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How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Transform a tired surface with glaze, tape, and a toothy tool

a finished table with a herringbone pattern combed onto it in yellow
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

If you like the textured look of herringbone, see what a paint comb can do. Drawing a comb through wet colored glaze gave this plain laminate table an almost three-dimensional look. "This is one of my favorite tricks," says decorative painter Ingrid Leess. "The best part is, if you don't like the way the pattern looks, as long as the glaze is still wet you can just wipe it away and start again."

Leess started out by sanding and priming the table, and putting down a base coat. She used a satin finish, which helps the glaze coat go on and come off more smoothly. The herringbone pattern was created with equal parts latex paint and clear acrylic glaze. Glaze slows the drying time, but when choosing a color, keep in mind that glaze will also lighten it, Leess says. To minimize drips, wipe off the comb after each pass.
When the pattern is dry, top it with a protective coat of polyurethane.

Once you get handy with the technique, you can experiment with waves, zigzags, and crosshatches and on other surfaces, from walls to flower pots. For a closer look at herringbone how-to, read on.

Paint: Mythic's White (base coat), Sunny at Heart (glaze coat), and Brooks Bay (walls)


Steps // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop
1 ×

Overview

 
Step One // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Overview

a yellow herringbone pattern on a tabletop
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

If you like the ordered feel of geometric lines, you'll love what a paint comb can do for you. It offers an expedient way to work a pattern of evenly spaced parallel stripes into glaze. How you apply them—in squiggles, chevrons, a crisscrossing design—is up to you.

We blocked out a bright, bold herringbone on the old laminated table here to inject some eye-opening zing into a breakfast nook. It's a lively twist on an age-old pattern and much easier to execute than it might seem. Just tape off rows and drag a comb diagonally across half of them in one direction, then half in the other.

You can buy a comb, or, for a more homespun look, craft your own by snipping teeth out of a plastic lid or putty knife.

 
2 ×

Find the Center

 
Step Two // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Find the Center

finding the center point of a table surface with a tape measure
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Once the base coat is dry, find and mark the centerpoint of your surface. To do that on a round table like this one, hook the tape measure to one edge, extend it fully across the tabletop, and sweep it like a pendulum to locate the longest cross section: the diameter. Divide that number in half and mark the centerpoint on the table surface.

 
3 ×

Set the Row Spacing

 
Step Three // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Set the Row Spacing

laying the first row of painter's tape on a table surface
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Use the centerpoint to place your first piece of tape, lining up one edge along the diameter and keeping it taut. The ends of the tape can overlap the lip of the table by a few inches.

Tip:
If you're worried about keeping the tape straight, place a yardstick along the diameter, weight it down, and use it to line up the first piece of tape.

 
4 ×

Lay Down the Second Row

 
Step Four // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Lay Down the Second Row

laying the second row of painter's tape on a table surface
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Run a second piece of tape alongside the first—it doesn't matter to which side.

 
5 ×

Lay Down the Third Row

 
Step Five // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Lay Down the Third Row

laying the third row of painter's tape on a table surface
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Then add a third piece right alongside that one.

The second piece will serve as a spacer to keep an even distance between each row of tape.

 
6 ×

Remove the Spacer

 
Step Six // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Remove the Spacer

removing the middle layer of painter's tape known as the spacer
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Remove the middle piece of tape: the spacer. Transfer it to the outside of the last piece laid down. Align it edge to edge, and pat it down lightly to the surface.

 
7 ×

Tape the First Series of Rows

 
Step Seven // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Tape the First Series of Rows

completing the first row of stripes with painter's tape as spacer
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Now, for the third row, affix another piece along the exposed edge of the spacer. Repeat this process of leapfrogging the spacer and affixing new rows until the entire surface is covered. You should have an even series of alternating stripes.

 
8 ×

Make the Combing Tool

 
Step Eight // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Make the Combing Tool

cutting notches in a plastic putty knife for the combing tool
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

If you want to make your own tool, it's easy with a plastic putty knife. Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut V-shaped notches into the tip of the knife to clip out teeth. The wider the putty knife, the fewer passes you'll have to make through the glaze.

Tip:
Reserve another plastic putty knife to adhere the tape to the table. Run the smooth blade along the tape's edges to ensure paint doesn't bleed underneath.

 
9 ×

Apply the Glaze

 
Step Nine // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Apply the Glaze

applying the glaze for the first set of stripes
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Mix equal parts clear acrylic glaze and paint, then pour into a mini roller tray.

Using a small foam roller, apply the tinted glaze to the open areas between the taped lines. Cover every bit of the exposed surface with a thick coat.

Tip:
It's always best to roll with the direction of the tape, lest you push paint beneath its edges by coming at them from a 90-degree angle.

 
10 ×

Comb the Surface

 
Step Ten // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Comb the Surface

combing the herringbone pattern with a modified plastic putty knife
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Set your comb at a 45-degree angle to the stripes and pull it steadily across the surface, cutting through the glaze. Keeping the comb at a shallow angle to the surface will help prevent scraping up the tape.

On the second pass, overlap several teeth of the comb with the first to keep the grooves parallel.

Repeat across the entire surface. If you make a mistake, just reroll and redo.

 
11 ×

Remove the Tape from the First Coat

 
Step Eleven // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Remove the Tape from the First Coat

removing the tape from the first coat
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Remove the tape while the glaze is still tacky to keep from peeling it off. Pull the tape at a diagonal.

Let the glaze dry, which could take a day, depending on temperature and humidity.

 
12 ×

Tape Stripes for the Second Coat

 
Step Twelve // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Tape Stripes for the Second Coat

taping over the first set of stripes for the second coat
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Once dry, cover the stripes with painter's tape. Press the edges down with a plastic putty knife.

 
13 ×

Roll and Comb the Second Set of Stripes

 
Step Thirteen // How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop

Roll and Comb the Second Set of Stripes

removing the last row of tape for the finished herringbone pattern on a tabletop
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Repeat steps 8 and 9, combing the glaze at a 90-degree angle to the first set of stripes to create the herringbone pattern.

Remove the tape while the glaze is still tacky.

 
 
 

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