Finishing Up

Once you've reached this point, you can decide how to finish the piece. The maple used on this table didn't quite match. To darken the light boards without overdarkening the adjoining wood, Maxwell made two blends of stain — one taken at full strength straight from the can and a second that he thinned with a splash of mineral spirits. He brushed the full-strength stain on the lighter wood, then switched to the thinned stain to finish the top. "The key to blending the two areas is to always brush from a wet edge," he says. Once the stain dries, any additional stain will make the wood look like a darker second coat.

Maxwell stained the edges after blending the top. "The end grain is very absorbent, and will take more stain than the top," he says. To control the color, Maxwell uses a very dry brush and lightly touches the side of the bristles against the wood.

The final step is to apply a protective topcoat. Maxwell prefers the speed of a spray finish, but "choosing a finish is a balance between form and function," he says. In the case of an everyday piece, such as a kitchen table, a brush-on polyurethane would be an equally practical choice.

With its new showroom finish, the table looks might look too good to eat off of, but there's no need to cover up the wood with a tablecloth. "Good furniture is built to take years of everyday abuse," says Maxwell. "And it can always come in for a face-lift."

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