Also, Malcolm has been eating his food more or less directly off of our current dining table. Since May. Technically, he does have a placemat on which his food is placed. However, there are occasions when, somehow someway, his food gets on the table. Over the course of the past eight months, Malkie's free-spirited eating style has left our table "beaten to shit," as they say.
So we need a new dining table.
But, turns out dining tables are really expensive.
Kristin said "You should make one," and thus began my first attempt to build a piece of furniture.
Now, HUGE disclaimer here: This is by no means a difficult table. It is probably the easiest piece of furniture that a person could put together.
Since I have very few handyman skills, this seemed like the place to start.
|Makeshift workspace in the garage.|
STEP 1: Wood.
I had three 10-foot lengths of douglas fir 2x8 cut in half, to use 5 widths across for the table. A 2x8 is actually like 7.2'' wide, so the table will be 36 inches wide.
Then I used a palm sander (a gift from my father in law Ken), first with a 60-grit and then a 150-grit paper. I had a 220-grit too, but douglas fir doesn't take stain well if it's sanded too much, so I stuck with 150-grit.
This was fun. I spent five hours with my headphones on, in a 20 degree garage, drinking hot coffee (with a generous helping of Bailey's for creamer) from a sweet plaid Thermos that my Mom got me for Christmas, sanding up a storm.
|The penultimate, much darker cross-board is oak, because I had it around and it's strong as. . . oak.|
Step 2: Screw those things together. Use a LOT of screws. Like, nearly a hundred. 2 inch woodscrews. I used a drill for guide holes, but those weren't really necessary, the power screwdriver bit was enough power.
The boards on the ends are closely spaced together to create a little nestling space for the table trestles, which you'll see later.
|(l-r): Homemade stains, gunstock stain, walnut, red oak stain.|
Here's where it got more complicated. Everything post-sanding was done in the basement, since the wood is insanely heavy, and we use the whole garage for Alex the nanny's car during the week.
This is fine until you get to stain.
This is fine until you get to stain.
Good stain is made of oil. Good stain made of oil is full of insanely smelly, kinda-toxic fumes that take a long time to dry and "out-gas." These stains also need temps above 55 degrees to dry and cure.
So staining indoors would stink up the house and maybe be bad for Malcolm.
The three stain samples on the right of the board are oil stains. I liked the middle one, but staining indoors is just not a good option, and staining outdoors in winter is not an option at all.
What to do? Turn to the internet!
After some exhaustive research, it seems many people have had success making stains with coffee/vinegar/steel wool.
I experimented with a variety of combinations ---- more or less coffee, white or apple cider vinegar, different sizes of steel wool. Ended up going with 2 tablespoons of coffee, 16 ounces of apple cider vinegar, and a rather worn chunk of steel wool that I had used two years ago to sand my stair finish.
Initially it is pretty light. The first coat looks like nothing until it mixes with the air, then it gets interesting. The second coat gets really java-ish, and brings out some interesting stuff with the wood.
There is an intense difference between the way that a regular oil stain covers douglas fir, and the way that this coffee stain covers. The oil stain creates a very intense stripe look on the wood, while the coffee stain covers a bit more evenly while still letting the knots and weird parts differentiate.
These are the trestle legs. These are from everyone's favorite Swedish furniture/meatball purveyor, Ikea. They cost ten bucks each, so that's why I am using these. Someday we'll get some very solid steel legs, something heavy and expensive from an Etsy metalworker that costs a ton. For now, these.
And. . . using Minwax polycrylic, which is water-based. I prefer oil-based polyurethane, but as we discussed before, oil-base ain't no option.
I did 5 coats of this, sanding lightly (by hand, not with a power sander) in between.
And then it was done.