As I told y’all a week or so ago, I’m planning on building my own dining table since I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted in a price that I could afford. My inspiration is this turned leg farmhouse table from Williams-Sonoma that expands from 72 inches to 116 inches and seats up to 10 people when fully expanded.
Earlier this week, the table legs and table slides that I ordered from Osborne Wood Products were delivered, so as soon as I can get the walls finished in my dining room, I’ll be ready to start building my table.
And as always when I work with pine to try to build something nice, my concern has been the final finishing steps. I’m confident that I can actually build the table. That will be the easy part. But getting the finish just right will be the challenge. I want my table to end up with a warm medium brown finish. I love the color of Emily’s kitchen table.
This table from Ethan Allen is also a great example of the color that I want.
You get the idea, right? And I’m fine with it looking old and beautifully aged, like a well-loved antique, but I don’t want rustic. Somehow that makes sense in my mind.
Anyway, a table like that, in that warm medium brown tone, is exactly what I want. But back to reality…I’ll be building my table out of pine. Just plain, simple, cheap, new pine. And I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to stain new pine, but it’s tricky. I generally use a wood conditioner, followed by a dark stain color. That way it’s easier to cover up all of the crazy yellow and orange grain. And I always prefer to use Rust-Oleum wood stain on pine because you can literally paint it on like paint (just not quite as thick as paint) and it’ll still dry completely in a relatively short amount of time, and you can cover up as much of that crazy pine grain as possible. (You can’t do that with Minwax. It’ll never dry.)
But I’ve tried that method with light and medium-toned stains on pine, and it just doesn’t work. No matter how much wood conditioner, or how many coats of medium or light stain I use, that awful grain is still there…and accented in a way that I don’t find pretty at all. So yesterday, I tried out some different methods to see what I could come up with, and I actually think I found a way to stain pine a gorgeous medium-toned brown color that looks somewhat aged, while minimizing all of that yellow and orange grain!
Let me preface by saying that I know you can achieve pretty finishes on pine with paints and waxes. But I really don’t want to do any kind of painted faux finish on my new table, and I’ll never, ever, ever live with a dining table that has a waxed top on it ever again. Wax is just not durable for a table that is used often, so that’s not even an option that I would consider. And water-based polyurethane isn’t an option for me either. It drives me absolutely crazy the way that water-based poly clouds up when it gets wet. I know it clears back up when it dries out, but it’s just not something I’d ever use on dining table. So my goal was to come up with something that gives a medium-toned aged finish, minimizes the crazy pine grain, while ending up with a durable oil-based finish on top. Should be easy, right?
Here are my different test samples:
I bet you can already tell which one I’m gravitating towards, right?
Here’s a closer view of my samples:
Here’s what I did on each:
- This was my “control” sample with just plain ole stain on it. I used one coat of Minwax Honey stain. See what I mean about the grain? I think that’s awful. And depending on the stain color, I’ve seen the grain in pine turn yellow, and orange, and even an awful reddish purple. And when you get that much pronounced grain on a large item like a dining table, it looks so incredibly busy. And cheap, in my humble opinion.*I didn’t use pre-stain conditioner, but I’ve worked with pine enough to know that even conditioner can’t salvage pine enough for my taste when it comes to light and medium-toned stain colors. It works beautifully with dark stains, though (Rust-Oleum, not Minwax).
- I used Waterlox with a little bit of Rust-Oleum American Walnut stain mixed in. Wow, that’s red. Definitely not the look I’m going for.
- This was Waterlox with a little bit of Minwax Honey mixed in. I thought this was pretty, and the grain didn’t bother me so much since it didin’t turn a hideous color. But the overall color just wasn’t quite warm enough for me. And it looks too orange-yellow, rather than brown.
- I started this one by rubbing Annie Sloan Dark Wax over the entire thing, and then followed up with a coat of the Waterlox + Minwax Honey. When it was dry, I added a coat of Minwax Polyurethane. I love how the wax settled in the low places and gave it an aged look.
- Once again, I used Annie Sloan Dark Wax over the wood, and then used Minwax Polyurethane on top.
- This is my favorite, and it was a four-step process. First, I used some homemade vinegar stain on the wood to cut the yellow/orange color of the pine. The homemade vinegar stain was about two cups of white vinegar, two “000” steel wool pads, and two tablespoons of coffee grounds. I only let the vinegar solution set for about three hours before using it. After the vinegar solution, I used the Annie Sloan Dark Wax, and then followed up with a very thin coat of Minwax Special Walnut. And I finished with a coat of Minwax Polyurethane.
I’m pretty sure that the last one is exactly what I’m going for. You can see some grain, but it didn’t turn a crazy color, and it looks more aged than stained.
Just a word about the homemade vinegar stain. I only let it age for three hours before using it. I was certain that it wouldn’t do any good, as I’ve read that it really should sit for at least 24 hours. So I wiped the vinegar solution onto the wood, didn’t see any change, wiped it off, and decided to try something else.
