It feels good to make progress - and there’s nothing like sanding your way past a layer of paint and years of grime to get down to what’s raw and true - bare wood!
Let’s take a look at where we’re at with that tiny table I acquired a few weeks back - starting at the beginning.
Like I mentioned a few posts back, I found this beauty of a side table at a nifty, ever-changing thrift store called Empty the Nest in Golden Valley, MN (read all about how I found the piece here). I looked past all of the evident flaws - the awful half-gone paint job and wobbly legs, to name a few - and saw character-rich details like the beautiful spindle legs and scalloped underside. I knew it had the potential to be a charming addition to someone’s living room and hope to transform it into just that.
I’ll admit it was pretty ugly to begin with when I got my hands on it. It looks like someone attempted to strip the paint off of the top surface but never quite got around to finishing it. This piece is just longing to be redeemed!
Although masked by that heinous, chipping brown paint, here’s a closer look at some of that to-die-for detail work before I started sanding it myself!
It’ll look so much better without the paint, I promise.
In order to get past that paint and find the bare wood, I first grabbed my orbital sander and slapped on a 60-grit stripping pad. I used the orbital on all of the flat surfaces of the table to remove the paint. Luckily it came off without much effort, as the table didn’t have any varnish, polyurethane, or extra layers of paint to remove.
I had to say goodbye to the speed and consistency of the orbital sander to attend to all of the curved details by hand. This is what took the bulk of my time (we’re talking a good handful of hours sanding by hand). Again, I took a coarse 60-grit sandpaper to remove the paint off of the curves and grooves of the spindled legs and the rest of the rounded nooks and crannies of the table.
After the first round/day of sanding down the piece thoroughly with the 60-grit, this is what we got! I had no idea that she was going to be so blonde, but I have to say I’m a fan. I usually have a soft spot for the way wood looks when it’s all sanded down to it’s rawest form.
Sandpaper with a lower-numbered grit is coarser and has more “teeth,” so to speak. It’ll remove more with less effort than finer sandpaper will. It’s important to start with coarse sandpaper and then use finer sandpaper - with higher-numbered grit - to remove any scratches or imperfections from the wood.
As you can see, there was still some detail work that needed attention, so I took to hand-sanding those parts the next time I got to work.
I decided to take it down a notch and use a slightly finer 100-grit sandpaper. I really focused on removing the remaining brown paint from the spindled legs for another couple of hours.
It’s definitely during this kind of work - the mundane, nitty gritty-type - that I do some of my most productive thinking. I tend to get laser-focused on the task at hand, yet simultaneously lost in the process. This is what I love about woodworking. The work is often hard, sometimes time-consuming and repetitive, and definitely dirty, but at a certain point it becomes less about the work itself and more about becoming appreciative of the process. I get to take time to slow down and really think, unbothered by and immersed in the task at hand. Meditative time like that is often hard to come by.
Overall, I think she cleaned up pretty well. We’ve still got quite a way to go, but most of the hard prep-work is done. I was really pleased on the (relatively) short amount of time it took me to sand and prep this piece compared to other projects I’ve worked on. I surmise that this is partly due to the piece’s lack of multiple layers of old paint, stain, and/or varnish. There was really only one layer of paint to remove, so this part of the process was relatively quick and easy.
What’s left is a few rounds of finish-sanding with even finer sandpaper and perfecting to get it ready for staining and varnishing! Although I’m not sure exactly what era this table hails from, I’m choosing to stain it to allow the wood grain to shine through and to keep the piece looking timeless. Painted wood tends to reveal the trends of an era, so I avoid painting wooden furniture if I can. Plus, there’s really nothing quite like a nicely-stained wood piece.
I’ve yet to decide if I want to keep the piece light and natural-colored, stain it dark, or choose a color somewhere in-between. Look for another post in the upcoming weeks to see the finished project!
If you’re interested in purchasing this table, shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat about details like price, delivery, and other exciting things. I’d love for this storied piece to end up in your living room, full of its own unique character and memories.
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