Learn How to Stain Like a Pro!

I’ve been dyeing to stain a piece of furniture for a while and I finally got to!*

Here’s how you can, too:

  1. Supplies: Figure out what color/s you want to stain your piece and head on over to your local hardware store** to pick up the following:


  • Some pre-stain (if you’re staining soft woods like pine)
  • Your stain/s
  • Some polyurethane finish
  • Turpentine ( for clean-up if you have an oil based stain)
  • Paint brushes (enough for pre-stain and each stain color you’ll be using – be sure to get brushes for oil based paints if you’re using oil based stain)
  • Sandpaper or a new sanding disc for your new disc sander***
  • Rags, if you’re fancy. Otherwise clean old t-shirts from that job you’re never going back to cut into rags work just as well.****
  • Painter’s tape if you’re using multiple stain colors.
  • Timer (we used our phones)
  • A stylin dust mask and pair of goggles if you’re prone to chocking on wood dust/getting splinters in your eyes like me or you can forego these if you enjoy living dangerously, like Nick:0102161210a

2. Once you have all your supplies, read the instructions on the back of all of your liquids to determine how long you’ll need to wait for things to dry/how many coats you’ll need to apply, etc. and determine:

  • What pieces are being stained
  • What color you want each piece to be

This is a good time to test your stains on a scrap piece of wood or the underside of one of your pieces if it won’t bother you. We used the underside of the lower shelf from the desk as our test piece:


I had originally wanted the trim and drawers on the desk to be a warmer sand tone, but as you can see, the “sand toned” stain I bought for the trim was more white than anything. Therefore I chose to forego staining the trim and drawers, leaving the pine elements natural. The dark stain, however, was exactly what I wanted for the rest, so we got to work!

3. Choose a well ventilated area and begin prepping your wood.^ You’ll begin by sanding all areas to be stained until smooth. We used Nick’s fancy new disc sander to sand all our outer surfaces and sandpaper to sand the harder to reach places.0102161210bOnce your pieces are sanded you’ll want to wipe them off with a dust cloth, to make sure you get rid of all wood dust before applying your liquids. Working as a team taking turns sanding/wiping makes this part go faster.

4. Apply your pre-stain to your clean smooth surface with a clean brush. Pre-stain helps condition soft woods, so they will absorb the stain evenly. Let it dry for the time indicated on the packaging before applying your stain, but be sure to apply the stain within the window indicated on packaging. Our pre-stain said to apply stain no later than two hours after application.


5. Once your pre-stain is dry you can begin the fun part – staining! Now ‘s the time to cover up any areas you DON’T want to stain with painter’s tape. Apply the stain with a clean brush using even strokes going with the grain and allow to sit for 5-15 minutes depending on how dark you want your piece to be (Not dark enough? Use your test piece to determine how many coats you’ll need to apply to achieve the color you want). Wipe the stain away using a clean cotton cloth going with the grain. Be careful when applying stain/wiping around any edges you don’t want to absorb stain. Your wood is like a sponge – don’t ruin it!                                               This part also went quickly since we were doing it as a team. Be sure not to let stain sit too long/too little before you wipe or you’ll have an uneven surface and you’ll have to spend more time trying to blend everything. Discard rags as they become saturated with stain and replace them with fresh rags as needed.


When staining raw edges, apply stain to edge first and then to surface or your edges will look uneven like this:


Also, watch out for unsightly drips when staining vertical surfaces!

When you’ve finished your staining and feel like everything is relatively even, you can pull off your painter’s tape. Voila!


6. Once your stain has dried for the time indicated on it’s packaging, you can begin the finishing process. Using a clean rag apply polyurethane finish to all surfaces (including those you chose not to stain, like the trim in this instance) and let dry. We applied three coats of finish to all of our surfaces with a light sanding between each coat before deciding it was ready for use.

7. Add hardware and you’re done!

Give yourself a pat on the back and start using your new piece of furniture!


*Please excuse the terrible pun.

**We love Blifferts!

***Projects like these are perfect excuses to buy new tools!

****The sleeves of said t-shirts also work great as babushkas to pin your dogs ears to their head if they happen to injure their ear and create blood splatters worthy of Dexter Morgan all over your bathroom walls.

^It being January, we used our basement. Not the best idea since our hallway smelled like fumes for about a week. Next time we’ll do it in the garage or when it’s warm enough to have windows open.


The Something Old, Something New, Somethings Borrowed and Something Blue Clock

A few months ago I stumbled upon Projectophile, thanks to a Facebook post made by Scott from King Crow Comics about his new chair which his wife, Clare*, the very funny and talented writer of Projectophile, had found in an alley and reupholstered.

