It’s been quite some time since I finished this makeover. I felt as if I needed to make peace with this little TV unit before I could share it. All I wanted was a quick and simple makeover of my entertainment unit with a chalk paint wash. Sound easy, right? Well … this was one of those times when nothing seemed to go right … but boy did I learn a lot!
Here is the before photo. I’m not a huge fan of TV or entertainment units and it took me a while to find one I liked. I wanted a unit that sat low, would hide the DVD player (and DVDs), and wasn’t too “heavy-looking”. This piece had a good coat of polyethylene which I needed to remove as I wanted to finish the unit with a light chalk paint wash.
My first mistake was to put myself under time pressure. I tried to strip this piece in between running my daughter to school, then heading off to watch her swim, and finally the after-school pick up … I need to be around to monitor the stripping process.
Using a paint stripper on my chopping boards had worked well previously … so why not here? After applying the paint stripper to the unit and allowing it to cure, I then started scraping off the varnish.
My second mistake was then to use steelwool and water to wash the piece down. Afterwards I ran off to pick up my daughter from school. Which allowed plenty of time for the water to react to the steelwool particles left sitting on the top.
I nearly cried when I got home and saw this …. WHAT HAPPENED?!
And here is another perspective of the horror – I probably couldn’t get this effect again if I tried! I thought … this is it, I’ll have to paint the unit black! Not at all the light bright look I wanted.
What to do?! After a bit of research it seemed oxalic acid, which is often used as a wood bleach, would remove the black stains caused by water penetration. However I tried sanding to remove the marks first. Oxalic acid is pretty heavy duty, and I only wanted to use it as a last resort. But those marks were here to stay and I really didn’t want to paint the piece black.
I found a great step-by-step tutorial here, which I followed to the letter.
The top was much worse that the rest of the unit. You can also see Ollie’s tail as he checks out my debacle!
If you’re thinking of using this method please remember to nuturise the bleach with vinegar. Make sure this method will work on the type of wood your piece is made from, as well as the type of stain. This really was a last resort for me but it worked wonders!
(You’ll have to excuse the rather poor photos … I was so sure I would never share this makeover with anyone!)
I allowed the unit to dry for several days and finished with a light sand using fine sandpaper (about 210 grade). I then started on the chalk paint wash, using Annie Sloan Old White and a damp rag. I applied the chalk paint with a paint brush and then wiped off the excess with a damp cloth.
You would have thought that after all of this there would be nothing left of the original finish. Not so! Some of the polyethylene had remained, which meant the paint wiped straight off. I thought perhaps I could get away with this but it left little strange shapped bald patches.
My next mistake was not removing all traces of the polyethylene before applying the paint wash. The varnished simply acted as a barrier between the wood and the paint.
I left the paint to dry and then sanded the bald patches with medium 120 grit sandpaper. Using sandpaper to remove the polyeuthene was probably what I should have done in the first place … live and learn.
On the upside, I loved what was happening when I left the paint to dry for a minute or two and then wiped it off. Thicker in some places … ohhh, not at all what I had in mind but I love it! So I ran with it, swapping between a damp and dry rag, and experimenting with how long to leave the paint to dry before wiping off.
Once I was happy with the look, I left the unit to dry for a day or so. I followed with a clear wax, buffing to a nice shine after a couple of days. I ended up putting the original knobs back on. I’m not completely happy with them, but by this stage I really needed to walk away and leave this poor little unit alone.
I had learnt the hard way … when using paint stripper on a big piece, it’s best to do a small section at a time – and yes, don’t leave it, and go off somewhere else! I’m letting my subconscious work on what type of knobs would look best while I have a nice cup of tea and watch my favourite show … phew!
Do you have any tips for applying a chalk paint wash?
For more tips and tricks on using chalk paint, please check out my Pinterest board
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