With curtains up, a functional dining room is in my sights! The main step to making the room functional is to re-finish the dining room table. Our DIY live/living/natural edge (I’ve heard it called all 3) is one of my treasures. It has the blood, sweat, and tears of most of my family in it’s making (here’s more on how this idea materialized). Unfortunately, the company I hired to dry the slab I bought as “green” (freshly cut), didn’t really dry it. When wood is freshly cut, it is full of moisture. It needs to be dried to become stable, meaning it won’t warp or crack on you. In Austin, that means it needs to be dried to around 10-14% to keep from ruining your hard, backbreaking work.
I don’t have a moisture reader, but I can assure you that my slab was not dried to this point as it was obvious when we cut the ends straight and began sanding. We ended up letting it sit before working on it to let it continue to try, but evidently we didn’t let it sit long enough because a year after finishing it, it was hardly usable with the curling and cracking.
Since I found myself re-finishing it, I thought I’d share more details on how we finished the table since they were missed in my original post. This project was done pre-blog and I knew I would be re-doing these finishing steps down the road.
Step 0: What you don’t see here is how I removed the bark with everything from my fingers to a flathead screwdriver and chisel to an orbital sander since I did it the first go-round. We originally worked on the slab on table saws, but now have custom legs installed.
Step 1: Plaining & flattening.
Unfortunately I ended up without any photos of this step, mostly because my father stepped up and took over this part for me. The edges of the table had curled and he used a planer to bring down those edges in a hurry since it would have taken forever to sand. Unfortunately, this meant loosing some of the thickness, but it’s what we had to do to salvage the table. After planing, he used a belt sander to blend everything together. I then used an orbital sander (the ones that look like irons) to smooth out further. Back inside, the table looked like this (same as you saw it in the dining room curtains post):
Step 2: Fill Cracks & Holes
This is one of the more difficult steps in my opinion. Since large slabs of wood have large imperfections, you need something to fill them in to create a flat space, otherwise there will be deep spaces you can never clean. Our table had an especially deep, dark hole that needed to be re-filled after the settling. For this, we used Parks Super Glaze. It’s a 2-park Epoxy that dries clear. There are also black versions, but I liked the “window into the wood” effect of the clear.
I used a super-high-tech left-over plastic knife of spread the Super Glaze into the cracks. Some had pathways all the way through the slab even though you can’t see through. I found this out the first time when we had this in a workshop, so I knew to put folded boxes under neigh indoors. Once you find these, take some clear packing tape and do your best to stop the leak so that the Super Glaze has a chance to harden and fill the holes so you can fill the cracks on top.
I did this 3 nights in a row before all cracks were adequately filled since the Super Glaze will find it’s way into places you can’t see and leave spots that need touch-up.
Step 3: Sand, sand, sand until you can sand no more
Again I’m missing a few pictures here because I started out with a high-powered 6″ sander to flatten the Super Glaze down to where it was level with the wood. It cures into a very hard, clear mess that needs to be blended in for a beautiful finish. After getting the high points settled, I used a belt sander to flatten the areas some more. Once everything was pretty flat, I used an orbital sander to smooth out everything else. I started with 80 grit (pretty darn rough) because there were a few Super Glaze spots I wanted to go back over, then I worked my way up to 160 grit.
Step 4: Sanding Sealer
I didn’t use this the first go-around because a) I didn’t know about it and b) it wasn’t in the house where it could potentially have a sippy cup or other messy item set on it before I got the final coats on. The best part of this step is that it brings out the character of the wood so you can really see where you’re headed. As per the directions, I brushed this on with the grain. This also helps with the next step.
Step 5: More sanding!
Just when you hope you’ll never have to look at a piece of sand paper again, you need to sand some more. This step takes the wood from a rough-ish texture from the 160-grit orbital sander finish to what you’d expect from a high-dollar piece of furniture. I used 220-grit this time, first on a block sander, then just folded into quarters in my hand to get into any little crannies where things weren’t perfectly flat (and on the edges). When you finish sanding, you need to remove the dust. A dry cloth and a vacuums cleaner can do the trick.
Step 6: Polyurethane
Finally, the protective coat. Usually, I prefer to brush on a few thick layers of Polyurethane, lightly hand-sanding in-between, followed by a finish coat of sprayed-on Polyurethane. Since this table weighs hundreds of pounds, we opted to only brush on the Poly since moving it in and out of the door ourselves is risky (to ourselves and the table). I used “Ultimate” Polyurethane for the first time on this project and it goes on very easily and holds up well. The one complaint that I have is that sometimes after something is spilled on it, there is a temporary white spot. I freaked out the first time this happened, but it ended up going away on it’s own. If that bothers you, try Spar Urethane or regular Polyurethane.
Brush on the poly with the grain. When working on a horizontal surface like a table, you can put it on pretty thick which helps brush marks settle away.
Lightly hand sand between coats. I allow about 24-hours between a fresh coat and sanding, but will sand immediately after sanding (and dusting). For a heavily-used table, I like to do at least 3 coats. We once did a kitchen island that had 8-10 coats, but I do like to be thorough.
Step 7: Enjoy!
We are SO excited that this table is re-done. Hopefully it has done at least 99% of it’s settling. If there are any hairline cracks in the future, another coat of Polyurethane should fill them in. If it gets worse than that, I’ll probably be mad enough to throw this at the guys who “dried” it – and they lifted it into our truck with a forklift.
Here’s a progress update on the dining room:
- Re-finish dining room table
- Add a simple rug
- Change-our art
- Replace rustic, iron chandelier with two smaller ones centered over the table (eventually)
Have I mentioned that I LOVE this table?