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Jan 27/17

It’s Like Watching Haint Dry Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments

My husband would like it noted from the start that he wanted no part of this. In fact, he was dead set against the entire plan. So, noted.

There have been some major changes in our lives lately. My cousin who lived with us through part of college and graduate school got married and moved to Texas. It’s all a delightfully wonderful transition, but a rather stressful change. Then a good friend’s mom died. I cannot explain why, but it hit me really hard.

I do not have what any qualified mental health care worker would refer to as “healthy coping skills.” So over the Fourth of July weekend, I decided the way to deal with all of this anxiety was to strip and paint the kitchen table. (Look below for that DIY saga — with instructions.) And it became crucial to the keeping the universe on its axis that my kitchen table be the proper color of blue.

The obligatory “before” picture.

I have been talking about this in general terms for some time. By virtue of his family of origin, he believes all wood furniture should be stained and not painted. This is a source of some contention between us. But it was happening, like it or not. He knew that much, so he figured he better get in the color selection process.

That was where things got a bit tricky. I wanted to paint the table Haint Blue. It’s the shade Southerners used to paint their porch ceilings to either ward off evil spirits or confuse mosquitoes, which are sort of the same thing. (“Haint” being a twisted version of “haunt.”) But as with most things in Southern lore, there’s not really one shade of Haint Blue. There are several. Depending on which source you reference, you get slightly different answers.

I found a list of three shades on a national retailer’s site. I told my husband he could chose from those three. He didn’t like any of them. We went a few rounds about who was being stupid over the color blue, but really, no one wins that game. He told me he could live with the shade of blue in the poster hanging in our living room done by Little Rock artist, Matt Owen. It’s a minimalist movie poster of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Go ahead and sit with that a moment. My husband I compromised on the color of blue for our table based on a John Hughes’ film poster. But now that we had the shade, all I needed was the Pantone color, which Matt gave me. I could convert that to a paint shade, and we were off to the races. Or not at all.

For the uninitiated, Pantone is a system of standardizing colors. It’s primarily used in the printing industry, but there are basic conversions for paint or fabric or anything really … if the person working at the retail store knows how to do them. This is really where the wheel came off the cart. In more than one retail establishment, I was asked, “What store is Pantone?” and “Did you get that locally?”

It’s important to remember that the fate of the Universe rested on whether or not I completed this task in a timely manner, so I really wasn’t in the mood for Tom Foolery. I had a clock ticking. But in store after store, chain after chain, the clerks were aggressively ignorant of the very industry they work in: color. It was maddening. It’s possible I cannot ever go back to a certain chain retailer ever again, or at least until two particular employees retire.

Finally, in a local store, a young man looked at me in total blunt honesty, “Ma’am, I honestly don’t understand what you’re talking about with that number and Pantone or anything else you’ve just said. But it seems real important to you. So here’s what … if you’ll pull up what you’ve got on your phone there, I’ll get out my color fandecks, and we’ll just figure it out.”

So we did. We sifted through different shades of blues, greens and grays … adding more here … reducing some there. And between the two of us, we got pretty darn close. His formal education may have been lacking, but his eye was quite good. He really did help me find what I was looking for. Suddenly, I could breathe again. I knew it really was going to be all right.

However, the Universe is funny and likes to make little jokes at my expense. If you think about it, that’s not very nice considering all I do to keep things rotating properly. The name of the color we settled upon: meditation.


I showed my husband. He chuckled and walked away shouting, “Serenity Now!”


Refinishing any piece of wooden furniture turns out to be less about science and more about art than it might initially appear. It’s like cooking in that way.

Step 1: Remove current finish or paint — For this you need some sort of stripper. Not that kind. You can pick this up at any paint or home improvement store. Ask anyone who does this very often, each one has a favorite brand. Try a few to figure out your preference. You’re going to need to work in a well-ventilated area. This is not an option. The stuff is literally poison, and the fumes are no joke. Use a brush to slather it on. Wait however long the brand recommends, usually 15-20 minutes. Then definitely use gloves to get some steel wool, or dull scraping tool to remove the previous stain, varnish or paint.

Step 2: Wash it down — You’ve just slathered poison all over your wood. You want to clean that up. Use some kind of TSP cleaning solution to wash the entire surface. Let it dry.

Step 3: Select paint color — In theory this is a relatively simple step. In theory …

Step 4: Prime the surface — For wood products, use an oil-based primer, preferably one that’s tinted. Usually the directions say wait an hour to dry. It’s usually best to wait at least an hour and a half, especially if you’re working in the summer and it’s humid.

Step 5: Sand the primer — This is a really important step that’s easy to minimize or want to skip over. Every single bump or swirl that is not smooth in this step will show once you put the paint on. It is not a forgiving medium.

Step 6: Paint — Try to make your first coat a little bit thin, so it won’t take so long to dry between coats. It’s usually a minimum of 24 hours between paintings.

Step 7: Enjoy — Oil paint dries pretty hard, even if it takes a long time to get there. Depending on how you plan to use it, you may want to add a top coat of varnish. For now, we’re leaving it alone to see if we like the wear pattern.


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