If you read my “about me” section, you already know I enjoy working with furniture. Building, painting, staining, distressing… really everything, with the exception of stripping. I detest the furniture stripping process with every fiber of my being, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil. That’s actually what this post is about.
I’ve dabbled in this hobby for a few years now, but it took me some time to work up the courage to actually strip a piece down to bare wood. Why did I dance around it so long? Intimidation. And rightfully so… there’s a reason there are a ton of youtube videos and step by step guides on the stripping process. It’s not always easy! However, in true Jessie fashion, I got sick of being such a wuss and I decided to jump in, head first.
It all began in early May. The city we live in has great city-wide garage sales once a month in the summer, and let me tell you, it is a BIG DEAL! I’ve been lusting after new furniture ever since we moved from our apartment to our house, but unfortunately, our budget just wasn’t quite big enough.
Rather than continuing to want something I couldn’t have, I decided it was time to change my perspective. When we pick out furniture, aren’t we trying to find something that reflects our personality? Something that is an extension of our individuality, right? If that’s the case, why would I want brand new, manufactured furniture? Anybody else could go out and buy the same pieces I picked out….. what does that say about my individuality? Isn’t it better to have furniture that tells a story? I decided it was.
After consulting some of my thrifty friends for their top garage-sale success tips, I set out with a plan. I didn’t get a ton of stuff, but I did score a really sweet narrow console table for $10. I think it was a steal… some of you bargainers might not, please don’t rain on my parade! Isn’t she gorgeous?
Ok, so maybe not so much. The doors didn't shut, she was wobbly, and the color scheme was less than ideal. But I had a vision for her! Strip her down, paint her up, and switch her knobs (did I leave out any other horrible innuendos?) and she would be perfect in my home! Tots and I went out and bought a detail sander, some cheap stripper (I don’t remember what the brand was, just that I bought it at Menards), and black gel stain.
The next day, I started sanding. This wouldn’t take too long, right? Wrong. Good thing I bought the chemical stripper, right? Sort of. Again, I jumped right in. I can be a pretty impulsive person, if I get an idea in my head, I typically just go for it without slowing down… luckily I had some gloves on hand, or else I would be typing this with chemically burned fingers.
I sprayed the stripper all over the top of the table and anxiously waited the 15 minutes, as directed on the can. Ok… so maybe not the whole 15 minutes. Again, I’m pretty impulsive and I tend to be a bit impatient, too. I waited almost 15 minutes, and then took my plastic scraper to the bubbly, gooey mess.
Much to my dismay, it didn’t really take that much off. After scraping and scrubbing, I still had a nasty, stubborn layer of varnish. I sprayed it down again, and this time decided to wait the entire 15 minutes. I had to distract myself… I went inside, made a cup of coffee, checked Facebook, and came back outside to find (once again) a nasty, bubbly mess. After scraping it down again, and repeating this process once more, I have up on the idea of using chemical stripper. Maybe enough varnish was gone, and it would be easy to sand it down to bare wood, I hoped.
I let the table sit for a WEEK so the goopy varnish could harden, and then I sanded it down. After hours with a sander (and countless clogged sanding sheets), I realized that I wasn’t going to get this piece down to bare wood. I would have been pretty disappointed about it, had I not already been beyond tired and frustrated, with my right hand numb and tingly from hours with the sander.
I searched the web and found some great step-by-step directions for painting finished wood. I went out, bought myself some Rustoleum primer and flat black spray paint, and didn’t look back. After 2 days of painting and 4 new knobs, my piece was ready to find her place in my home.
Did I mention that Rustoleum makes a no sanding/no stripping primer? No? Well they do! If you’re planning to paint a piece of furniture rather than staining or varnishing, I would say go out and buy yourself a few cans of that primer. I promise you won’t regret it! There are tons of great blogs you can check out, if you’re a little nervous about the process. For this project, I referred to this post from I create… with love (which I found on Pinterest, of course). Although I didn’t use the product she recommended, it gave me a good general idea of what I was doing.
*It took me a few months and a new project that was (is) very special to me before I was finally ready to revisit the whole stripping racket again, and I’m happy to say it’s going much better this time around. I’m still working on this new piece, but my goal is to have it in my house and ready for use before Christmas, so hopefully that blog post isn’t too far off.*
The moral of this story? Avoid stripping at all cost. Just kidding. But seriously, if you’re going to paint a piece, you don’t need to strip it.