Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Super Secret Project!

In posts from a long while ago I alluded to a secret project I was working on, or rather I was more direct and stated unequivocally that I had a secret project, which was a birthday present for my bf. As you can see from my pictures I'm all about a shabby chic/distressed/worn-in and pre-loved aesthetic, which really isn't for everyone. The bf is on board because it is something I love and he is exceptionally accommodating of my brightly colored and high-personality pieces, but I know it isn't really his thing. While enduring couple-pinterest-time once (am I unbearable or what?) he mentioned that he really liked a spool table, which was just down his alley as it was dark, masculine, and wooden (which he loves) and most importantly, not chalk painted.
     I mentally took note of that comment and a couple weeks later ran across a horribly splintery and truthfully rather shitty spool at a garage sale. I didn't have much hope for it since it had some damage to the layer of wood on the top/bottom and was truly unbelievably splintery. It was only a buck tho so I took a chance (hah) and hauled it home. 

Original state--splinters splinters splinters

Original state---edges in terrible condition  
Routered edges, partially sanded

The first thing I did was router the edges to address the splintering and damaged areas. I routered every edge, top and bottom, and then got to work sanding the bejeesus out of the entire piece.
Routered edges
During the sanding process, I also used a wood filler to fill in the extra-damaged and splintery parts that would never smooth out, despite hours of power-sanding. The next step was to just go crazy with the power-sander and work my way from a 100 grit to a 220 until it was soft as butter. Unfortunately, I spent hours upon hours sanding it in the badly ventilated garage and got a sinus infection :/

Is this a classy work outfit or what?

Filled edges

One of the things I liked about this spool was the print on it, the same on both sides. It was worn beautifully, but to make this spool not only livable but safe I needed to do some drastic sanding. I was concerned that the print would be lost in the stain, so I experimented on the side I chose to be the bottom and filled in the top print with sharpie before staining. If you look at the photo below, you can see that the part I left unsharpied got totally lost in the stain, while the top logo showed through but didn't quite look natural as it had a bit of a sheen to it.

Bottom side, stained and with sharpie experiment on top logo

Darkened with sharpie, a bit too shiny to look natural

The wood was super dry and actually had some lovely grain, so the stain took wonderfully!

I wasn't super pleased with how the sharpie came out, so I decided to hand paint the side that was to be the top of the spool table. I mixed up a brownish black acrylic paint and got to work, and boy did it take a while! After painting it, I sanded the letters to make them appear aged and worn. I also added a little type to personalize my gift a bit, which you will see in a later photo.

Sanded to softness, but losing the signature printing!

Hand painted logo and type
The painted letters turned out better than the sharpied ones, although the original state was much more beautiful in that regard. My mom had a lot of cute ideas about personalizing my spool table, but I really had to reign myself in when it came to sassing it up. I wanted this to be a table the bf could be proud of in front of other men, perhaps even be something you could find in a (well-decorated) bachelor pad. That meant not writing cutsie things on it and not even thinking about touching chalk paint to the center between the table-tops....   labor of love, right?

I chose to simply put our initials on the top of the bottom, a little out of the way but still visible
Then the fun part started---polyurethane time. This is always my least favorite part of any wood project, and between the staining of the table and the top-coating I probably put this stage off for at least a month. I started this project months and months before his birthday, but by this time I had to rush to finish it! I had to polyurethane every surface of this dang spool, which took a good deal of patience to do all the multiple layers, but it turned out great and will no longer give anyone splinters! Just as importantly, the bf genuinely loved it and was very surprised. And he didn't say "oh this will look great on my porch!" which is how polite people say "I hate it this is not going in my house." Success.

Finished hand-painted type on the top surface

With good lighting, you can see much more depth and warmth in the wood. Unfortunately I don't have anywhere good to stage the spool table inside, so my photos are awkwardly outside and in natural light, which shows the wood to be rather darker than it really is. Nonetheless, enjoy!

Also, in some photos you might notice the places where I used wood filler. It hardened really nicely and sanded down perfectly, it even took the stain like a champ. The only reason it stands out is the lack of grain, which is a very predominant feature of the table. I'm okay with it though, it isn't really something you notice and the spool has a lot of "damage," like scratches and dents, which I think gives it character.


Hope you enjoyed my formerly super-secret project! If you're interested in checking out my pinterest, my user name is hannahleighes.

Have a fantastic week!


  1. I love this spool and I am really appreciative of the effort you put in to it (as well as the lack of chalk paint you included just to please my fear of the colorful). My biggest regret regarding that spool is that I also don't have anywhere to put it yet. I am so excited to incorporate your beautiful work into OUR living room. -T

  2. Just some advance notice...I am NOT copying all of your projects! But, the wire spool table is on my to-do list. I have three in my garage that have been there collecting dust for months, waiting for me to get to them.

    I'm not sure I will put nearly as much effort into restoring/preserving the graphics as you did (purely out of laziness). But it looks fantastic.