Finishing School

After my coffee table base was refinished, I picked out some rustic reclaimed Alder at the lumberyard for the new top.  My thought was that if it were rough and gnarly to begin with, any mistakes I made with the finish would just look like more patina.  And the inevitable bumps and bangs it gets from use won't pain me at all.  Or so I hope.

I had it all glued up and was planing the surface of the boards before it occurred to me that I have never made a tabletop before.  The hand plane was in a box of tools that had belonged to my dad.  He wasn't a huge woodworker, but he loved tools like I love yarn.  His collection was epic, and included so many duplicates that my brother gave me a set when he inherited the stash.  When I adjusted the blade, there were tiny curls of mahogany still underneath it; probably from some boat project.  Dad's were the last hands to adjust that blade before mine.  It was a little like visiting him to hold the plane and push it against the wood.  I liked the way the plane on the hardwood made curly wood ribbons.

I don't know from whence this wood was reclaimed, but I think it's nice that it has its own past.  I like thinking about what the boards would say if they could talk. 

I sanded.  And I sanded.  And I sanded some more.  I moved the project inside when it rained.  I moved it out when it stopped.  The table and I have now been through a lot together, and we are both better for it.

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I left the boards a little bit "cupped" in places; I can feel a wee bit of the the curve of the planks when I run my hands over them.  I like being reminded that my table was once a tree.  And I was good and tired of sanding.  I stained the top a rich honey shade to highlight its irregularities.

Many thanks to Maria H. for reminding me about the olive oil and sugar paste for removing roughness on your hands when you work with silk - works like a charm!

I framed the edge of the tabletop with this sweet little carved moulding.  Makes it look like something a girl would make.  Which it is.  I varnished. And I sanded.  Again. And Again. 

And now I can work again.  Let the knitting commence.


So there I was, feeling so fabulous for having revamped and decluttered my living room.  I was downright smug.  Which (I should have known) would be a loud invitation for the Household Gods of Chaos to descend.  They Smite.  O, They Smite.

While I was on a swell yarn crawl with some new knitting pals, Lindsay dropped her cereal bowl.  Not a catastrophe, in and of itself.  But the landing of said bowl was not good.  The landing of said bowl happened to be the glass top of the living room coffee table. 

It is important to note that Lindsay was not hurt by the broken glass. 

I, however, am emotionally scarred.  The living room coffee table is my primary work surface, any time when I'm not at my desk using the computer.  And now that the table is topless, force of habit has me dropping things on the floor all day.  Even though I know there is no glass in there, I keep putting things down on top of the table where it used to be.  Stitch dictionary? Plop. lands on the floor.  WIP? Plop. Lands on the floor.  Stitch markers, needles, coffee cup?  Plop, Plop, Plop.  Apparently, I cannot learn that the table is topless.

Note stitch dictionary on the floor: item #14 to drop through the missing top.

Note stitch dictionary on the floor: item #14 to drop through the missing top.

After the long weekend, I was able to get a quote for having new glass cut.  Not. Inexpensive.  And frankly, I decided, kinda dumb.  We have already demonstrated that as a family unit, we are not glass-tabletop compatible.  So I've elected to replace the tabletop with a new wood one.  And while I'm at it, to refinish the table legs.  Make lemonade, right?

All day yesterday I sanded off the old finish.  4 complete passes with sandpaper of increasing grit numbers yielded a farmer-style sunburn on my arms and neck (stay classy, girl!), full-body muscle strain, and a finally-stripped table base.  I managed to get on 2 coats of oxblood stain before the inevitable faceplant.  

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Today it's raining, so the varnish phase has been relocated to the kitchen island.  I haven't even started on the tabletop, because my saw is across town at Phillip's mom's house.  From whence I neglected to retrieve it after her flooring project.  Naturally.

Meanwhile, back in the living room, I am now trying to work with no table whatsoever.  Which sucks not a little. 

I'm soldiering on though, with every confidence that I will prevail.  These things are sent to try us.  Oh, and before I forget; here's a Helpful Knitting Hint:  If you are going to knit with silk yarn, and you have to spend the day with a belt-sander, Wear Gloves.  Gnarly skin surface + delicate yarn = gross knitting.  

Norm Abrams never has these problems.