Well, evidently it did do something, because I tried to replicate the look of sample #6 without using the vinegar solution, and it didn’t look nearly as good. So I tried it once again with the vinegar solution (about four hours old at that point), and that one looked like sample #6. So there’s definitely something to the vinegar solution, even using it after only three or four hours. I’m going to try it again today after letting it sit for 24 hours, and I’ll see what difference that makes.
I actually really liked the effect of the Annie Sloan Dark Wax on all three samples. I love the way it settles into the low places and gives it a nice aged look, but I prefer the more subtle look of the last one.
And here’s a look at the last three samples that all used the Annie Sloan Dark Wax in comparison to my control sample #1 with just the stain. I find that stain-only sample to be just terrible, and that’s what I was afraid of my whole table looking like.
And here’s a look at my favorite sample compared to the stain-only sample. It’s a night and day difference!
And just to be sure that my last (favorite) sample wasn’t some kind of fluke, I decided to test my method on a piece of Select Pine lumber from Home Depot. I use this lumber quite a bit because it’s always cut the straightest and has almost no knots in the wood. But what it does have is crazy pine grain.
So I took a scrap piece of Select Pine and just used stain on one side. Here’s how that looked compared to my first sample.
Awful. Both of them. The funny thing is that the Select Pine sample actually looks like someone did a faux bois technique on it. That grain almost looks fake to me…but it’s real. It’s crazy pine grain!
So I flipped the board over and did the four-step process that I used on sample #6 above. What a difference!
And I think if I had added one more very thin coat of stain before the polyurethane, it might have reduced the grain even more and evened out some of the blotchiness.
I am going to try one more sample today with the older 24-hour vinegar solution, but at this point I’m thinking that I’ve found the perfect method to get the color I want while getting rid of crazy pine grain! I’m very hopeful that this will work on my table.
Filed Under: Dining Room
My DIY semi-flush ceiling light for my music room is finished!
I’m really proud of how it turned out, and quite honestly, it was a lot more work than I had anticipated. The more I worked on mine, the more I came to realize that the Coleen & Company price just might be justified. 😀
Yesterday I showed you how I built the actual light box. After I finished building it, I treated it just a like any other building project by wood filling the nail holes, sanding everything smooth, and caulking all of the cracks. Then I painted the whole thing white. I used the same Behr Polar Bear white that I use on all of my trim. And to finish off the light box, I gold leafed the bottom scalloped detail on the outside and inside of the light box, and then gave the whole thing about three coats of clear sealer spray.
Then I needed to build a canopy to go at the ceiling that would actually hold the entire light fixture. I started by cutting a 5-inch square from a scrap piece of 1/2-inch plywood, and then cut and attached panel moulding (purchased at Home Depot by the foot) around the edges.
Here’s how it looked from the other side (the side that would go against the ceiling).
Then I drilled all of the holes. I needed two small holes centered on the canopy. These would be the holes that actually attach to the metal crossbar on the junction box in the ceiling. I also needed four 3/8-inch holes for the loops that would hold the chains of the light fixture. I learned the hard way that it’s better to drill from the back to the front. I drilled the first large hole (bottom left) from the front to the back, and the drill bit ripped off some of the top veneer. The others that I drilled from the back to the front look very clean.
This isn’t the metal crossbar that I used (I ended up using a swivel crossbar so that I could square the wood canopy perfectly on my ceiling), but the holes are uniform on most crossbars, so this is the one I used to determine spacing. Of course, the crossbar goes on the other side, but you can see how I used it to space the small middle holes and then test it afterwards to be sure the screws from the crossbar would fit through the wood canopy.
In the large holes, I attached the loops. Before I attached them, I cut them so that they were hooks instead of full loops. My decorative chain is very thick, and once you spread a link apart to get it around a loop, it’s impossible to get it back perfectly, and it looks terrible. So in order not to destroy my chain, I wanted to use hooks both on the canopy and on the light box so that I could just slip the chain onto the hooks on either end. I just used wire cutters to cut through the loops. Also, for some strange reason, these loops (from Lowe’s) come two to a package, and each package has a bright brass loop and a dark brown loop. Since mine would be painted, I didn’t mind.
And on the back, I secured the loops with a lock washer and nut. Somehow I managed to lose my last shiny new nut, so on the top right loop I had to use an old rusted one that I pulled off of an old light in my garage. That’s why it looks so strange…and ugly. But it won’t show.
On the front of the canopy, I wood filled all of the cracks, sanded them smoothly, primed, painted, and then gold leafed the canopy to match the scalloped edge on the light box.
Most canopies are made of metal. Obviously mine was made of wood, and I didn’t want to just put it up against the junction box without protecting the back somehow. I considered cutting pieces of metal (something like flashing) and lining the back of the canopy with that. But instead, I opted to coat the entire thing with four coats of this liquid electrical tape. It’s really thick and stinks to high heaven, but it’s actually electrical tape in liquid form, so I figured that once my four thick coats of liquid electrical tape dried, the back of my canopy would be perfectly safe.
