I know that lately I haven’t been posting much more than stories lately.  Most of them have been for Rachael Ritchey’s #BlogBattles (if you haven’t done it yet, I’d recommend a go around).  If it wasn’t for a #BlogBattle, it’s been about my current WIP.  And even some of those are tied to #BlogBattles.  Everything has been one tangled ball of twine and I haven’t said anything original in a while.

It’s because I’ve been distracted.  I feel that there are only two things in this world that I’m truly good at.  The first is writing.  That’s why I can seem cocky about it.  Honestly, I don’t mean to and, if I do, I apologize.  But writing—everything from the designing of ideas to the crafting of words and phrases—it’s a passion for me.  I love to discuss writing and storytelling.  To hear other’s thoughts on the craft.  If anyone wants, feel free to start a dialogue.  Love to see where this can take us.

I digress, however.  The other thing that I love is woodworking.  While writing is a passion, I am constantly thinking during it.  Thinking about what comes next, does it match what came before, etc, etc, etc.  Blah, blah, blah.  It’s a constant process that doesn’t seem to end.  Not that I don’t love it—I do—but there’s no way I can turn it off.  No matter how I twist it, it never becomes anything other than work.  Fun work, but work all the same.

Woodworking, on the other hand, is a wondrous thing.  I may have to think during it, but it’s absent thought.  When I stand there, looking at my current project, it’s just me and the wood grain.  Those lines are everything and nothing can replace it.  A sense of relaxation that takes over.

Recently, my wife brought home a table for me to work on.  It stands 36″ x 36″ and is roughly 30″ high. Think of a normal, four legged table that was covered with scratched in graffiti and a chalk white paint.  Unfortunately, I forgot—as I always seem to—to take a picture of it before I started work.

The first step, I had to remove the paint.  That was a pain, since the table was already assembled.  The paint remover I used didn’t seem to work quite right.  It took of parts of it, but not everything.  More than once, I burned my hands from the chemicals as the remover seemed to go everywhere.  But once I finished removing about 95% of the paint, I moved on to the sander.


Sanding served a duel purpose.  It helped remove what was left of the paint as well as removed all the graffiti people had scratched into the table over the years.  Some of it was actually quite interesting, but made no sense.  I believe that one said, I love duck.  No idea what that means.  I started with a 60 grit sandpaper and slowly went finer, ending at a 360 grit paper.  The table felt like glass.  Always have loved that feeling.  Here’s another pic of it once I’d finished.  Looks much the same as above:


Of course, this is just the top.  The sides and bottom needed to match for quality and smoothness, as well as the legs.  All in all this took me about two weeks to do, starting some days after work or during the weekends.  Quality takes time and, frankly put, I was enjoying my time with the wood.

Once I had finished the sanding, it was time to settle on a design.  K and I threw some thoughts around, but two ideas kept reappearing.  First, she wanted an outdoor table.  One to eat dinner at on beautiful nights or to use for entertainment.  The other idea that kept popping up was the idea of a chessboard.  We eventually settled on combining those two ideas after throwing out painting, designs, inlaying decorations, and pictures.  Perhaps, I’ll be able to try each of those eventually, but the chessboard was a welcome challenge.

I did some measurements and sketches to figure out the optimal alignments and to decide how many colors of stain to use.  Neither K nor I am a big fan of painting.  Both of us like wood grain and feel that paint covering an entire item loses something.  Totally our opinion, but that’s just us.  However with staining, I ran into the same issues as painting.  The colors had to be different enough that I could create a chessboard while still being similar enough that everything was pleasing to the eye.  After some more doodling, I decided on a three color pattern: a dark stain, a red stain, and the absence of stain.  It was a pine table after all and the natural wood color would be a nice contrast against the other two.

Next I had to create part of the grid.  That involved a lot of tape and time.  Stain the gaps three times and move on.


This is what it looked like without the tape.


Another set of taped lines had to go down, covering the currently stained wood and protecting the gaps for the negative space.  Two colors for the chessboard right?


This is what it looked like once all the tape was removed.  You can see my design in the top corner.  I’m not much of an artist.


Next came the boarder around the chessboard.  That was going to be in the darker stain, but more straight lines were needed.  So more tape and then stain.  Three coats.


I did the same in the other direction.  You get the jist of it by now right?  This is what it looked like once all the tape was removed.


Now came the rest of the table.  More tape was needed to keep the stain from overlapping.  The same stain used on the original dark squares came into play again for the rest of the table.


Here it is without the tape.


Flip the table and do the rest.


I decided to hang the legs and stain them at the same time as the underside of the table to save time.  Worked out alright, though my garage looked like a mass of ropes and hanging wood for several days.


Following all the staining, it was time for the protective cover.  I went with an oil-based polyurathane that was designed for both inside and outside use.  In hindsight, that wasn’t the best of choices.  It ended up staining the bare wood, making it hard to see the negative space in some places up close.  There isn’t any pictures of me applying the polyurathane.  Imagine putting a clear layer on everything.  It’s important, but there’s nothing to see.  Three more layers.  Once I finished with the bottom and the legs, I flipped the table and did the top.  Three days later, it was done.


This was a fun project.  I’m looking forward to more.  In fact, I’ve been approached to do some work for some of my friends and family.  Have another chess table, a croquet set, a babychair, and possibly a radio.

This should be a great summer.


5 thoughts on “Woodworking: My Other Hobby

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