I finally got all of my the crown moulding installed in the dining room and entryway, but let me tell you, it was one of the most infuriating projects I’ve ever done. There were temper tantrums, tears and lots of yelling. But it’s installed. It’s not pretty at all (not yet, at least), but at least the entire perimeter of the room has crown moulding on it.
I wanted to do the crown moulding in this room the same way that I did the crown in the bathroom, with the 1″ MDF boards around the perimeter of the ceiling, and then the crown moulding installed against that wood.
In the bathroom, I use 1″ x 6″ MDF boards, but I wanted to use 1″ x 8″ in the front rooms for a slightly larger reveal since it was going in a much bigger room.
That part went smoothly for the most part. I installed it with construction adhesive (Loctite) and 16-gauge finishing nails. My corners weren’t perfect because my none of my rooms have perfect 90-degree-angle corners, but I never bother to measure angles before cutting. I just cut everything at 45-degrees and hope for the best. That’s what wood filler and caulk are for, right?
Then I was ready to cut the crown moulding. I don’t know if you remember, but when I cut the crown for the music room, everything went perfectly. If I remember correctly, I had that crown cut and installed in about an hour.
I couldn’t believe it! I used my Kreg Crown Pro* crown moulding jig, and things couldn’t have gone any smoother. Yes, I still had tiny gaps, because again, I never measure the exact angle of my corners, and it’s doubtful that any corners in my house are perfect 90-degree angles. You can measure your exact angles to get more precise cuts, but I don’t mind the small cracks because they’re easily filled with caulk.
So when it came time to install the crown in the front rooms, I expected the same quick and easy process. I felt like I had really found my groove when working with and installing crown moulding, so things should go pretty smoothly, right?
First of all, I remember someone commenting on my music room crown moulding post about how you should always cope your inside angles because that’s the correct way to install crown, and it’s far superior to my way of cutting both pieces at an angle using the Kreg Crown Pro, and it’s really pretty easy. I thought, “Well, if it’s the correct way, I want to learn. I’ll give it a try.” So I bought myself a coping saw from Home Depot.
Using a coping saw is easy?!? Lies. All lies. Seriously, I tried and tried and tried to get that stupid saw to cut through the crown moulding (I’m using finger joint pine crown, not MDF), and it was the most infuriating thing I’ve ever tried. It just kind of chewed up the wood, rather than cutting it smoothly. So I dismissed that idea pretty quickly.
And for the record, I’ve never had an issue with my crown expanding and contracting to the point where my caulk cracks and leaves gaps in the corners where I have both pieces cut at 45-degree angles. So I decided to stick with the method that actually works for me, and cut everything using my Kreg Crown Pro.
But on this particular day, even that method wasn’t working for me. I cut my pieces for my inside corner, and I swear to you, I was left with a gap of more than a half inch!
I’m okay with small gaps that can be filled with caulk, but this was far beyond ANYTHING that caulk could fix!
I was so frustrated, but I thought maybe I just had my saw set on the wrong angle. I’ve had that happen before, where I thought it was set on 45-degrees, and instead it was set on 40-degrees or something like that.
So I checked. It was set on 45-degrees. That wasn’t the problem.
So I decided to actually check the angle of my corner, which is the proper way to use a Kreg Crown Pro, but it’s a step I almost always skip. The angle was 89 degrees. Just as I had suspected, it wasn’t a perfect 90-degree angle, but it certainly wasn’t off enough to account for a more-than-half-inch gap like that!
I decided to just move on. I’m pretty good at fixing bad mistakes like that, and even though it’s way more than caulk can fix, I could fix it using other methods, like cutting angled wedges to glue into the gaps before wood filling, sanding, and caulking.
It still wasn’t pretty, but I’ve had enough experience fixing my own major screw ups that I know it’ll look just fine when it’s all finished.
So I decided that it must have just been a fluke of a mistake that caused it, and just move on to the next one.
But the same thing happened.
Y’all, by this time, I was almost in tears. I couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on! Why was the music room so easy for me, and yet I couldn’t even get one corner in this room right?! I checked my saw again, checked the angle of the corner again, and nothing was making sense. I thought perhaps I had accidentally purchased a different crown moulding this time, with a different spring angle than the last, so I measured the spring angle. It was the exact same as the music room. I tried making some small adjustments to the saw, but nothing I did helped, and in fact, everything I did made it worse.
I can’t even express to you how discouraged I was. I thought I had the crown moulding thing figured out, and here I was doing everything I knew to do, and I couldn’t even get one corner to look halfway decent. I got online, watched the video on how to use the Kreg Crown Pro again to see if I had missed something. Nope. I was doing everything right, and yet it wasn’t working.
I tried a third corner. Same thing. More discouragement. More frustration. And this time, just pure anger. I wanted to throw my nail gun through a window so badly.
After yelling to Matt at the top of my lungs, “I’M NEVER DOING CROWN MOULDING AGAIN!!! NEVERRRRR!!!!” I went into the bedroom and threw myself on the bed for a good cry and a good, old-fashioned temper tantrum.
About 30 minutes later, it dawned on me that when I was getting my saw and everything ready to cut the crown moulding, I accidentally pushed my Kreg Crown Pro jig off of my work table and onto the concrete garage floor not once, but twice. And the second time, it hit my pile of scrap lumber on the way down. When it fell, the settings must have gotten jarred!
So I headed out to the garage to check the actual jig, and sure enough, the spring angle on the Kreg Crown Pro was set to 45-degrees. The spring angle on my crown moulding was 38 degrees. UGH!!! I couldn’t believe that I had checked everything else, but it never dawned on me until that moment (and after cutting three of the corners for the room, and after lots of tears and frustration) to check the actual settings on the Kreg jig. I just took for granted that it was all set up as it should be since I had used it for the music room, and I was using the exact same crown moulding for these rooms.
I set it to the correct 38-degree spring angle, and sure enough, things fit together as they should (or as good as they ever will for someone who refuses to measure the actual angles of the corners of her rooms).
Let’s just say that this was a huge lesson learned for me. Contrary to what I yelled at Matt at the height of my frustration, I will continue to do my own crown moulding. But from here on out, I will check every single setting on my saw AND on my Kreg Crown Pro before I get started cutting and installing crown moulding in any other room of my house. It’s amazing how well tools work when they’re actually set properly.
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