Clean, prep, sand.
First, to clean the server, I wiped her down with soap and water inside and out. After that, I always prefer to go over the entire thing with vinegar and water also. She was dirty but not grimy. So soap and water really was all that was needed. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is my go to almost always when I paint furniture. But I still had not come to a decision on color. And, at the time of cleaning, my thoughts were to completely paint her entirely. No sanding is necessary with Annie Sloan's paint just for the painting process. However, once I cleaned her up, I realized the top needed a good bit of sanding. Water marks existed in about three spots so I decided to sand off the entire top. Using 60 grit sand paper on my orbital sander, I worked my way across the top on one afternoon when the sun came out in February!
Patience is required but oh how beautiful it can be to see the beautiful wood grain come so nice and clean! Once I had the old finish sanded off, I ran 200 grit sand paper over the entire thing followed by 400 and this resulted in a super smooth top. I had to stain it now!
Condition, stain seal.
Minwax makes this product that you can apply prior to staining that helps to prevent blotchiness. I had almost a full can so I took a little time the evening prior to staining to apply it.
The directions on the can clearly tell you what to do and it's super easy. The next morning, the server was ready to be stained on top! My first though was to go on the lighter side. For instance, maybe with Minwax Early American. But I decided to stray from my beloved Early American and try Special Walnut. Mehhh was my reaction to the outcome.
After some thought, a coat of Dark Walnut over the Special Walnut turned out perfectly! A few days later, it was time to add the sealer. Normally I apply General Finishes High Performance Top Coat but I was out of that. I did, however, happen to have a full can of Minwax Polycrylic (Matte finish) so three coats later and the top was protected. Now, by three coats later, let me clarify. You can re-coat after about an hour. Being that it was a weekend, I applied one coat, went about other chores and then came back for another coat. Of course it's important to be careful for about week until the piece fully cures.
Now that the top was all shined up and pretty again, the base was calling for it's turn. (I forgot to mention that I had removed the hardware during the cleaning process.) Athenian Black came in for the win from Annie Sloan's color options as I've used it before on my painted piano. Plus, in the back of my mind, I envisioned just a slight bit of distressing to allow the original color to show through. With that distressing, the brown on the top would marry well with the brown peeking through the black. Typically, the first coat never looks that great. But once the second coat goes on, it really starts to take shape!
In some spots, three coats were necessary. And, once I was happy with the coverage, it was time to let it dry before s light sanding. Using 400 grit sand paper, I lightly went over the entire piece to remove what I call "grittiness" and smooth it all out. Sorry, I forgot to get pictures of every single step! (Note: this will make it look like the color has been severely lightened up. However, don't worry! Once you wipe away the dust it will go back to the normal color.) Baby wipes work well for wiping all the dust created by sanding off the "grit." Just be careful to be gentle as excess rubbing could actually cause more distressing on a newly painted server (or any piece).
Wax wax baby!
Once the paint was dry, wiped clean (I also took a vacuum to the nooks and crannies to remove any remaining dust), it's time to seal. Now, you could seal with the same sealer as the top. BUT, in my experience, sealing with a poly over black tends to show every brush line. It actually makes me crazy. That's why I use Annie Sloan's wax. It's what her paint is meant for anyway! After a quick argument in my head about clear wax versus black wax, straight black won out. Personally, I prefer to use a lint free rag to apply the wax rather than a brush. But that's just me and I'm not sure Annie Sloan would agree or approve. For me, I just feel like I have more control that way. Making sure that I got every spot over the entire thing was my goal, but I know that' not always possible with one coat. After two days, I came back and applied a second coat which allowed me to get any spots that I had missed the first time.
Dress her up!
Finally, it was time to put the hardware back on my newly painted server! I neglected to mention earlier that one of the drop pull pieces was missing on the middle center drawer. The clever folks who had this piece before me added a pipe cleaner to act as the pull. I scoured multiple sites and Facebook groups, including Etsy and restoration companies to see if I could find the exact pull. But, I came up short. However, I did stumble across these drawer pulls that were very similar AND they had a pretty finish! I envisioned using some rub and buff or some Pearl Effects to shine up the original hardware in an antique brass-ish color. But I actually love the two tone effect of these handles! That meant I only had one other challenge. I would need to match the hardware from the two doors to the new pulls. My solution was to clean them with some vinegar and boiling water, first. Then, I left the main piece alone and rubbed a hammered black color onto the little knob piece as best I could.
Oh - and the brick wall behind her?
For those that follow me on social media, you know that I wanted a backdrop behind this painted server to make it appear that I'm not going live in a dingy, cold, cement block basement. That's an entirely separate process that I can blog about later, but check out the before and after! I do plan to extend the brick painting further to the left but hopefully you can get the idea. Now I have a small little spot carved out of my workshop specifically for doing my Friday Features live each week!
I do hope you enjoyed this little summary of the story of how my painted server was transformed! Have a great week!