Refinishing our kitchen table: Stripping the table top


I had heard great things about the product Strip-eeze, but our Home Depot doesn’t carry it. Instead, I bought the same orange can of stripper I bought last time. For those of you following along at home in hopes of repeating this process (really? maybe you should go back and read the first post in this series), at this stage I had available:

  • 1 can Klean-Strip gel stripper (orange can)
  • 1 pair gloves made out of stuff I hoped wouldn’t disintegrate when exposed to stripper
  • 1 metal paint pan
  • 1 paint brush for applying stripper
  • 1 metal-bladed putty knife
  • Sand paper, coarse and fine
  • 1 electric hand sander (the kind that let’s you cut rectangles of sandpaper to fit)
  • 1 can mineral spirits (used to rub down the furniture after it’s been stripped and sanded)
  • 1 tarp (to protect my work surface)
  • 3M Scotch-Brite abrasive pads

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Refinishing our kitchen table: Introduction

We have been very fortunate to have inherited a lot of great furniture from Chad’s mother over the years, including a solid oak table and chairs that Chad claims was “the only table I ever ate at [growing up]!” The table itself is well made but I once felt its style ran too far toward “country” with its spindly arrow back chairs. I saw great potential in the table itself, however, since its style matched the style of 70% of the tables being sold at Pottery Barn at the time with the unfortunate exception of a natural oak finish. The aforementioned on-trend tables were all painted some variation of distressed black, and I became obsessed with the idea of refinishing my farmhouse table and chairs.

Because of Chad’s attachment, I thought it best to wait until he was out of town for a conference to tackle this project. I still remember standing in the checkout line at Home Depot, beaming from ear to ear with a basket full of supplies. An older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder to ask me what kind of project I was undertaking, no doubt taking in the can of paint stripper and assorted refinishing supplies. I explained that I was refinishing my kitchen table, and he very kindly told me that he would recommend against the can of paint I’d picked out: a gloss black enamel. I thanked him for his advice and paid for my purchases, hoping he wouldn’t notice I wasn’t heeding his advice.

I spent the next five autumn evenings out on our apartment balcony, stripping, sanding, and priming the table. I diligently followed every step to the letter, pouring elbow grease and excitement into my project. I couldn’t wait to show the final result to my husband who, so awed by its beauty and my frugalness (ignoring the $100+ I spent on supplies), would finally agreed to get rid of any number of items he’d been thus far unwilling to part with. But when it finally came time to paint the primed table, I knew I was in trouble. The paint was gloppy, uneven, and … shiny. I had seriously underestimated the gloss level of gloss paint. I was so dismayed by the way the paint looked on the table top that I didn’t even bother to paint the primed table leaves or the table skirt. So for the past eight years, I’ve suffered a self-inflicted panda table whose presence could only be tolerated thanks to a series of tablecloths.

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I’ve never felt right about replacing the table since it was structurally sound. But I was too discouraged by the failure that resulted from my over-exuberance (and an unwillingness to listen to the guy who tried to warn me about my paint choice) to try again. It was once we moved into our new home with a highly visible breakfast area that I decided I wasn’t going to let fifty pounds of solid oak (and at least five pounds of drippy black enamel) defeat me.

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Hawaii / Disneyland 2012

Kilauea Volcano

Next to leisurely tours of wine-country, cruising is probably my second favorite form of vacationing. On the days at sea, everything is planned out for you: activities, food, and sleep (primarily defined by those periods when neither food nor activities are available). And with a toddler, the benefits of reliable, on-board childcare during dinnertime can’t be beat.

This year, Chad talked me into a 15-day cruise from San Diego to Hawaii, our longest voyage so far. We spent four days at sea followed by five days visiting Hilo, Maui, Honolulu, Kona, and Kauai. Another five days at sea with a brief stop in Ensenada, Mexico (no doubt required to offer Duty Free shopping) saw us returning to San Diego. Even though we only spent a total of five days in Hawaii, I think it was a great way to spend a first visit. We got to experience several different islands and will have a better idea of where we’d like to concentrate our time the next time we visit.

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