Going Blonde

No, I'm not bleaching my hair. (Though the "natural highlights" I've been rapidly acquiring as I age do seem to be pointing me into the blonde arena.)

This one's all about the table. 

Remember this guy?

After giving you guys the run-down of what was on my crafty to-do list, I couldn't wait another second to get started on the table. And folks, it's a job. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, but it's not for the faint-hearted. 

I started off with my new Skil power sander and 60 grit sand paper (all purchased with the help of an incredibly nice salesman at Lowe's).

After a few runs over the table, I realized that the sandpaper was taking off the stain very quickly in a few spots with very little change in other spots. 

The culprit? The varnish. In some spots, it had been worn away from weather or damage, and I was already down to the bare wood. But in other spots, where the varnish was still there, the sanding was taking forever. 

I was a little concerned about the possibility of uneven sanding leaving me with divets or dips in the surface of the table. So I headed back out to Lowe's to get some chemical stripper. I had decided against chemical stripper initially for two reasons. First, I had to refinish the table inside, and I didn't want to suffocate from the fumes. And second, most of the stripping I'd read about was stripping paint, not stain. I knew that even if I used a stripper, I would still have to sand since stain gets deeper into the wood. So I figured, why do both?

But once I saw the little unevenness problem, I thought a stripper was probably necessary or at least a big time-saver. I went with the most eco-friendly one I could find, knowing that it likely wouldn't do as good a job as the ones that would stink me out of the house. I settled on Citristrip's Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel. 

After slathering it on according to the directions and tapping my toes for the requisite time period for it to do its thing, I scraped it all off.

Notice the area here where the sanding had already gotten down to the wood as compared to the rest of the surface, where the stripper is eating at the varnish.
Boy, what a satisfying feeling!

No more shine from the varnish!
Getting rid of all the varnish took time and some muscle. Working on the legs was the hardest part. I did two rounds of it and went over everything with a steel wire brush and some mineral spirits to get any residue off. 

Stripping removed all of the varnish, and then it was time for me to do some more sanding to get down through the stain to the bare wood. Because the stripper had already done much of the work for me, the sanding went much more quickly the second time around, leaving me with lovely blonde wood - probably pine. I was able to sand down the top of the table in a couple of hours.

Of course, there's a lot of work still to go. I've begun on the legs, but they're trickier. 

Thank goodness my Skil power sander has lots of attachments for hard-to-reach places. (Have I mentioned how delighted I am to own a power tool?)

And I'm only part way through the sanding - I'll still have to go over everything with the finer grit sandpaper. Even so, some of those trouble spots are looking better already.

Remember this lovely carving?

Well, look at it now. 

I think after another round or two of sanding with increasingly finer grit, that sucker'll be smooth. 

Once the whole thing is sanded down, it'll be time to do the really exciting part - picking a stain color! But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

There's sanding to be done.