Oh how carpentry projects begin with learning by doing badly the first time and refusing to say "Good enough."
I didn't plan on stripping our –air quotes- dining room table this weekend. Tearing the polymer based stain off our adjoined dining surface was strictly a cathartic exercise, like I experienced catharsis and it was a lot of exercise. The original table is actually forty year old bowling ball lane that was salvaged from our local bowling alley. How I came to have a piece of bowling alley lane is just one of those "stranger than truth" stories that happen when you build your own house. How it came to then be my dining room table… Well, the air quotes have nothing to do with our "dining room table" being part of a bowling alley, it's cause our kitchen island is a continent and our dining room table is 50s kitchenette sized.
The original struggle with the table is that I have these restored floors and they are my wood focus in the house. The dining room table would have been easier if it'd just been actually finished with lane markings and still had it's glaze, but it didn't. The table came to us naked, really just an amazingly large piece of butchers block. It also has a blemish in it-a long jagged line that goes the length of the table, which I find distracting & things that distract me really upset me. So I didn't want to "stain" it in a way that would show off the grain and the flaw. A poly coat stain works great for over coating, when you want to cover up the grain and really maximize protection. It was a sin that I even considered it, but I justified that it would then be covered in bartop.
And we could have "bought", but you "use" when you can. The whole practice of sustainability is about whether or not your conscious actions take you into a territory where you try to work with preexisting and renewable substances. If you have a bowling alley why not cut it up instead of just tearing it to pieces and sending the debris to the dumpster. And then why not use that piece when you're making your house. Why would you get some shitty pressboard with a pretty veneer over it. Why buy anything at all, unless it's cheaper and easier… your weighted question constantly go back and forth. "Can I use it and will implementing it be a huge headache?" Thus the free bowling alley scrap was incorporated into our dining experience. It was also an interesting struggle. Have it be wood grain and contrast with the floor… Or have it be white and overwhelm with the walls. Many times in the final lap of decisions I found myself struggling with so much of the big stuff that the little stuff really just got to be too much. Shit! Now I'm thinking it'd be nice if it was blue.
Back to the "good enough" We've tried to live with the black polycoat for a few months. All I could do while eating dinner though would be to stare at the lost detail, so I resigned myself not to resin over the mistake. Once the bartop is on, it'll also take away detail, but i've come to imagine the table will look really good if maybe we did see the grain. I just have to keep playing with the finish that will work to compliment the house. You have to be willing to change and undo a project. Preparing my older house everyone kept telling me to accept the shitty work they were doing. They said "You could spend so much money doing it right." The only people who are really big into the "Good enough" and "If you want to spend more money we can do it better" are the people you don't want to work with. I want to eat from that table. I don't want my lousy work to eat at me.
The truth, my wife is in the background of this picture, she isn't in focus, I'm obsessed with the table and it's flaw. I lose moments when I think of what is wrong with stuff; that's not good enough.
Thus Sunday found me with a sanding sponge (it was no contender,) then sand paper-it was a little better, finally the inappropriate tool, a fifty year old wire brush. This brush came from my step dad's tool collection and it was terrifying to even look at. The bristles do not move and it literally wrought a new detail into the wood, but it made short order of the polycoat and didn't not aerate the particles, so, not bad. I'll sand it down next and apply a new finish, we'll see what happens.