Friday, August 19, 2011

Long Black Library Table

Do not fall in love with what I am about to show you--because it didn't survive very long.

I decided that sometimes it's best to learn from others' successes as well as their failures, so in an attempt to be completely honest I am going to show you a failed project.  Pretty, yes, but failed.

Let me introduce to you, the failed table.  It looks like a bench, but the way that the legs and top are attached does not provide the stability that you really need in a bench.  Thus, a long coffee table thing is what I call it.  This is the picture of the "final" finish...before I did it over again.  Looks great, huh?

So here's the story, morning glory.  A few weeks back, I painted up a bookcase using a wax-resist technique that I thought of, and it worked out really nicely.  So I thought I would just do the same thing with this table, allowing some of the natural wood finish to show through in a rough pattern.

And it worked...kind of.

I started with the table looking like this:

"See my lovely legs!"

I bought this table from two sisters who were selling their parents things when they went into assisted living.  So I know a little history--it was previously a library table, but was shortened at some point in order to be a coffee table for them.  And according to them, their father waxed it once a week.  Once a week!!  That's crazy.  So I knew ahead of time that sanding would be in order.  I don't care what primer you use, wax is not a good bonding agent.  So I went to work with some large grit sand paper, and *thought* I got most of it off. 

Next was the fun, inventive part that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Introducing: Becky's wax resist method (Version 1.0)

First, you must have down on the piece whatever finish you want to show through in the end, just like using a crayon resist or something similar.  I chose to have the natural wood showing, so I did the resist directly on the sanded piece.

First, get yourself a lighter, a large candle that will burn for a while, a small tea light, a stencil of some sort, tape, a pencil, and a measuring stick.

First, figure out your pattern.  I found the super handy plastic stencils at Wally world, in the crafts section.  I tried finding large wall stencils at the hardware store but apparently they have been nudged out of popularity by vinyl decals.  Whatever.
I love my stencils.

You can also just find a graphic online, print it on some cardstock and then cut it out with an exacto-knife.  I have done that, as well.

So I made a pattern using the damask stencil in the upper right hand corner of the picture.  I laid out four of them in a square, creating one large damask pattern, and the put a few dots here and there to complete the look. 

Measure out your surface so you know where to put your stencil--find center lines, etc... whatever you need to get a good even layout.  Then, get ready for some fun.

Place your stencil and tape so that it doesn't slide around while you're working with it.  Make sure that you're using a painters tape or something that won't pull up paint--I would not recommend duct tape!

Next, light the big candle.  Remove the tea candle from the metal "cup" it comes in, and hold the tea candle above the lit candle just until it softenes up and starts to melt.  Quickly rub the softened part in your stencil, creating a resist within your stencil boundaries.  Keep doing that until you get all your stenciling done!  I did try doing this without heating the wax, and it tends to crumble instead of attach to the bottom surface.  It worked, I just find that this is a little better.
I then primed the piece with Zinsser (c) Quick Prime.  I have had good luck with their product.  I did tint the primer grey so that when I painted the bench black it would be a little less contrasty.  

 Here it is, all primed.  Paint right on top of the wax.

Sorry, it's kind of hard to see, but you get the idea.

Next, I painted two coats of black on top of the primer.  

Now, to remove the wax on the bookcase that I did, I was thinking I would sand it, but that didn't really do it.  Scraping didn't either.  So I ended up taking a clean cloth and an iron, heating the wax with the iron through the cloth, and the wax would loosen the paint, causing it to stick to the fabric.  Magic, you get a really interesting, unpredictable texture that looks great but is actually perfectly flat.

Unfortunately for me, it did not work the same way on this project.  What I failed to realize was that on the bookcase, I had used a very watery wash of paint, which means there there is much less binder in the paint (think of binder as the glue in the paint that keeps it on your walls).  Since there was very little binder, I could remove little bits of the paint in certain places, and the rest of the paint would stay put.

With this project, I did not water down the paint, and the binder was strong enough that when I went to iron off the wax, the whole layer of paint around the waxed area wanted to peel up.  

I was frustrated.

But then I thought "What if I scrape it?  Since this layer of wax is much thicker than the one on the bookcase, it might work"

And that is how I ended up where I ended up.  I took a painter's trowel (the little ones for artists) and gently scraped at each area until most of the wax was off.  Then I ironed as carefully as I could to get as much as possible off.
Well, it looks like it worked.  It looks neat and old and chippy.  But in fact I could never get the surface flat, and I could not get all the wax off without peeling huge sections of paint off.  So I ended up, after a few days of not being able to get it off my mind, scraping the whole thing off, sanding it down, re-priming and painting, and then using the stencils and a light metallic spray paint to add on some detail.  In the end, it worked out.  But I still want to try it again.  If I do, I will write a post on it.

Becky's Wax Resist Method (Version 2.0):  Water down your paint.
EDIT:  Here is a picture of the second finish:

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