I poked around her blog a bit and found this:img_3538-e1394679372153

Create Whimsical Wall Art Out of Dirty Old Hubcaps

My first thought was, Cool! My second thought was, I need a hubcap clock on my wall!

A week later I went out to The Chicago Diner for dinner with my band mates and found a perfectly shaped hubcap lying in the snow right where I had parked my car on California. So without hesitation, I popped my trunk open and threw it in. The hubcap clock was meant to be!

First order of business was to scrub it clean, rinse and then scrub again using an old toothbrush to get into all of those nooks and crannies. Like, Clare, I’m a renter, so I just threw it in the bathtub without a second thought and used a little Bon Ami to cut through the grime.

I cut off the zip tie and broke off unwanted pieces of plastic on the back of the hubcap at this point and then dried it (I used one of the towels we use to bathe the dogs to dry it off). Then I set it aside while I sketched out some possible color schemes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASqueaky clean hubcap, front and back. I wouldn’t eat off of it, but it’ll do!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy original plan was to turn it into a black and white straightedge clock with 12 x’s instead of numbers, but after a bit of consideration I decided against that since I don’t want my apartment to look like the home of some 23-year-old youth crew boy.

Nick and I have been working towards a joint aesthetic ever since our roommate moved out and we turned his old room into our hobby room. Nick tends to go for simple, clean, square lines and earth tones, while I like bright colors, high contrast, rounded edges and texture. It’s been tricky, but it’s been fun and I’m trying to keep these things in mind when it comes to home projects and ask for his input, so we’re both happy.

I roughed out some sketches using MS Paint and ran them by him and surprisingly he was into the teal clock, which was one of my favorites.clocksSo I went out to the burbs to buy some glossy teal spray paint once it was warm enough to work outside and I was lucky enough to find a glossy white spray paint in our hobby closet. I also stopped by Joann’s to get a clock kit for $4.

Tip: Don’t ever buy anything at full price at major hobby stores. They all offer coupons ranging from 10%-50% off individual items and/or entire purchases if you sign up for their e-mail lists. Use them wisely. This will require doing a little math (ewww math**), but it’s worth it!

Once I had my clock kit I was able to figure out how big the whole at the center of my clock had to be and I got to use Nick’s power drill to make the hole myself!***OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe do all of our spray painting on our back porch (pros of renting from a landlord who doesn’t care much about what we do). I started out by taping a sheet of paper up to our back window to keep it as paint free as possible and got to work.

If you decide to make one of your own, be sure to coat evenly and let the paint dry between coats so you don’t get runny paint lines.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile I waited for the hubcap to dry, I took the numbers and hands out of my clock kit and spray painted them white, because gold it my least favorite metallic color. Besides, I wanted the numbers and hands to pop against the background. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce those were done I went over the hubcap a few more times making sure all of the nooks and crannies had proper paint coverage.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen the clock pieces alternated between the dining room and the hobby room, while I tried to find the time to finish them and finally, I got to them this past week!

Before gluing my numbers onto the hubcap, they needed some touching up. This is were having a partner who’s main hobby is painting miniatures came in handy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI used his file to get rid of excess plastic and the finger-pointing looking thing to scrape off excess paint.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI did all the numbers since I wasn’t sure whether I was going to use all of them or just some. After filing and scraping I touched them up using some white acrylic paint Nick had in his stash.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a quick lesson in proper painting technique when using a good brush I was good to go.

For those who are curious, here are the key things to remember when using fancy paint brushes:

  • Dip your brush in water in between each paint application and water your paint down a bit before you use it.
  • Use a paper towel to wipe excess water off before dipping in paint again.
  • Hold your brush like a pencil for better control.
  • Don’t let paint get on the metal part of the brush.
  • Don’t ever leave your brush standing in the jar of water or your bristles will get splayed out ruining the brush.
  • If you must leave your brush, rinse it and lay it down on the paper towel before leaving.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce my numbers were dry I learned how to use CA glue.

After playing around with the numbers for a bit, I decided to divide my clock in quarters since space was tight and then I laid my numbers down.

Once the glue was dry I added the clock mechanism and hands, a AA battery, set the time and voila! I now have a functioning clock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s the greater picture. Please ignore the mess and chipped paint – our built-in needs some major work.

Nick thinks the wall behind the clock should be painted white. I’m on the fence. What do you think?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

* Thanks for the idea and the photo, Clare!

**Math is cool, I just have a love/hate relationship with fractions and percentages.

*** Woohoo, power tools!