Entryway Bench Part 2: The Finished Product
Remember that entryway bench I built so long ago? I actually finished it! When I last left you, the bench looked like this:
You can read all about how to build it in my post here. All I had left to do was putty, sand, sand, sand, stain, and protect. The puttying and wood filling wasn’t so bad. Full disclosure: some of my kreg screws popped through the support legs and I had to wood fill over them. Yikes.
Can we talk for a minute about sanding? I flipping love sanding. In fact, if I really think about it, sanding is what started my whole discovery of DIY. It was the first power tool I tried out and fell in love with. The power to strip down wood and make it butter smooth was addicting. And, well, now here I am.
But for the first time, I wanted to cry when I was sanding. Has anyway had experience with their orbital sander leaving curly-Q’s in their wood? It’s maddening.
I changed sanding papers. I changed the sanding speed. I changed sanding paper grit. I went and got tweezers and tenderly plucked my beloved sander free of any tiny possible piece of wood from the Velcro pad that could have caused the swirls. Nothing. Helped. (Finally my brother told me you can replace the Velcro pad, which I also did. It’s better, but the problem is still not cured.)
Anyway, I stuck to the typical 3 rounds of sanding in ascending-grit paper—80, 120, 220. By the time I got to the 220, I spent a lot of time working the wood in very small areas to help minimize the swirls from the lower-grit paper, which did help erase some of them. By the time I was done with it, I just wanted to rub my cheek on it. (I realize how weird that sounds but it’s true. It was sooooo soft.)
A tiny little lesson: Sand outside if you can. The amount of dust from sanding this project down was incredible. Unfortunately, it was winter in New England and I needed to work on a project, so sanding outside was not an option. If you can’t sand outside either, at least use a respirator to protect your lungs. Safety first!
After a wipe down with a wet cloth followed by a dry cloth, I stained the wood using some leftover MinWax in Jacobean. I wish I’d used Special Walnut. Now that the bench is done, I think Jacobean is way too dark for me. Anyway, I stuck with my favorite cheapie sponge brushes for the job. I started with the vertical legs, then the lower supports and shelf, and did the top last. I love staining because it really doesn’t take all that long and the effect is dramatic. Oh, and you don’t really have to be ultra careful about your work because most of it gets wiped off anyway!
I wiped the stain off very quickly because I didn’t want it to get any darker than it already looked and it had a funny effect on the wood. It didnt have long enough to really soak into the grain sections, so the grain is super light, and the rest of the wood is very dark. I don’t love it, just personally, but I could see how it adds a lot of character to a piece.
Finally I sealed it with Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane in clear semi-gloss. I am definitely a semi-gloss or high gloss type of person. If I spend all this time and care sealing something, I want people to recognize that there’s a sealant there! Pfft. No satin for this girl.
Although sealing takes a lot longer than staining, it’s a very different kind of work than staining. If this were art, I’d say staining is more the “throw paint balloons at the canvas” type art, and sealing is the “sit quietly at the easel and chew on the end of your paintbrush” type art. When it comes to sealing, the best process I’ve found is to go very slowly and pay attention to drips, especially around corners and edges. If you have a spare lamp around, it helps to remove the shade and move the light source all around while you work to show you where the bubbles are. Then smooth them right out with your $2 sponge brush. It’s magical.
The worst part is waiting overnight for the poly to dry. Then you go at it with some high grit sandpaper (400 if possible), wipe down with a wet cloth and a dry cloth, and then do it all again. Twice. If you haven’t discovered Young House Love Has a Podcast yet, check it out! It’s a favorite for me while I’m doing projects.
Then I screwed on those little decorative hardware pieces I had spray painted while I was building the bench, and this is the final result. Ta da!!
Overall, I am way more happy with it than I thought I would be. But, you should know that up close, it ain’t pretty. So don’t let little details get you down, because when you step back, it’s all going to be OK. (That’s a life lesson for you right there.)
Here’s the rundown of all of its
problems charming quirks:
One of the legs is totally rigged to make it stop wobbling.
There are massive amounts of filler that took stain really poorly.
There are swirl marks and other sanding marks. And then there are really BAD swirl marks.
At least one of the decorative hardware pieces got screwed on crooked. (Darn screwing into wood without predrilling combined with pitiful upper body strength!)
Oh and there’s the fact that it totally fails at fulfilling the need for which it was built. Hahaha. That little one. Part of the problem in its original placement is that the foyer is so tall that it makes the bench look really shrimpy. I tried moving it across the foyer hallway, but it’s weird just having a bench stick out into the hallway. It lived there for a really long time… languishing. I had no idea what to do with it.
Until one day I saw the Hubster struggling to get his shoes on at the kitchen table while Virginia was climbing all over him. He needs a bench by the shoes. Wait. OMG! We have a bench!
And thus, the final resting place for this bench was born.
Are you wondering about that door? In our 4 years in this house, we’ve literally never used that door. And, I have to say, we love the bench back here! It helps keep us organized and is so nice to have a place to plop for a second while Virginia is corralled on the other side of the baby gate.
My other life lesson here is to be open-minded. So maybe your project doesn’t do what you thought it would do, but if you give it flexibility, what could it do? (Also, apply that one to your life!)