Monday, September 23, 2013

Chevron Striped Table Top Refinish

When my husband and I first got married 7 years ago, we bought this little kitchen table and four chairs off of craigslist. The top wasn't in the best shape when we bought it so we stripped and refinished the top and it was beautiful. After 7 years and 3 kids and scrubbing up all of their messes, the top was looking pretty bad. 

We were going to refinish the top again, but then my in-laws called us and said they got a new table and wondered if we wanted their old one. Theirs was a foot longer and had bench seats that could comfortably seat 8 adults and even more kids so of course we said yes!

We decided to try to sell our poor looking little table and chairs, but the most we could get for it was $40. I just couldn't give it up for the little amount, so I decided to have some fun with it. I have always wanted to try painting a design on a table top so this was the perfect opportunity.

I decided to go with a cute chevron pattern on top and to use whitewash so that you could still see the wood grain underneath and so that the chevron wouldn't be too bold of a white.

First I measured the table top. Our table was 48" wide by 35.5" wide. I got some graph paper and drew it to scale so that I could get a good idea of what the chevrons would look like. I went with 5 stripes with 4 peaks on each. I took 1/4" off each top and bottom so I wouldn't have to deal with the extra 1/2" and then did some math:

35 inches / 5 stripes = 7 inches / 2 = 3.5 inches
48 inches/ 4 peaks = 12 inches / 2 = 6 inches

on my graph, one square is 2 inches long so I drew the chevrons on my graph paper.

In order to transfer this pattern to the table top, I would need to draw a grid of dots on the table top, 3.5 inches apart width wise (starting 1/4 inch in on the top and bottom) and 6 inches apart lengthwise.

Now that I had it planned, I needed to prep the table. In order for everything to go on smooth and even, I needed to strip the rest of the current finish off. I used this citrus based paint and varnish stripper:

It doesn't have as many chemicals and fumes as other chemical-based strippers, but you should still use gloves. I sprayed it liberally on the whole top of the table and then let it sit for about an hour. You can take it off as early as 30 minutes after applying or wait as long as 12 hours.

I used a plastic putty knife to scrap off the softened finish. You want to be careful at this point not gouge the table as the wood will be softened a little too. It took a while to scrape it all off and every time I thought I was done I would scrape a little more and more would come off.

After I was pretty sure I had got most of it off. I used a palm sander and 60 grit sandpaper to smooth out the top. I gradually used finer grit sandpaper until the top was nice and smooth. I think I stopped with 120 grit, but I can't remember for sure.

This next part was the hardest part, measuring and marking the dots. I am a perfectionist and wanted each stripe to be perfectly aligned so I wanted to be sure that each dot was just right.

I started by taping the sides so I could just mark right on the tape. Then I drew lines 6 inches apart along the length and 3.5 inches (1/4" from the edge) apart along the width.

Luckily my husband has tons of different rulers and measuring tools, so used a large T square type ruler (the yellow one in the picture) and a smaller metal one to mark each dot.

 After I was happy with the dots, I used frogtape to connect dots and outline the stripes as I didn't want any of the whitewash to bleed through.

You want be sure to tape along the bottom of the stripes and top of the other so that they come out the same width. It will look like they are uneven, but it is just an optical illusion and as long as your grid of dots was right, they will come out just right.

I started out just outlining them, but after doing the first stripe, we decided it would be easier to just tape over all of the space we don't want white.  Before you do the whitewash, you want to erase any of the dots that you can see.

For the whitewash we used this Minwax white wash pickling stain. It leaves a subtle white, but the grain of the wood will still show through.

This part is easiest with 2 people as you have to work fast. My husband and I worked together on this. He painted on the stain (pretty liberally) and then I followed close behind with a rag to lightly wipe it off. We found that if we left it on too long the cheap wood that our table was made of, would soak it up unevely and look splotchy. When you wipe it off, you want to just go in one direction and go with the grain. After the first coat was dry, we repeated it two more times for a total of 3 coats. 

When it is dry, remove the tape and admire the beautiful stripes.


Not bad, huh? If you see any more dots, now is a good time to erase those too.


Now for the finish. We wanted something that would hold up pretty well to water and being wiped off repeatedly. We also wanted something water-based, as oil-based finishes tend to amber a bit and we were afraid it would make the white stripes look yellow.

 We chose Minwax Polycrylic Finish:

Using a foam or synthetic brush, I carefully wiped on the finish going with the grain. Be careful to not get bubbles. Then I used 220 grit sandpaper, wrapped around a wood block to sand it in between coats. After sanding, I wiped it off well with a microfiber towel to get off all of the dust. I repeated this process 6 times over the course of a week. 3 coats probably would have been fine, but I did a few more to be sure it would hold up well. At first, you could feel the edge of the stripes pretty well when running your finger across it, but after a while, everything was perfectly smooth and you couldn't feel them anymore.

I was so happy with the way it turned out, that I really wanted to keep it, but then I realized we have no where to put it in our tiny townhouse, so I sold it. I sold it for $100, and I felt good about that. I think I could have gotten more if I would have waited longer, but we needed the space in our garage. I hope the new owners appreciate it and get good use out of it!