I was able to get rid of the pool table about six weeks ago. It was great to be rid of that constant reminder of wasted money, but it left a space to fill in the dining room area. (I have an open floor plan so it’s more an “area” than a room.)
At first I thought it’d be fun to go table shopping. I was excited to see what was out there and to find a table I loved. Cut to two weeks into the process, and I was burned out.
The trouble with tables
I’d visited something like eight furniture stores, and the only tables that I liked were $900+. I even found a gorgeous table I loved at a consignment store (that delivered!) and… It was Thomasville so it was $899 used. After sales tax and delivery, it would have been just over $1,050.
So it turns out I have expensive taste in furniture. Noted. In general, I don’t have problems spending on quality if I have the money, but the problem is that the table was only going to be used for game nights (and probably mail storage). So there was no way I could rationalize paying $900 (or more) for it.
There were more frugal options on Amazon. But. I didn’t want to buy something sight unseen.
The other concern was that the box would weigh around 170 lbs. So if the delivery guy didn’t want to help me get the box in the house, I’d be seriously screwed. I could call my friend Leila, but it’s iffy whether the two of us could handle about 85 lbs each.
Plus I didn’t particularly want to put a table together myself. I’m not bad at assembly but if it turned out even a little bit wobbly, I’d be upset at myself for years to come.
So I’d just about given up and was disheartedly taking a break from my search.
Then one day I was driving through my neighborhood and passed four nice looking chairs that had been put out for dump day. (That’s one of the four days a year when the city of Phoenix will pick up your curbside items and take them to the dump for free.)
I didn’t think much of it until, less than 30 minutes later, the guest house tenants asked if I wanted their kitchen table when they moved out.
I decided the universe was telling me to go the frugal route to a new table. So I told them yes then went and got the chairs.
It took four trips, but it was worth it. They admittedly have some splits in the legs but are still very sturdy.
Alas, they were also rough in spots. Many, many spots, actually. I think perhaps someone had started to strip the chairs and gave up halfway through because the lacquer was gone in some areas but not others. It was weird, but the price was right!
Besides, I’ve never had a problem sanding.
The problem was the multitude of decorative bumps in the spindles of the backrests. (What are those called, anyway?) The chairs’ legs weren’t a lot better. Most of the bumps needed sanding down at the top, middle or bottom — or all three. The fine motor work involved in that took a lot longer than roughing up a flat surface, as it turns out. Much longer.
Based on how many TV episodes I went through, I’d estimate I spent about five hours sanding.
But finally they were sanded to my satisfaction, if probably not immaculately, and it was time to paint!
Getting the supplies
I decided to go two-tone (black and something else) because, well, that’s my go-to look generally. I like the contrast.
It didn’t take me long to settle on the non-black color. Last year I picked up a lovely red-purple paint from the Oops section at Home Depot. I was thinking of doing an accent wall in my bedroom, and it was a great shade, plus it was only $6. (Even after this project, I still have plenty of paint left if I want to do the accent wall. Which is why I’m not counting this paint as part of the cost of the table.)
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my black paint anywhere. So I had to run to Home Depot for that and it cost a painful $16. Which is still less than the sealant and sealant brush cost ($26, gah!). Plus I’d purchased some wood filler (for the most egregious of the dings in the table) and a $5 sanding block (for all those blasted spindles).
All in all, I spent just over $52. Still, compared to what a new table would have cost — even the cheap end would have been more than $500 after delivery — I’m calling this table “almost free.”
Oh, that’s right: I hate projects!
At any rate, once I had the black, I started painting. Which started out well. But I quickly remembered that every time I do a project, I swear it’s the last time because it always turns out to be far more complicated than I thought.
Those damned spindles were once again the bane of my existence. The decorative bumps (seriously, what are those called?) created all sorts of nooks and crannies. So I kept finding places I’d missed. Or I’d find places where the wood was still showing through the black and needed another coat.
It doesn’t help that the lighting in the house isn’t great. So in the end I was going around with a flashlight (sometimes on my hands and knees) to make sure I could find all of the spots where the wood was still showing.
The table was a lot easier to paint, but even that gave me fits. See, I was nearly finished when I found a hair that had gotten dried into the paint on the table. Argh! So I sanded down the paint to get at it. Only to find that the “hair” was actually just a curly scratch in the table. So I’d sanded and messed up the paint for nothing. Double argh!
I also painted the table with the leaves up. Then I realized that when the leaves were down, there would be bare wood, so I needed to paint the hinged area. But putting down the leaves to get at said-hinged area meant tearing paint apart, creating uneven spots. So I had to sand and repaint those areas. Imperfectly, of course. Sigh.
Oh, and the sealant!
First of all, the sealant brush was too big for the delicate spindle work. I tried my best anyway, but in the end, there were spots where the sealant glopped and dried milky instead of clear. So there were just milky white beads in several spots. I had to go over them with paint to cover them up.
And the sealant brush, despite being ten-friggin-dollars, still shed some bristles, which I didn’t notice until the sealant was mostly dry. I was able to pry them out, but it left a mark in the sealant that I had to go back over with more sealant.
Then there was the finish itself. I bought some satin polyurethane, which created a lovely soft finish… for most of it. I painted the table leaves separately (so they wouldn’t dry glued together with the rest of the table — I do learn my lesson… sometimes), and the leaves came out glossy.
Maybe because I’d rinsed the brush and it was still slightly damp when I did the leaves? But I let the brush dry overnight, stirred the can before using again, and everything still came out glossy.
In the end, I had to redo the middle part of the table so that at least it would all be glossy together when people came over for game night.
I emailed the company that makes the product. The representative apologized for my bad experience, asked for the batch number and has offered a refund. Though I’m not sure I still have the receipt. Maybe they’ll just base it on MSRP? That would at least bring the cost of the table down to $36. That’d be something.
But in the end…
The good news is that, despite a multitude of small imperfections, the set looks good at the macro level. And really, no one’s going to be inspecting the dining set carefully enough to notice most of what I’ve described. In fact, I got compliments on the table at game night.
And now what you’ve all been waiting for: pictures!
All in all, I’m calling this a win. But I’ve once again pledged never to take on a project like this again. Which I’ll forget by the next time one comes around.
Have you guys tried any projects lately?