Look, I actually half-finished something!

Remember our bed frame project? Gosh, that all seems so long ago… but we’ve only been sleeping on the new mattress since April. Suddenly it’s August, and the summer is getting away from me (as usual). Whatever became of our African mahogany bed frame?

It’s hard to make progress on any project when we’re galavanting around the country to family reunions, and the weather hasn’t cooperated. It’s been SO hot that I can’t work with stain and polyurethane outdoors. I won’t do this kind of project indoors where clouds of pet hair would drift over wet stain. (I’m only semi-kidding about that.)

BUT … I’m pleased to say, the footboard is finished! Of course, what good is a footboard without a headboard? Not very … but if we ever get back to a normal 78-degree summer, that’ll get done, too. Here’s how it all went down.

Welcome to my paint booth. It’s really pleasant in there … shady, slightly breezy, and vaguely blue.

Blue canopy and sawhorses set up on the deck for staining

My paint booth–blue on top, blue below

After a quick finish sanding, I began by sealing the footboard’s surface with Zinsser Seal Coat. Because I had tested all the products beforehand, I could move quickly, with complete confidence. I was glad I didn’t have to worry and wonder about how it would turn out.

Applying a coat of shellac sealer to footboard

Sealer goes on first

Shellac sealer applied to African mahogany footboard


Um, not so fast … as I was swabbing on the sealer I found a major split in the wood, formed by a separated layer of the grain. This was the kind of thing I couldn’t simply sand out—it would continue to separate.

Separation between grain layers in African mahogany

Oh no! Splitsville!

We paid another visit to the good folks at Rockler, who told me what kind of filler would be best. I bought Famowood Wood Filler, in mahogany color. It didn’t really match our African mahogany, but it would be stained, so I wasn’t concerned. However, I had made a mistake by applying sealer before I mended the split. When the filler dried and it was time to sand it down, the shellac sealer sort of gummed up as I sanded. The more I tried to sand it out, the gummier it got, burning from the friction of the sander. I had to sand a large area very lightly to even it out. Suddenly I really was worrying and wondering how the stain would take. Things never go quite like you plan! You can see, though—or maybe you can’t see—that the split mended perfectly.

Split in African mahogany mended with filler

Split filled and sanded … and sanded

I also filled a gouge near the top of the footboard. You can see that the pinkish filler doesn’t match the wood at all.

Filled small gouge in African mahogany

Filled gouge

With the split and gouge mended and the footboard sealed, it was stain time. Because I’d used sealer, I didn’t have to worry about the Minwax dark walnut stain soaking in too much. I took my time and allowed some color to develop.

Lastly, I applied two coats of General Finishes Enduro-Var water-based satin urethane. Between coats (between all coats) I rubbed the wood down with a fiber buffing pad. This gentler alternative to sandpaper removed any bubbles and imperfections on the surface. Duke parked himself under the footboard as the finish coat dried, thinking that it must be a table … and sometimes food falls off tables.

Boxer sleeps on blue tarp under a footboard propped on sawhorses

Wake me up when the food arrives

When Duke wasn’t holding down the tarp, Chex and Tara played ambush in its folds.

Two cats play on a blue tarp on the deck

Checkers and Tara play with the tarp

Everything was turning out fine … except that filled gouge. It didn’t take the stain properly. This would never do! Not to worry—I whipped out my trusty brown Sharpie and stippled it until it blended right in. That fine arts degree has NOT gone to waste!!

Finally, the footboard was finished. Eric and I carried it back into the house. That’s when I noticed that the back of the footboard was considerably glossier than the front. What the … ? I realized that when I put the finish coats on the front of the piece, I’d stirred the half-full can of urethane thoroughly. When I coated the backside, the can was full and I stirred gently (if at all). So my vigorous stirring had woken up whatever is in the urethane that makes the finish satin instead of gloss. Sigh … I didn’t learn about that in art school. Well, who will notice? Most of the shiny backside will be covered by bed, anyway. And it’s not like the world is going to beat a path to my door to see this bed. If they did, they couldn’t see both sides of the footboard at once, could they! ARRGGHHH!!!

Now, check this out: This is the satin side (the outside) of the footboard, one photo taken at an angle from the left, the other from the right. See how the light and dark ribbons of grain change directions, like tiger eye? Is that trippy or what?

I promise to stir the heck out the poly when I stain the headboard!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it


13 thoughts on “Look, I actually half-finished something!

  1. Jessica@CapeofDreams

    That footboard is GORGEOUS!!!! What beautiful wood! I’m impressed with your work on it. Great job with the Sharpie. I can’t even give you enough compliments on this one. I also liked the pics of your furry family gathered around as you worked on it. Such personalities!

  2. Karen B.

    You did a great job…the foot board looks amazing. Your step by step process helped me remember why I don’t do more DIY projects…NO PATIENCE HERE. I need to develop some patience so that I too can tackle some of the simple projects around this place. 🙂
    I hope you cool down soon. We’re ramping up the heat after a fairly mild summer. Bummer.
    Enjoy the upcoming weekend.

  3. Nine Dark Moons

    love your paint booth! and the pets that took advantage of it 🙂 that wood is soooooooooo beautiful. nothing ever goes as planned with DIY, does it? it came out gorgeous – it’s neat how it looks different from different angles! oh yea and the sharpie = genius 🙂

  4. Tom & Judy

    Sharpies have saved more then one project for me. lol The footboard is beautiful and unique. You should be very proud of your work.

  5. Jo

    Love the footboard. You have reminded me that I also have a headboard and footboard that need to be stripped and finished. I can’t even lift them myself so I’m not sure that it will happen this year. Can’t wait to see your bedroom “back together”. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music


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