Thanks to everyone for the constant support as I tackled this scary, scary project. It’s a big day for my little merrypad as I share the happy aftermath of my kitchen staining project. BAM, how ’bout that view?
Do you remember what it looked like before?
Getting to this point has required hours and hours of painful brainpower over three years, during which time I’ve asked more people than I have fingers and toes their opinion on oak, painted oak, stained oak, orange cabinets, gray cabinets, white cabinets, dirty cabinets, and beveled cabinets. If you were ever on the receiving end of my 20-question spitfire, my apologies, I’ve sorted it all out now. Life is good.
Since I last updated you on my progress:
1. I finished staining everything.
Both sides of each door and the full cabinet base in the kitchen received not one, not two, but three coats of General Finishes Gel Stain in Java. Each coat was allowed to dry a minimum of 24 hours before being so much as touched, and as I’ve stated all along, it this stain goes on really nicely, really smoothly, so by the third coat, there’s no hint of streaking or original oak showing through at all. The real trick, as you will also see on other gel stain tutorials, is that you must leave a thin coating of the stain on the surface instead of expecting it to absorb immediately. In any case, staining took a long, long time. I suppose it could have gotten done in just 6 days (three days on one side, three days on the other) but between vacations, weddings, and our overall busy month of August, I spent a total of 20 days working through this part of the project. Never fear, there’s no need to rush in the world of DIY.
I did all of my staining bare-handed, completely without gloves, because I found it harder to get into the nooks and crannies of the door bevels with an extra obstacle and none of my rubber gloves fit tight enough to not be a nuisance. Gloves actually made it sloppier to apply, and while going without made clean up a lot messier, it was worth it in the end to have such control over the application. Consequently, my hands have looked really, really bad for many weeks now. Between the staining and the fading henna from Morocco, people must just think I have a skin condition, and that’s OK, because I don’t like people standing that close to me anyways. I think my nails will need to fully grow out before I’m back to normal. Maybe that’ll happen before our December wedding.
2. I have perma-poly’d hands.
I don’t care what you hear from the specialists at Sephora: Straight out of the quart polyurethane is the ultimate nail polish topcoat. My dingy nail polish has been fused beneath it for a week.
I considered going with any common polyurethane to save a few bucks, but I had such a great experience with General Finishes stain that I splurged on a quart of their satin polyacrylic too. I didn’t exactly want something hi-gloss shiny, and was even worried about something semi-shiny, so satin felt like the safest gradient of the poly spectrum, and closest to the natural finish that we had from the stain itself (a little shinier than matte, yet easy to wipe down when I inevitably spit out milk in a fit of laughter).
Just like with the stain, I used pieces of fine weave scrap fabric to apply the poly (actually, an old piece of bed sheet fabric that had already been once downgraded into a painters tarp worked really well). The poly, unlike the stain, was water-based, but I still allowed a minimum of 24 hours between each coat. I didn’t let polyurethaning drag on quite in the same way as staining had, and six coats (three on one side of the cabinets, three on the other) were completed 7 days after returning from Morocco.
3. Installation was quick and easy.
Black and Decker unknowingly sponsored the heck out of this post after sending me its newest cordless screwdriver, the GYRO, at the end of last week. It’s the world’s first motion activated screwdriver, and that is awesome.
Pete can attest to all of the pleasantries that I’ve been spewing about this new lightweight screwdriver, I’ve really begun to feel like Emily
ScissorDrillhands, fixing everything in sight because it’s just that great to use; a few quick points:
- Dude. It knows which way to spin based on how the drill is balanced when you engage it. Twist it right, it tightens. Twist it left, it loosens. Somehow it works correctly upside down, facing straight up, and in all other directions you find yourself awkwardly wielding a drill when working in tiny spaces.
- Tilt it a little, it turns the bit a little. Tilt it a lot, it turns the bit a lot. This took me a little getting used to, but is a really great feature and makes the tool easy to control.
- Oh, and there’s no trigger, it’s activated by a button that sits in the palm of your hand as you hold and tilt it. For real, it’s magical, it needs an iridescent horn and a saddle for a tiny princess to ride it into the sunset. Have I had enough sleep lately?
- Seriously, it’s great in tiny spaces, say, when you’re trying to reattach drawer tracks to refinished drawer fronts, and that point alone deserves it’s own bullet.
- It’s armed with a 4V lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which compared to some of our other tools is mighty low-voltage, but it had plenty of juice with a single charge to install every single cabinet hinge, which was about 160 screws total. It may not have lasted that screwing into holes that weren’t predrilled, but I haven’t tested that comprehensively yet.
- It made hanging the high cabinets so easy–there was no sense of awkwardly trying to hold a 5-lb drill above your head while you pulled the trigger gently. This, I know you can relate to.
4. Some stuff is going to stay, and some stuff is about to change.
It was always in the back of our minds that if we changed the color of the base cabinets, the countertop would have to be updated as well. Right now, it’s a flecked black/gray that for whatever reason picks up any reflection of blue in the vicinity, and while it’s not horrible with the dark cabinets, it’s still not what we have in mind, which is a pretty clean white. We’re in the process of quoting a new countertop right now, and hope to pull the trigger on it before winter.
I’m kind of surprised to say that I don’t hate the old brushed nickel knobs as much as I thought I would with the new dark brown finish, and even when I went to the store to price out alternates, I still ended up leaning towards the very same single knob style instead of something more modern (let’s face it, this house and the bevels in these doors do not scream “I’m uber-contemporary”). It may be something I change out in the future, but for now I think we’re going to get a little more wear out of the ones that came with the house.
The kitchen island needs an update too, a project that Pete and I have been considering for a long time. It was originally a freebie find on the side of the road that I made work, but we have something much different in mind. It’ll make for a good wintertime project. The fact of the matter is that right now it looks so out of place, I don’t even want to photograph it.
Other subtle touches will be making their way into our “new” kitchen, one of which being new hand towels. I bought this one handmade by Kaye Rachelle on fab.com because I thought Pete would find it super manly. I’m sure he’s not as amused as I am, but it’s great.
The appliances all around came with the house, and that itself is a small miracle this day in age. I’ve had no problems with them, and therefore have spent no money repairing or replacing them. We had planned to sell the older models and replace them with a matching set once we refinished the cabinets, but the black finish on the dishwasher, stove, and microwave blends in really nicely and so our priorities have changed. Unless we find a can’t-pass-up deal, we’ll likely live with them a little longer.
I hope you’re as thrilled as I am about the reveal, and at the very least, maybe just a little inspired. If you missed any other posts relating to this project, you can read them here:
- Staining test #1: What not to do.
- When I hesitantly tried to keep the project moving.
- Staining test #2: When I reattempted to stain with more vigor.
- Staining test #3: Ah yes, the winning stain.
- Actual progress: Getting down to business.
- Actual progress: Gel stain is awesome.
Looking for the Gel Stain that I used to stain the kitchen cabinets? I could not find it in stores, and my best resource was General Finishes via Amazon. Learn more about the product and purchase it for yourself right here.