Tag Archives: African mahogany

I HATE DIY!!! (part 2)

A way forward

So what ever happened to the bed project, you ask. Oh, that. Yes … well, believe it or not, it’s still being worked. (I know you believe it because by now you know how glacially slow we are at finishing our projects.) When I left off, we had just learned that we didn’t qualify for the free TempurPedic pillows because we wanted to buy only the mattress, not the foundation piece. Eric was struggling to gain traction constructing the mahogany bed frame, and my stain test results were a big disappointment.

bad stain

When we returned home after deciding not to order our mattress, I was seriously bummed. Sure, we could wait to buy it until Eric finished the bed frame, but I really, really wanted a new bed. Now, not months from now. I considered our options. Should we bite the bullet and buy the set (foundation and mattress) and bag the idea of a platform bed? We could simply bolt the headboard to the frame whenever Eric had it ready. But what about the footboard, which was almost done? He had worked so hard on it, and had spent a bundle on the expensive mahogany. It would be a shame not to build the whole bed frame as we’d planned. But our plan just wasn’t coming together. Do other people agonize so over buying a freakin’ bed?? (Well, maybe …  a king-sized TempurPedic probably costs more than my first car!)

Then Eric brought the finished footboard upstairs. Wow—his craftsmanship, as usual, was outstanding. No way was it becoming firewood! Somehow, though, I would have to find a way to give it the finish it deserved … and I was worried about that. My angst continued.

The unstained footboard is hanging out in the library where it’s safe from marauding cats. It’s 30 inches tall.


footboard detail

Finally, we made a decision: We’d buy the @#$% foundation piece, get the free pillows, and set up the bed. Then we’d finish the bedframe at our own pace … and in the meantime, we’d have an awesome bed. What’s a few more hundred bucks?? Sheesh …

We felt liberated just having made a decision. The next day (the last day of the free pillow offer), we returned to the store to shell out the cash. But first, we stopped at Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, to learn about staining mahogany. I brought my ugly stain sample. The salesman was wonderfully patient and demonstrated several products and techniques that would increase the uniformity of the stain. Counter-intuitively, the first step is a coat of shellac (Zinsser Seal Coat) to seal the pores! Then the Minwax stain, then a couple of coats of General Finishes Enduro-Var urethane sealer. And inevitably, lots of sanding in between. I breathed a sigh of relief. I couldn’t wait to test the new method.

shellac, stain, varnish

Out on the deck, I set up a little production line with five mahogany scraps that had a variety of graining. First, I coated the scraps with shellac.

5 mahogany boards

shellac coat

I had three different colors of stain at my disposal, but I started with the darkest, Minwax Dark Walnut, because I knew the shellac undercoat would prevent the stain from soaking in too much. I painted a strip of stain down the right side of each board, then rubbed it off. If I wanted to try another color, I had plenty of room.

mahogany boards with walnut stain

Dark walnut seemed like the right color. I needed the depth of color if the bed was to blend with my mom-and-pop dressers. I applied another coat to deepen it a bit, then, satisfied, I stained the rest of the boards.

Two coats of satin urethane topped them off. Beautiful! A photo won’t show it, but when I turn the wood from side to side, the dark and light stripes reverse. Trippy.

stained mahogany in the sun

stained sample boards

With the samples against the bare footboard, you can see how the graining will look when it’s finished.

footboard and stain samples

On the appointed day, our bed arrived. Two guys made short work of setting it up—they’d done this before. In a flash, our saggy bed was gone and this beauty was in its place. Duke approved.

TempurPedic bed

Flat as a flitter! Hard as a board! (A board covered in memory foam, that is.)

flat new mattress

Believe it or not, that’s exactly what we like. I can’t get over the fact that I can lie anywhere on this bed and there’s NO sag or trough. Ahhhh! The only problem I’ve encountered is a reluctance to get out of bed in the morning.

In a few weeks, our free pillows arrived, each in its own little fabric suitcase, as if they expected to go on vacation with us. Wouldn’t you think that if you buy a king bed, you’d get king pillows? But no, these are “standard” size. I’m not sure whose standard, because they get lost in standard pillowcases. They look like little kids wearing daddy’s T-shirts. I think they’re too hard and too high, not soft and squishy like the ones in the showroom. Eric likes his okay, but I’m disappointed. After we made such an effort to buy during the pillow giveaway! Bah! (“I would sleep on one,” offered Lacy.)

small memory foam pillows

However, the bed is divine. We and our bedcats love it. I immediately quit thinking about how much money the whole gambit is costing us. A good night’s sleep is priceless, as Chex and Peggy Sue will attest.

(Stay tuned for the staining story … it’ll happen, um … soon! I’ll be doing it outside, so the weather needs to be perfect.)


Two cats cuddling






What do you do when your bed gets saggy and you need a new mattress? You shop for a new one, buy it, and have it delivered. If you’re feeling fancy, maybe you even buy a new bedframe to spruce up your bedroom. But us? Nooooo … that would be way too easy. We’d rather find the hardest, most time-consuming DIY solution.

