DIY Can FOAD, Part 2: I Will Light This Coffee Table on Fire

If you’ve been following my adventures in DIY, you know that I haven’t had the best of luck refinishing my coffee table. I decided to buck up and see the project through, though, just to prove to myself that I could do it. As they say, I’ve made a terrible mistake.

I had a lovely consultation with the lady at Sherwin Williams, who suggested that I achieve the finish I want by mixing some black latex paint with water, and painting it on for a whitewash effect. So I decide to give it the old college try. I had just finished painting the last surface of the coffee table, and it is PERFECT. No streak marks, no drips, PERFECT. So I put everything on the makeshift sawhorses to dry, and start to clean up. I was super careful the whole time because it’s black paint. So I put the lid back on the can and put a rag over it and hammer it back in. I put my brushes in the bottom half of a milk jug to soak. I gather up all the rags and disposable stuff, and put them in the paint tray, which I put in a plastic bag, and just have to walk it TEN FEET from the garage door (where I’ve been painting) to the garbage can out on the driveway.

And then I drop the plastic bag. Onto the brand-new white concrete driveway.

OKOKOKOKOKOK latex paint. Cleans with water. The hose is right there, so I hook it up and spray the hell out of the driveway. Most of the paint runs off into the mulch, but there are stains. Black stains. I very calmly go inside and grab a couple of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, WHICH TAKE THE PAINT STAINS UP OH MY GOD MR. CLEAN YOU ARE THE MOST AMAZING FAKE PERSON EVER BECAUSE YOUR ERASERS ARE INDEED MAGIC. The concrete is pristine again.

Crisis averted.

Until I go back into the garage and discover, since I had set up right at the garage door for the best light, I managed to spray every piece of wood that I just finished painting with water from the hose.


I grab paper towels, and most of the pieces are dry enough that the water wipes off without taking any paint. Except for on the last piece I did. Which was the tabletop.

So I grab a new foam brush thingy and crack open the paint can and do a full coat on the tabletop (without diluting it). I watched it dry for a few minutes, no spots. So it’ll be 1000x darker than the rest of the table, but I think we’re putting glass over it anyway, so that’s fine. Then I get in my bed praying that I washed all the black paint off of myself before I got into my white sheets.

I let the absolutely beautiful, perfect, exactly desired result coffee table dry for several days, because latex paint can take a while to dry. After three days, I decide to put the damn thing back together and be done with it. As I wield my Allen wrench to start putting the pieces together, I notice a funny thing: everywhere the wood touches other wood, the paint scratches off. Everywhere my fingernail accidentally touches, the paint scratches off.


This is not a catastrophe. It’s not. I won’t let it be. I have polycrylic clear coat. I do a quick Google search to make sure I can put that over my latex paint. Google says yes. No big. I get out my supplies and start with the “wrong” sides, following the directions exactly. I step back from my work, and discover that my “satin” finish is now super high gloss. DAMN YOU, MINWAX, THAT CAN SAYS “SATIN.” I READ IT WITH MY OWN EYES. Not only that, but there are BUBBLES. And brush marks. I sit down and cry. And cry and cry and cry. And I walk away. I send a message out to the other P-Mag editors, all of whom advise me to light the thing on fire (except Ruby Bruiseday, who reminds me that it is soaked with about forty kinds of chemicals, and tells me to smash it to bits instead).

I go back into the garage about two hours later, and”¦ it’s not so bad. The gloss has dried down, and with a little care and by using foam applicators, I can avoid brush marks. I sit my ass back down on my beach chair, and spend the next half hour very diligently applying polycrylic to all of the surfaces, making sure the coats are thin, even, and bubble-free. And then I put my stuff down and walk away and have some cake.

And that, my friends, is where I am with this coffee table. Regardless of how it looks at this point, I will reassemble that effing thing, set it up in my living room, and lord my triumph over it every single day as I put it to work holding my drinks and books. You will not defeat me, coffee table. I am strong. I am smart. I am capable. And I will never let you win.

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