Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Chess Table, aka When DIY Goes Wrong

Once upon a time, I bought a chess table cheap off Craigslist, and attempted to refinish it all on my own.  Sometimes things just don't work out according to plan.

 It all started with this little guy.  Cute, structurally sound chess table in need of a home and some love.

I totally misread the Craigslist ad though, and overlooked that it was only 15 inches tall.  That's barely taller than our kitten, Thor.  Thor is unimpressed.

At first I was in denial.  Certainly I could just find some short stools or chairs, and this would still be a great table!  Alas, my thrift store hunting left me empty handed.  I found one chair that would work, but chess is better played with two.  So then I had the brilliant idea to just get new legs.  A search of Home Depot, and I came home with four of these poplar 26 inch sticks.  The pre-made table legs all seemed to grand (read expensive).

I also walked out with two small jars of stain.  One in a color called Kona, the other Golden Pecan.  I started sanding, in preparation for application of what I thought would be beautiful new stain.  I sanded and sanded, and developed a new callous on my thumb.  Someday I will invest in a hand sander.

So the color on the can of Kona looked like a dark brown with darker areas of the grain almost black.  When I opened the can, I thought "wow, this looks really dark, I wonder if I should trade it for a different color.  But I want to stain this now! I'm sure it will be fine."  Someday I will learn that it is better to get it right than get it quickly.  That stain was black.  The instructions said to wipe off in 10-15 minutes, I started wiping in off after 5.  You could barely see the wood grain.

I carried on though, thinking that once the lighter squares were the Golden Pecan color, it would look better. It didn't.

Google told me that stain stripper likely wouldn't work on new stain.  I tried anyway.  It sort of worked.  It lightened the stain at least.  My options were to leave the thing in the garage for a year and try stripping it again, re-sanding the whole thing, or just carrying on.  I chose the later.

I went back to Home Depot and chose Black Cherry.  It looked like a warm dark brown.  I opened the jar at home, and the stain looked purple.  Having totally failed to learn my lesson with the Kona, I applied it anyway.  Yep, purple.  Argh.  At that point, I decided to just stick with the Kona.  The Kona over the Black Cherry ended up looking ok though.  I pretty much started wiping the stain off as soon as it was applied, but the purple under the black ended up looking fine.

I attached the new legs, gave the whole thing a coating of polyurethane, and called it done.  I'm calling it the daddy long legs chess table.  I suppose not every project can work out.  After the holidays, I may start cruising Craigslist for a game table again.  This time, we'll just put our existing board on top of it.

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