July 27, 2011

#52- I Sanded, Stained and Polyed a Couch (Part 3)

The great couch build of 2011 continues!  On Day 1 I built the first piece just to get my feet wet, (who came up with that saying by the way, sort of gross), and on Day 2 I cut and put together 4 more pieces.  The morning of Day 3 I was jumping at the bit to finish up the final piece, so I brought Ry out in the Screened in Porch with me and put together the last piece while sipping my morning cup gallon of coffee and while Ry played with his toy tools.  Once again, I was so pumped to move on to the next step that I forgot to snap a photo of my completed piece, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

The next step was to sand down each piece with my power sander.  For this project I bought "quality" pine at $1.87 an 8' length,  which is better than "standard" which is usually full of big knots, warped or bent, but not as good as "select" which is usually clear without any knots.  The difference between "quality" and "select" for this project would have been over $100 (133% more than I already spent), and since I knew I was going to finish it really dark, (more on the finish in a minute) I thought I could get away with the cheaper wood. The thing with cheap wood is that there is great wood there underneath it, you just have to work for it.

The real muscle comes when trying to take out any of the stamps, UPCs, writing or color coding on the wood.  Seriously, there has got to be a better way to label these guys.  Like the rest of this project, it really wasn't hard.  In fact, it was dumb work- run the sander over the wood until it is smooth.  It was just long and messy.  Once they were all smooth and clear, I blew the sawdust off and wiped down each piece carefully with tacky cloth.

For the finish, I've been dying to use India Ink again ever since I tried it on our "new" kitchen table. India Ink is a jet black ink that you can purchase in art stores, and has a really thin, watery consistency.  It is by far the easiest finish that I have ever used because:
A. It goes on in one coat, and immediately gets your wood the darkest shade of black possible while still showing through the wood grain.  (Just don't be afraid to apply liberally and let the ink soak in.)

B. Its not sticky so you don't have to worry about saw dust, bugs or debris in the air. It goes on just like water. 
C. There's no problems with brush strokes or uneven color.
D. It dries to the touch really quickly so that you can move onto the poly faster. 

While sadly I can't use it for everything, in this case you look right through our black accented Kitchen into the Screened in Porch, so it definitely works with the space around it. Plus, my inspiration photo from West Elm is dark brown, if not black:

Sold!  India Ink it is, and it couldn't have come at a better project. With 6 pieces there was a ton of surface area to cover, plus with all the boards and gaps between them, this project would have been a nightmare to stain evenly or to paint without drips and brush strokes.  

I flipped my pieces upside down first to get the undersides fully covered, and within 10 minutes they were dry to the touch enough to flip them to the other side.  The best part?  All 6 pieces needed just one $14 bottle of India Ink.  So far this 6 piece sectional has cost just $81.

Next it was time to move on to the polyurethane, my least favorite step, ever.  Why?  Because nothing has the potential to ruin an almost completed project as easily as poly.  It can drip, it can get saw dust in it, and it can ruin all the hard work you've put into that point.  Since you have to apply many, thin and even coats of poly with a brush, I had plenty of time to think while applying 4 coats to all 6 pieces. So from the crazed mind of an over worked DIYer, I give you my

Top 10 Tips for Applying Polyurethane:
1. Stir the can, don’t shake it.  And don't just stir, scoop and pull up the poly from the bottom of the can to the top, which will make sure that the additives that make the poly matte or gloss mix evenly throughout the can.

2. Use a matte finish on beautiful stained wood project, but painted or india ink pieces call for a semi-gloss (or high gloss if you are feeling sassy) to give the finish more depth and interest.

3. Use a water based poly because it washes with water, doesn't have the yellowing effect of an oil base, and you can use it inside so you don't have to worry about bugs or particles in the outside air sticking to your piece.   

4. Apply thin, even coats, but not too thin.  Too thin can leave brush strokes on your project, so apply for a smooth, even finish.

5. Make sure your piece is 100% how you want it before you apply poly.  You can't touch up any stain or paint underneath once it's applied, and poly only makes a mistake look worse.

6. Do not go back over poly after it has been applied, even just 30 seconds later.  Once poly begins to dry, rubbing a wet brush back over that surface will cause brush stokes. 

7. Apply the poly with the grain and the full length of your board/piece.  If you stop or start applying anywhere in the middle of the board you will regret it. 

8. Try to apply in an environment that is above 40 degrees, or below 80.  Do not be an dummy like me and apply when it is 91 degrees and incredibly humid outside.  The poly begins to dry so fast that it’s really tough to make sure you don’t have any brush marks.

9. Unlike staining, I never recommend flipping your piece upside down to poly the underside.  Poly can drip, and there is nothing worse than flipping over your project to discover ugly thick drips on the most visable portion of your piece.  It may take a little yoga positioning to get in the tricky spots underneath, but it’s totally worth it for a clean finish on top.

10. Sand your full piece lightly with between coat sandpaper (220 grit or higher) really lightly before applying a second coat.  This is not just to remove any specs or dust from the first coat, but because poly doesn’t stick very well to itself, and roughing up the edges helps it adhere better.  This will help you avoid any pealing or scratching down the road.  And don’t worry, sanding will cloud up your finish, but I promise it will turn crystal clean again once you apply the next coat.  

The added benefit of poly on an india ink piece, is it takes the dull, almost matte finish of the india ink, and almost immediately makes the finish look deep and shiny.  Just look at the difference in these two pieces. 
The only thing different about these guys is that the one in back has 1 coat of poly on it.
So there it is, so far I cut, I built, I sanded and I stained.  Next (tomorrow) comes the scary part- I sewed.  

1 comment:

  1. I want to India Ink something so bad!