If you've been reading along, you already know about my struggles with trying to refinish my Craigslist Pottery Barn table. I started off with a positive attitude and a bit of confidence. I had Google and Blog tutorials on my side; what could go wrong?! Everything went wrong. After not one, but TWO failed attempts at getting the beautiful, rich stain that I wanted, I finally came up with a solution to my problem:
*Take baby steps with the sandpaper. In my first two attempts, I jumped straight from 80 to 220 grit sandpaper mistakes #3 & 4. This resulted (both times) in swirly orbital sander marks all over the table's surface. To prevent this from happening, Mike suggests starting low and then making gradual steps that will slowly smooth out any visible marks. We used 80, 120, and 150 before finally using 220.
Note: Mike said that this was very important in my case because of the type of wood that I was working with (pine), but jumping grits might work if you're blessed with a harder wood.
*Sand within the circle. If you're using a orbital sander and gradually stepping up your grit, it doesn't matter if you sand with the grain. The important thing is to sand each square inch of your surface uniformly so that you avoid creating any dings or dips in the wood mistake #5. To do this, Mike sands in a circular fashion: he circles the outside of the surface twice and then "fills" in the center area. He said that it is common for people to under sand the outer edges
*Don't finish sanding until the piece is consistently smooth. To check if your surface is ready for the next step, shine a light across the horizontal plane and look for uneven portions mistake #6.
*Know your wood. In my case, I wanted to go super dark with a light pine table. It was no surprise to Mike that I ended up with a zebra stripe look when I first attempted to stain it mistake #7. As an expert, he knew that that type of wood sucks up stain color at an uneven rate and by lightening my stain choice and going with a good wood conditioner, I was able to come up with a better product. Here's a quick article that might help you work best with your wood.
*Invest in some lent-free rags (honestly, not a big expense). This is a mistake that I didn't actually make! When you're wiping down your table, you don't want to ruin the finish with little clumps of dust or debris.
*Condition it correctly. Using a good conditioner can work wonders for producing an evenly toned product (trust me!). The first time I attempted staining I didn't even use conditioner and the second time I went with one that was for water based stains mistakes #8 & 9.... both mistakes led to major spottage on my finish. Mike recommends following the directions on the can and then using a lent free rag to scrub off the remaining residue before staining. This isn't something you can usually do the day before staining (my product recommended to stain within two hours) so only condition the piece that you plan on staining mistake #10.
Third time IS the charm in my case. I'll reveal my final staining steps and the finished product soon!
Did you make any of the mistakes that I made? Have any other tips that I forgot to mention?
PS Here's how to finish up.