Now here’s where things get a little tricky and possibly very confusing. Normally at this point, I would wire up the entire light fixture — a wire coming from each light socket, and all four of those wires connecting to one wire that would be fed up through one of the chains, through the canopy, and into the ceiling junction box, where it would be connected to the house wiring.
The problem was that in order to wire up the entire light first, and then hang the light in the normal way, I would need an extra set of hands to be there to hold the light up while I connected the wires in the junction box, before I could attach the canopy. Well, I didn’t feel like calling in reinforcements. I wanted to figure it out myself. So in order to make this a one-person job, I wired everything in the complete opposite order that it’s generally wired.
That means that I started by cutting a long piece of wire and attaching the wire to the house wiring in the junction box, and then I fed the wire through one of the loops, and attached the canopy to the crossbar.
Next I hung the chains and wove the wire through the back left chain.
Then I hung the light box on the chains.
I determined about how long the wire coming from the ceiling needed to be, and cut off the excess. Then I cut four lengths of wire (one for each light socket) and I attached all of those wires together. I’m not going to go in depth on wiring. If you’re not familiar with wiring, then you really need to leave this part to someone else. But the basic process is that you wire all of your neutral wires (white or ribbed wires) together, and all of your hot (black or smooth) wires together using a wire nut and electrical tape.
I didn’t want my wire connections to be right against the wood crossbar on my light box, but unfortunately there’s no such thing as a tiny plastic junction box for things like this. So I kind of created my own junction box (or in this case, a junction tube) by cutting a piece of 1 1/4″ PVC plumbing pipe and threading all of the wires through the tube. My wires were secured and wrapped really well, but I still made sure that the neutrals were pointing the opposite direction from the hots as I put them into the tube. I secured my junction tube to the wood crossbar using a zip tie.
And then I ran one wire to each of the light sockets.
I threaded the wire through the opening in the hickey, and up through the hole in the light socket. Then the wires separated (neutral to one side, and hot to the other) and connected to the screws underneath the cardboard covers on each socket. The hot (black or smooth) wire goes to the gold screw, and the neutral (white or ribbed) wire goes to the silver screw. Just follow the directions on the back of the package that the light sockets come in.
And finally, I added the plastic sleeves (these aren’t optional, by the way) and the light bulbs.
Now like I said, I did things completely backwards simply because I didn’t have an extra set of hands to help me install a completely wired ceiling light. If you have an extra set of hands to help you, then you could wire it the normal way — start by wiring the light sockets, then connect those four wires to a main wire, feed that main wire up through the chain, and through the loop in the ceiling canopy. Then have someone hold the ceiling light while you connect the wires in the ceiling junction box, and then attach the canopy to the metal crossbar, and you’re done.
And once I added the glass to the bottom, it was finished! I tried to take a picture with the light on, but I still haven’t figured out how to do that. But at least you can see that the light does, in fact, work.
The light at its widest point is about 18″ x 18″.
The light is made so that the glass can be removed to change the light bulbs. But when I was on the ladder, I realized that it’s probably just as easy to reach over the top to change the light bulbs. In fact, since nothing has to be taken apart that way, and I won’t risk dropping and breaking the glass, it would be a lot easier. My kitchen light is actually made that way with non-removable glass where you have to reach over the top.
So that’s it! That’s my DIY ceiling light, made complete from scratch, and inspired by the Coleen & Company Daphne light. So how much did mine cost? Here’s the breakdown:
- One 8-foot length of casing moulding from Lowe’s: $27
- One 10-foot length of lattice from Home Depot: $8
- One 8-foot length of scalloped trim from Home Depot: $8.40
- Frosted glass from local glass shop (Freddy’s Glass): $38
- One package of 6-inch threaded nipples from Home Depot: $4.20
- Two packages of lighting loops from Lowe’s: $4
- Two 12-count packages of brass hex nuts from Home Depot: $6
- Two packages of candelabra keyless light sockets from Home Depot: $11.85
- Two packages of candelabra socket covers from Home Depot: $7.30
- Pre-packaged lighting wire from Home Depot: $7.35
- Swivel crossbar from Home Depot: $3.45
- 8 3/4-inch nipples and 4 hickeys from local lighting shop (The Village Lamplighter): $8.50
- Hot glue and wood glue: on hand
- Plywood and trim for canopy: on hand (scraps)
- PVC pipe from Home Depot: $1.90
- Two packages of screw hooks from Home Depot: $1.95
- Rectangular chain from Grand Brass: $106.95 (Yep, that was a splurge. Regular chain would have been about $20 from Home Depot.)
- GRAND TOTAL: $244.85
It wasn’t exactly a cheap light, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than $2800!! And if I had been satisfied with regular chain, that would have brought the price to less than $150. Either way, I don’t think it’s a bad price for a custom light!