Sunday, October 23, 2011

Project - Building a Desk - Finished!

The desk I built sat in the garage until Saturday morning.  I moved it into the house just in time for our housewarming - at least one person commented positively on the desk without knowing I had built it.  For everyone else, I made sure they knew right away.

Having made it through an entire project, I can confidently divide projects into a few different steps and grade myself:
  1. Buying stuff - C or D - I didn't make a smart wood purchasing decision and I ended up making several trips to Home Depot.  For the next project, I think this'll be an easy A.
  2. Cutting the stuff you bought - C+ - unfortunately, I let the 17 year old working at Home Depot make a few cuts so that the wood would fit in my car.  This led to some pieces which were shorter than they should have been.  Before I put together my saw jig, I think some of my own cuts with my circular saw weren't quite straight.
  3. Assembling the cut stuff - B+ - I would give myself an A, but I can't do that on my first project.
  4. Finishing the assembled stuff - B- - not terrible, but not great - see below.
Finshing - There's no such thing as too much sanding!
Once I had the desk fully assembled and the drawer was sliding well, I felt like I had reached the finish line.  How hard could it be to paint something?

First, you need to sand the project.  This helps smooth the project, but also create "grip" for the primer.  You could use a primer + paint, but I went with separate primer and paint.  Primer is generally white or gray.  It is suggested that you use gray if you are painting with dark colors.

So sand, then apply a thin layer of primer.  After it has dried, sand again, then prime again.

Next, sand again before applying paint.  It's really helpful to buy a "tack cloth" which is a cloth... that is tacky.  You bunch it up and wipe the project and it picks up all the little bits of sawdust.  I didn't do this at first, which was a mistake, because as I applied the primer, some spots looked gritty.

When I first applied the paint, I used a paintbrush.  This was also a mistake.  For a rookie, it seems that no matter how hard you try to keep from leaving brush strokes, they'll be there.  And they don't look good.  After a layer of paint, I bought a roller and the results were great.  The problem was that I had a layer of brush-strokes beneath which I couldn't effectively sand away.

In between layers of paint (and you want at least 2 layers) I sanded again.  At this point, you want to use a very fine sand paper and slide it across the project to again, create "grip" and to even out any minor bumps.

Once the paint has dried and you are happy, you'll want to apply a protective finish.  I read that a spray can of water-based polycrylic was the best / easiest.  Let me give you a tip to save you some headaches - you are going to be applying many layers of polycrylic, so spray the project very lightly, let it dry (30 mins) then do it again.

After my first pass with the polycrylic, I looked at the project and thought there were some areas I missed.  So I gave those areas a more focused spraying.  This only led to buildup of the polycrylic.  I tried wiping them with my finger or paper towel, but then the area looked smudged.

After layers of poly, you again need to sand with very fine paper.  Since I had created some smudges and buildup areas, I sanded with a bit more force - in at least two spots, I sanded away the poly and the paint underneath to expose primer.  Ugh!

So now I needed to re-touch a few areas with paint, then hit it all with poly again.  I probably should have re-touched with paint, let it dry, then done it again.  At this point though, the project had been out in the garage for a good week and I was running out of time to show it off at our housewarming.

As a final step, I drilled some small holes in the feet and added screw-in felt furniture feet.  This would also make it possible to adjust the desk if it wasn't level, although it was.

The feet did left the project off the floor by 1/4" which I felt took away from the look a little.

All-in-all, passing grades.  The big test was whether Pamela would let me try to build us a dining room table next, and I have received the go-ahead.  So, be on the lookout for dining table posts soon!

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