Friday, April 12, 2013

Cabinet Debacle

Otherwise known as that post where I come out as a hypocrite and a charlatan.

I've been known to condemn speak out against those who paint over perfectly good wood. For me, it's like watching a senseless killing in the animal world. Thus I have long promoted staining over painting furniture, which I must say is against the grain (get it?) these days in case you haven't noticed the paint-everything-that-doesn't-move trend on blogs everywhere.

So, when I purchased a set of three wood cabinets to go in our office, I was excited and determined to enhance their wooden goodness with a staining project. Naturally, I consulted with Home Depot Steve.


Home Depot Steve doesn't mess around. You don't go to him to hear what you want to hear. He won't put his head in his hands and say you won't regret painting your bedroom in puce. No, Home Depot Steve will  give it to your straight with a combination of Chicago brashness and Midwestern sensibility.

Me: I need to stain three large wood cabinets. I do NOT want to sand them.
Steve: You want the Polyshades, eh? (Miniwax)
Me: Yes, how did you know?
Steve: [Smiles like the answer is obvious]
Me: Can I get away with it?
Steve: What's the finish like?
Me: It's a light wood with, well, I gotta say the finish looks a bit pink if you can believe it.
Steve: [Looking concerned] You have to degloss it. Here, let me show you where the deglosser is and some rough surface cloths.
Me: No! "Rough surface" sounds like I'm sanding. I don't have the strength or time for that!
Steve: Listen, you know why your cabinets are pink?
Me: No. . .
Steve: They're old, retro right?
Me: Yes. . .
Steve: [Drops the bomb]  They were WHITE WASHED. Old white paint turns pink over the years.
Me: Steve, you know everything.
Steve: I know you need this deglosser.

So, out I skipped with some deglosser, rough surface cloths, brushes, and a can of Polyshades finish. What happened next was definitely not Steve's fault, for I had been warned.

First Mistake: NOT deglossing

"That Steve, he's not the boss of me."

I started to degloss, I really did. But then the fat, lazy devil sat on my shoulder and told me that an experiment should be performed first. I compared a deglossed section to an untreated one and couldn't tell much of a difference. I, of course, then proceeded to do it the "easy" way. (This would actually make for more work later on.)

Second Mistake: Brushing against gravity.
I would come to find that when working on huge projects like this one, setup is everything. If you want a good finish without brush-marks or drips, you gotta lay things flat. Yes, even big heavy things.

"Oh snap, what are those?"

Things looked like they were going well, until these guys showed up. Look closely, they're lines perpendicular to the grain where my paint brush had stopped abruptly. I quickly realized that to get a smooth look, I'd have to go from one end of the cabinet to the other uninterrupted. This could only be done by laying it flat.

Third Mistake: Underestimating the White-Wash Effect 

Oh. No.

At some point I repented. Things weren't going well and I decided to go back and do it the right way. I laid everything flat, I wiped off all the stain (the fact that I could do so points to the need for deglossing) and started over again, but this time I deglossed first. I used the rough surface cloths and a steel wool pad. I spoke to my bishop about it.

But no matter what I did, there were parts of the cabinet that wouldn't soak up the stain evenly, causing the effect you see above, presumably because the original paint/wash had seeped into the grain. --Not shown is how I proceeded to stain all three cabinets twice, hoping this would somehow improve.-- At this point, I had terrible neck pain and tension headaches. We also missed a bill payment because we were (and still are) an unorganized mess without an office, where these cabinets are intended to shape things up. Tim finally put his hand on my shoulder and said, "We've done all we could to save them."

Boom. Just like that my dreamy wood cabinets flat-lined. This was followed by the truly unthinkable. . . Yep, I primed and painted them. And I still feel dirty about it.

Goodbye hopes and dreams!

Whenever I get really down on myself, I have to remember that I didn't give this wood the fatal disease. Whoever white-washed them critically injured this furniture. I was more like life support. . . and was hand-held into pulling the plug. RIP wood.


  1. Rest in Peace indeed. For future reference (and speaking from experience) temperature and humidity affect polyshades a lot more than regular stain or paint. I have a few drip marks to prove it myself. We'll have to find you another way to incorporate a lovely wood finish. I'm sure the cabinets are beautiful anyway, you did all you could.

  2. I believe it, Laura. I guess I should blame part of this demise on this crumby "Spring" we're having.