A short while ago I started a huge project which is hands down my favorite one so far. I’ve made a built-in out of IKEA cabinets, gutted closets and created a cloffice. I’ve painted wallpaper, stenciled walls, made wallpaper from fabric, created a family command center, turned my television armoire into a banquette bench. You get the idea. All those projects don’t hold a candle to this table. We use it everyday since it is in our kitchen. My kids do their homework on it. We sit and chat at it with friends and family. It is busy, hardworking and lovely.
I started off with a Numerar butcherblock table top which I purchased from IKEA about a year ago. It had been sitting in my garage ever since. The Numerar is not available anymore but you can purchase the Karlby. I wanted something large so I loved the size of the Numerar which is actually meant for a kitchen island. The dimensions are about 73 inches by 39 inches. This made it perfect for my kitchen since I wanted a large table with plenty of room for everyone.
Now the reason the tabletop sat in my garage for so long was because I had no idea what base to get or build. I knew what I wanted it to look like but couldn’t find a base that wouldn’t break the bank. Then one happy day an IKEA catalog arrived on my doorstep and I saw the Karpalund underframe and knew my search was over.
Work began by first gathering what supplies I would need or thought I would need. I tested wood conditioner, application methods, finish colors, sanding methods and more all on the underside of my table. In the end all I needed to get this done was an orbital sander, foam brushes, 320 grit sandpaper, tack clothes, rags and Waterlox (to seal). And of course a table top and base.
Before I began any testing I needed to sand the factory finish off. This was an important step in that if you don’t sand it completely off the wood will never absorb the stain. Trust me on this since I found it out myself. Sand it with an orbital sander until you feel it is all off. Then sand it a bit more!
Once that was done I tested wood conditioner to see if I wanted to use it or not. I had done some research and was on the fence. In the end I think this is a personal preference. I liked the way the wood soaked up the stain without the wood conditioner. I wanted the grain in the wood to show. When I used the wood conditioner it seemed to not absorb as well. So no wood conditioner for me.
Next I tested stain colors. I had two that I was choosing between. I wanted the color of my table to be exactly what I imagined in my head. Dark, warm and the perfect shade of brown. Not orangey and not too dark to seem black. I stained two sections of the underside of my table with two coats of the stain I was testing and decided on Minwax Dark Walnut which is the stain on the bottom right square in the image below. You can see one coat on the left and two coats on the right. Please excuse my dirty garage floor. It became my workshop for about two weeks while I sanded, stained and sealed!
After sanding I wiped it off with a tack cloth. A couple times. I didn’t want any specks of wood stuck under the stain or finish. Tack clothes get this done. They are slightly tacky to the touch and will get every last bit of sawdust.
I then applied my first coat of stain. For all those that think staining butcherblock is a sin I was told I was nuts by my father in many different ways during the planning phase. His exact words when he first saw the dark yummy stain that had just been applied to the entire table were “You killed it.” Now that the table is done and in my kitchen he is on Team Stain Your Butcherblock A Dark Color since he recently told my sister she should do the exact same thing for her new desktop. True story.
I had tested on the other side some different methods of doing this. Some sites suggested using a natural bristle brush. Others said a foam brush worked best. Still other recommended a sock wrapped in nylon. Of all three methods the foam brush was my favorite. It was inexpensive so I didn’t feel bad to dispose of it when I was done. I bought a couple for each coat of stain and sealer. The stain went on smooth and evenly. I don’t have any images of the process since I covered the table with stain as fast as possible. I then went back over the table and sides and wiped off any excess stain with a rag. I did sections at a time since I wanted the stain to absorb evenly.
I let the first layer dry about 4-6 hours and applied the second coat. The number of coats depends on how deep and rich you want your color. I wanted deep and warm so two coats got me that coverage and tone.
The next day I began applying Waterlox. I knew I wanted a great sealer that was food safe. I wasn’t using this as a cutting board or countertop. It is for our kitchen table. If a blueberry rolled off my kids’ plates I wanted to feel comfortable with them popping it in their mouth. I knew I would be applying a couple coats of Waterlox to get the finish I wanted. I used the gloss finish since I wanted to see the wood clearly. I had read in some different sources that using the satin finish creates a cloudy coat.
I applied the first coat using a foam brush. Waterlox is thin (think watery maple syrup) so you need to work fast and make sure there are no drips. I let the coat dry for 24 hours and then lightly sanded the entire table and sides with 320 grit sandpaper. This step was a little scary since I was sanding down a glossy and smooth surface. These were a couple bubbles which is where I focused my sanding. I had tested steel wool and although it does sand very lightly I did not like the small pieces of metal left behind. I didn’t want any of these pieces getting stuck under the following layer of Waterlox.
After sanding I wiped it all down with a tack cloth to remove the remnants. Once it was clean and ready I applied my second coat of Waterlox. The Waterlox spread and filled in everywhere and covered perfectly. No evidence whatsoever that I had sanded the layer underneath. Once you sand it turns a bit white. Once you add the next coat that white sheen disappear. I poured the Waterlox from the container each time into a glass cup to avoid bubbles. It is pretty stinky so make sure you are in a well ventilated space. The garage worked really well for me since I kept the garage door open to the outside while applying each coat.
I applied a total of 4 coats of Waterlox with the foam brush with a 24 hour drying time between each coat. After the fourth coat I lightly sanded again and applied a thinner coat using a clean rag. This last coat had no bubbles whatsoever since it was applied with the rag. This was my last coat.
For about $250 total I was able to put together a table that I’ve seen online for up to $1500. It cleans up easily with just some soap and water. Everyday I can wipe it down to get back to that glossy surface that was so worth the time it took. This was a long-term project that is finally complete and enjoyed on a daily basis in this house!