Now that the table has been finalized, designed and put together the next step is to stain it. Having never done any staining myself, lots of research went into the how and the products that I needed. Pretty much when it comes to staining wood, the “go to” is going to be MinWax. They’ve been around for so long I almost feel that they are the default option.
Basically there are two options when staining – water based and oil based. Now I’m not a professional so the following is just my own opinion on the matter. After some testing it seemed to be that if you wanted a “white washed” look on your furniture, then water-based is a reasonable product. But if you want a richer and deeper colour then there is no option but to go oil-based. What’s the difference? Oil based takes much longer to dry and of course it seriously smells. But in my opinion for a gaming table, this is a expected and reasonable cost for a great finish. In the end, I went with an oil-based stain with the colour “Jacobean”. Before the stain, the wood must be ABSOLUTELY clean. Trust me on this. Sweep it, vacuum it, blow on it, whatever it takes. Not having the surface clean is just going to cause tons of problems – mostly picking away at debris while trying to stain, not good for an even stain.
After the first coat it looked something like this. (You can see some spots still drying.) You can always make the wood darker but not lighter! So go super light on the stain and work it darker if you need to. Make sure when you stain you go even throughout. Now I experimented a bit and tried to emphasize certain areas over others by “over staining” some spots and I thought it worked out well, but it was pretty gutsy as there’s no going back.
One stain was all it took for me and soon it was time for protection. I wanted a good “ember” on the grain and so again it was a no brainer but to use an oil-based polyurethane. MinWax has a bunch of different types of coats, gloss, semi-gloss etc. I wanted the table to be more tavern like so I opted for semi-gloss to give it a traditional but modern look. Now you’re SUPPOSED to do three coats, with very light sanding via a 220 grit paper in between coats but I opted for a more grainy finish and only did one. *Gasp*. I have to say it worked out well for me and the grains definitely embered!
This was super awesome and I was very excited to see it “finished”. Remember to do all of this with great ventilation. I did this project in my garage in cold weather (7 degrees Celsius) so it took almost 5 days to totally dry. I’m sure it would be less in warmer temperatures. Now all that was left is to put it on its legs…