last elements of our renovation, and I was seriously running out of steam. But, hopefully, all of my angst-ridden research and work will mean an easier job for other aspiring table-makers.

We made the table out of an IKEA Numerar Beech Countertop (73" x 39"). It was too long, so the good men at Home Depot were kind enough to cut off about 11 inches for me. I thought that was very nice of them, especially considering that I didn't buy it there. Cutting through butcher block is no joke. Beech is a pretty hard wood, and the whole thing was incredibly heavy. The giant saw they used at Home Depot even had trouble getting through the wood, leaving some ugly burn marks on the cut-side. Not cool. Thankfully, some heavy duty power sanding mostly removed them (60 and 120 grit, I think).

After sanding the factory finish off of the entire piece with 120 grit, I applied the wood conditioner and the stain. I did a test run on the scrap of butcherblock that got trimmed off. I am glad I did, because I apparently left the stain on too long and got some serious streaking, as you can see below.


Water-based stain is WAY different than oil-based stain. It is thick, almost like a gel, and it works immediately. So, basically, as soon as you wipe it on, it needs to come off. I tried again on the other side of the scrap piece and got better results..


Pete and I had to work together to get a cohesive finish with minimal streaking. He painted it on with a foam brush, and I came behind with a rag, wiping like crazy. I wonder if it would have worked better if I had used a foam roller for application? It definitely isn't a perfect finish, as there are some areas slightly darker than the others, but I think it adds character to the wood. It also reminds me that our home can be lovely and inviting without being perfect. 

The decision to use a water-based polyurethan top-coat was a difficult one. Originally, I was leaning toward using Waterlox, an oil-based polyurethane/ tung oil product, with fantastic reviews. The only down-side is that it requires serious ventilation and extended dry times. Fumes were a pretty big issue for me because I didn't have an area that could be properly ventilated for a week. And that is how long it would have taken if I had gone with something like Waterlox. It requires 24 hours between coats, and I would have needed 4-5 coats! And that is not even including the wood-conditioner/stain steps. And did I mention that this would entail keeping multiple windows open 24 hours a day for a week in the middle of July with two little kids running around? No, thanks. 


After a lot of research, I finally settled on General Finishes EnduroVar. It is a relatively new product that has the performance of an oil, but the easy clean-up and lower odor of a water based. I found out about it through this blog. EnduroVar only requires two hours between coats, and the odor was minimal, so I was able to finish everything in just a couple days. Between coats, I sanded with a 320-grit block and wiped the surface with tack cloth. I am so pleased with the results—the wood has a beautiful, durable, golden, non-shiny finish. And I am delighted to say that it is holding up well to the kids' fork-pounding and drink-spilling. These things add character, anyway, right?


So, this is where the story goes downhill... After refinishing the wood, I was really impatient to attach the hairpin legs and get some results. I had just put the kids down for their naps, and Peter was all set to help me screw them in. And that is when I realized that I bought sheet metal screws instead of wood screws. Boo. Up to this point in the renovation, I had been pretty stable. Crazy maybe, but stable.

The screws undid me. It was like the adult version of the terrible two's. And, no, I don't have any pictures :) All the hard work, expectations, and desire to be finished caught up with me at the same moment. It wasn't my best moment, but it was a real moment. I am generally pretty even-keeled and have a positive outlook on life, but when I do snap, it is generally brief, extreme, and triggered by something stupid. My dad explained it well when he once said that I am like a beautiful spring day—most always pleasant and agreeable, but when a storm does come up, it is violent and brief. Yeah, so that happened...

Now it gets happy again. After the storm, my wonderfully level headed Peter helped me reassemble myself and sort things out. Then he went to Ace Hardware to buy the right kind of screws. Man, I am blessed by that guy.


Amazingly, the legs went on without a hitch, and we didn't even have an issue with wobbling. God is good to me, even at my worst. Especially at my worst, actually. Because that's usually when I realize how much I need him and how little I deserve him.



We love our table. It seats 6 comfortably but could squeeze in 8 if necessary. It makes me particularly happy to see how much Peter loves the table. He said it is the table he always wanted :) 


Joy Lewis12 Comments