I’ve been writing about my plans for a coffee table makeover (part 1, part 2) to make a coffee table similar to one of these…
(1-Jayson Home $1595, 2-Joss & Main (sale ended), 3-Lucca & Co. $19,800, 4-Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams $996, 5-West Elm $365)
…from this lovely old 80’s beast of brass’n’glass:
Yesterday I wrote about gathering the barn wood for the top. After that whole episode I took the boards back to my dad’s garage, and let them dry out a little bit while I pondered what to do. I, of course, did my thorough research online and found that people who reused old wood were kind of on a spectrum. This spectrum looks something like this:
The people on the left side use words like “patina” and “shabby chic”, as well as “splinters” and “lead poisoning”, while the people on the right say things like “safety”, and “perfection”, as well as “sacrilege” and “high on varnish fumes”.
Needless to say I found myself somewhere in the middle. I knew the wood needed to be clean and safe, but I wanted to maintain it’s weathered look as much as possible.
I opted for:
- A good scrubbing (I mixed Borax with hot water and used a plastic bristled scrub bush to wash the boards)
- A long dry
- A light sanding by hand to take off any feathered, splintered or loose pieces - not enough to change the colour significantly.
- And two coats of Varathane clear finish
I chose the finish because it looked a.) easy, and b.) like it wouldn’t change the look of the wood too much. (And it worked!)
After the wood had sufficiently dried and been lightly sanded I laid out the boards and lined them up roughly how I’d like them to sit on the coffee table. I wanted to display the most beautiful woodgrain, the uniqueness of each board and avoid any major divots, cracks or knots on the top of the table. We figured out the length (so that there would be a slight overhang on each side) and my dad cut the boards. I then coated them in the Varathane finish.
This couldn’t have been easier. I felt like I was decoupaging. I just squirted some on, and brushed it on with a paintbrush. It seeped nicely into any cracks and spread smoothly. AND it cleaned up with water! (No. This post is not sponsored if you were beginning to wonder.)
As you can see it did darken the look of the wood a bit (and did not look as yellowy as it does in these pictures), but it dried in a satin finish (not too glossy) and I think it deepened the look of the grain, which is nice. It basically maintained the same colour tones - just a bit darker. Overall I was pretty happy with the finish. I did one coat, let it cure for a few days, and then did another after the table was assembled.
While the finish was drying on the first coat I got to the frame. I lugged that heavy brass bad boy outside (well, OK, my Dad did. But whatever. I could have, if he wasn’t all gentlemanly and stuff.)
The frame is a nice weight and solid, so it was perfect for this project. To get the look I was going for I was originally thinking I’d just spray the base black. However after Sherry over at Young House Love went through her love affair with Rustoleum’s Oil Rubbed Bronze, I knew that would be the way to go - black with a subtle warm metallic undertone that would have a bit more complexity to the colour.
I thought it worked super well - looking like aged metal, as opposed to something painted black. (Still not a sponsored post.) ;)
Once that was dry (after a few days) we built the top.
The simplest plan (which my dad came up with, because he wanted this to be a “You can do it too!” DIY. Little did he know I was going to scare you all away from using reclaimed wood yesterday…) was to cut a piece of plywood to the size of the opening on the top of the coffee table (he had this done at the hardware store with a piece of their scrap… because you can do that too!).
We then marked where the notches on the corners of the table frame were
Aaaand sliced them off. This piece of plywood would now sink perfectly into the top of the table frame.
(P.S. My dad is doing this in the picture, but I did the other three corners. Yep. I used that big old cutting power tool. And I didn’t even pee my pants. Not even a little bit. But more on my fear of power tools another day…)
We then chose an appropriate length of screw and drove it into the table at 3-4 spots along each board from the bottom side:
And then I painted it… not that you’ll ever see that part. (I just used some leftover paint from our front door.)
The table top could now be plopped right into the top of the table frame and it sits there without budging. It’s a little on the heavy side, but like I said, the frame is a beefy old chap, so it’s not a problem.
So… back to when my dad cut the boards. This left us with a raw edge of wood that had not been weathered by seasons of snow and rain and sun and dirt:
Now, I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a painter (as in: artist painter, not wall painter.) So I was pretty sure I could have (*gulp* stay with me here) faux-finished (Ptooey! I can’t believe I just said that word!) the edges. But then I saw a tutorial here for aging wood using ingredients found in your pantry (or my parent’s pantry. Whatever. When I work there I have a garage and free babysitting…) I really wanted to give it a shot.
You just put a little steel wool in some white vinegar and leave it for 24 hours. Then you come back AAAAND…. it looks exactly the same!!! But you trust all those smart chemist geeks out there and assume SOMETHING has happened.
Then you coat the raw wood with black tea, followed by some of the steel-wooly-vinegar. And THENNNN…. nothing happens again!!! So you walk away for about an hour mumbling something about “Gee, Chemistry, I really hope you pull through for me this time.”
And good old chemistry. It does. (Though you can’t see it too well in this picture.)
For some reason the finish was a little blotchy for me (I think the liquids were just absorbed better in some spots), but it still looked 99% better. So I added one last coat of Varathane aaaand….
(Stay tuned until tomorrow to see what I’m “Voila-ing”.)
Sorry dudes… But isn’t this post long enough?!