Checkers is a big dude, but not quite big enough to make the troughs that are visible in our bed.

black and white cat on saggy bed

For the past year or more we’ve been grumbling about sleeping in the two troughs of our not-that-old mattress. “Does anyone sleep in the middle?” a salesman asked. “Because the padding will shift to the middle if no one sleeps there.” Well, hell no, no one sleeps in the middle! What’s the point of having a king-size bed if someone sleeps in the middle? You might as well have a full-size bed! The other person would be clinging to the edge! Personally, I like my space … plus, we share the bed with four of our cats, so we sleep where we can fit. But, back to our story …

Eric and I finally decided it was time to test mattresses. We fell in love with the first one we lay on: a firm TempurPedic. Yes, we tested others, but always came back to “the one.” We wanted to buy it right away, but where would we put it? We liked the idea of a platform bed instead of a traditional box spring. So we started looking around. We searched online. We hit all the stores. We thought underbed storage drawers would be a great idea, but that severely limited our options. The few nice ones that we found were so expensive. Then the solution came to us. Of course! Eric could simply MAKE a platform bed! How hard could it be?

We wanted something that would look timeless … at home with our antiques, yet able to transition to a modern house in the future. We found a design at IKEA that we both liked, with simple, straight lines that reminded me of my parent’s 1940s bed.

1940 bed

Now … what kind of wood? Off to the lumber yard. We looked at birch. We’d seen a gorgeous Asian design in birch, and I fell in love with some sleek, natural birch dressers with glass tops at IKEA.

modern birch IKEA dresser

Why not go with something totally new and different? You know how long it’s been since I changed up my bedroom furniture? Never! But then what would I do with my antiques? A modern birch set would stick out like aliens in our house. Common sense prevailed. We looked at walnut. And then we saw the African mahogany. Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? I’m not sure if it’s exotic, exactly, but it sure as heck is expensive!

cart of mahogany boards at lumber yard

So Eric began translating the bed in our heads into reality. Naturally, he took advantage of this tool-buying opportunity to buy the planer that he’s been talking about for as long as I’ve known him. “I have no choice,” was how he put it. Oh, well, okay … if you have no choice!

planer in box

He began spending inordinate amounts of time downstairs in the shop/dungeon, but I didn’t hear any power tools running. What could he be doing down there? You know the old advice about measuring twice and cutting once? I think Eric was measuring 37 times but was still reluctant to cut that expensive mahogany.

Weeks passed. Eric insisted he was making progress, but I had still not seen so much as a footboard. (To be fair, his shop is cramped and he can’t keep all his machines set up at once. And it takes a lot of time to glue and assemble a king-size bed. And to measure 37 times. Not to mention, we have day jobs.)

We returned to the mattress store and reaffirmed our commitment to the mattress. But, they were no longer throwing in the absurdly high-priced matching pillows for free. Here’s the thing: We didn’t want to buy the mattress before we were ready to set it up. I didn’t want the memory-foam monster lurking in the library, nor did I want us to have to muscle it into the bedroom by ourselves, or deal with getting rid of our old set. All elements would have to come together at once. Planets had to align. The dance had to be choreographed.

A salesperson called us when the pillows became part of the deal again. A special offer would be in effect for several weeks, but we had to buy by April 19th. Time was running out. How in the world would we finish the bed frame—which not only needed to be built, but also stained and finished, a process that can’t be rushed? I was stressin’.

Eric said the footboard would be ready for me to stain by Saturday (Saturday passed)… okay, maybe Thursday (Thursday came and went) … or surely the next Saturday. So I grabbed a wood scrap and started testing stain colors. We knew the mahogany wouldn’t match the walnut mom and pop dressers, but we wanted the color to blend. I tried dark walnut stain … and, oh, crap … the color had potential, but the mahogany’s open grain sucked up so much stain in places that it looked as if the wood had been charred with a blow torch. This isn’t 1972 … and that’s not the look I was going for.

bad stain

Apparently, you can’t just slap some stain on raw mahogany, so we read up on the process. It goes something like this: 1. Sand. 2. Stain. 3. Sand. 4. Fill the grain. 5. Sand. 6. Apply sealer. 7. Sand. 8. Apply more sealer. 9. Sand. 10. Apply more sealer. I quit stressing and started freaking out.

We went back to the mattress store, thinking we would order our bed, get the pillows, and delay delivery for a few weeks to give us a chance to finish the bed. It was then that we learned that the pillows are only offered if we bought a set. We didn’t want the foundation … only the mattress. No pillows for us! Demoralized, we drove home, figuring we might as well put off buying the mattress until the frame was ready. Whenever that would be.

So let’s recap: We had no mattress, no free pillows, no bedframe (yet), and disastrous stain results. Oh—and the price of the mattress had gone up $300 while we dilly-dallied about when to buy. Will we ever pull out of this DIY tailspin? Are we doomed to be swallowed by our old bed? Should we turn the shop/dungeon into a chemistry lab and invent our own memory foam?

sagging bed cartoon


 To be continued …