I can’t take credit for the awesome pun, but Ben and I DID take this boring old shelf and prettied it up with some sand paper, stain and polyurethane finish. We bought it at a garage sale for $15 (should’ve asked for $10) because we saw the potential. Just like Farmer Arthur Hoggett saw something in Babe when he guessed his weight at the county fair.
So how did we do it?
1) Set up a working area in your garage or studio space – somewhere you can lay out a large sheet of plastic that will eventually be covered in saw dust, paint and chemicals. Tape down sides of plastic so it doesn’t move or lift up due to wind. Make sure this area is weather-proof. Now I know how Dexter the S.K. feels when he sets up “shop”…
2) Buy the following supplies:
Black cherry wood stain
Sandpaper (P120, P220)
Minwax Stainable Wood filler
LOTS of wiping rags (cotton t-shirt material, sold in 1/2 pound bags at Lowes)
Rust-Oleum Polyurethane Matte Finish
Two medium-large synthetic brushes (NOT natural)
Plastic paint dish (to hold polyurethane)
2) Begin sanding down all surfaces so that the wood can absorb the new stain as much as possible. This includes the individual shelves and main body (sharp corners, round corners, inside, outside…everything that will be seen except for back and bottom of shelf). Even though this can be done by hand, I highly recommend investing in an electric sander because it cuts down sanding time ENORMOUSLY (1 day vs. a couple of weeks). Some things to keep in mind:
– Wear safety glasses and mask
– Start out using a coarse, medium or fine grade sandpaper for rapid removal of initial layer such as P120. Then move to a fine, very fine or extra/super/ultra fine grade such as P220 to sand the bare wood in preparation for finishing (remember that finer macrogrits are not intended to remove old varnish or paint…this is more of a final/polishing stage prior to staining). So you always want to move from lowest number to highest number. Wiki explains it in detail here.
3) If you find any cracks or large spaces on the shelf, apply some stainable wood filler (put a small amount on the crack and press down with your finger to really get it in). After it dries, go over it with the sander one last time just to get everything flat and even.
4) After sanding is completely done, take a damp paper towel and wipe down your shelf. Then take a tack cloth and start rubbing down all areas that will be stained. You want to remove as much debris/sawdust as possible because the stain should only be applied to flat, clean surfaces.
5) Start staining one area at a time (we started with the individual shelves). You can always apply more than one coat if the stain isn’t as dark or pronounced as you envisioned. We did two coatings on everything. Remember that the shelves have a top, bottom and sides so you’ll have to lean them up against a wall to dry (we duck taped some newspaper to the garage wall and stood them up). After they’re stained, wait 10-15 minutes (or as long as paint can instructs) before you grab a wiping cloth and remove the stain. Keep it mind that if you wait TOO LONG, the stain will become very thick/sticky and is difficult to remove. P.S. Don’t think I don’t see you there on the wall, Mr. Spider! Creepster, you were watching us the whole time.
6) The Polyurethane finish that we used required three coats total (with 2 hours of drying time between each coat) so this is the most time consuming part in my opinion. Remember that when you apply this finish to the individual shelves, prop them up on a wall against WAX PAPER (not newspaper) to avoid sticking. It will still stick a little but not as severely (trust me). Also remember to use a synthetic brush (NOT natural) to coat the finish otherwise pieces of hair from your brush will stick to the wood. Who wants a hairy shelf right? :)
7) All that sanding, painting and finishing finally paid off! Here is our refurbished bookshelf coated in black cherry stain to match the rest of our furniture (the before and after pics were taken at different times of the day). A new house for our beloved books. We will be needing another one soon…I can feel it. Beautiful artwork by Nic Annette Miller, a very talented print maker and graphic designer of Salt Lake City who I graduated with! Check out her animal woodcuts and greeting cards at Friends Make Prints!