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Svala Checkerboard Table

Svala Checkerboard Table

July 22nd, 2008  · stk

IKEA Svala Checkerboard Table Project: Alex got an IKEA "Svala" table from her grandparents. Most IKEA furniture must be put together and a finish applied. This was no different. What was different, however, was that Scott turned it into a checkerboard. (Step-by-step instructions, tips and photos are included for other do-it-yourself project types).

DIY Project for an IKEA "Svala" Children's Table
(or any other unfinished table, for that matter)

I had the idea of doing something special with an IKEA TRIVIA: What Does IKEA Mean? ikea logo The popular Swedish home furnishings retailer - IKEA - has 282 stores in 36 countries (and plans on opening about 23 more stores during 2008). It was founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad (17 at the time). The company name combines the first letters of the founder's name and the village in which he grew up (Elmtayrd Agunnaryd) ... hence: Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd! happy boyNow you know! Just remember it for the next time you play Trivial Pursuit!  table that Alex got from her maternal grandparents, as a gift. Sure, I could have simply stained it, or applied polyurethane, but I wanted to try my hand at something slightly more fancy.

By adding a checkerboard playing surface, Alex could use the table for more than just tea parties and coloring sessions. The only question was, "What's the best way to add the checkerboard?"

The project languished, partly because of other chores and a busy schedule, but also because I was couldn't decide on the best way to proceed.

Ultimately, I flew by the seat of my pants, using a combination of spray paint, wood stain and polyurethane. I tried to add an 'antique touch' to the finished product and all-in-all, I'm pleased with the way it turned out.

I thought I'd share the steps (plus a bit of what was learned along the way and things I'd do differently) in case someone else out there wants to take on a similar project. ;)

For step-by-step instructions and photos ... carry on brave DIYs!

Step 1: Making the Checkerboard Pattern

Of course, you need a Svala (or similarly unfinished table) with which to begin. It goes without saying, but I'll say in anyway, because I can. :p

Originally, I debated about how to make the checkerboard pattern stand out. Should I use wood stain? Spray paint? Shoe polish? What? To avoid "bleeding", I decided that spray paint would be the best choice. As I happened to have already have a can of flat-black primer, that's what I used, but you could use any color you want. Heck, you can probably purchase polyurethane spray paint with different colors of stain already mixed in - the best of both worlds. ;)

To make the template, measure out the best placement for a checkerboard (8 squares by 8 squares). Initially, I didn't have a border around my checkerboard pattern, but I decided it would help "frame" the checkerboard and I'd recommend having one.

Use masking tape or green painter's tape (releases easier than regular masking tape, but is slightly more expensive) to lay down overlapping rows of tape. Cover the majority of the table top in this fashion and then draw your checkerboard pattern, in pencil, onto the taped surface.

Then, using a straight edge and a utility knife (with a new, sharp blade), cut out the alternating squares TIPS: Cutting It Out There's three key things here: (1) Don't press down too hard (you want to cut the tape, but not score the wood - especially in the interior of the pattern. Around the border, however, you DO want to score the wood, as it will help to prevent bleed-over, when you apply the wood stain). (2) Don't overrun the pattern at the edges. (Any scoring past the pattern may be glaringly visible in the final product). (3) It's important to cut through the tape cleanly at intersecting corners (helps prevent tearing or pulling up bits of the tape that you want to stay stuck to the table).   of the checkerboard pattern - creating a "masking tape" checkerboard.

Step 2: Masking & Spraying

This step is easy. After you've cut away the bits of the tabletop pattern you want to be your spray-paint color, just mask any areas of the table you don't want to be sprayed. I used a bit more green painter's masking tape and some old newspapers.

Once you're sure you won't over-spray your project, simply apply the spray paint to the top of the table. You want an even application of whatever paint or polyurethane spray you're using, but you don't need much - just enough to get an even coloration.

With spray paint, more light coats are better than a single heavy coat.

Allow the paint to dry to the touch, then remove the masking tape and newspaper. (Be careful about touching your project if you should happen to get any paint on your fingers, as you might end up with paint where you don't want it).

I used a flat black primer paint, but you could use any color you wanted. Next time, I'd be tempted to purchase a can of polyurethane stain (if such an animal exists).

At this point, you'll be amazed at how sharp the checkerboard pattern appears. It's easy to get excited about moving forward, because the table looks so good. Be patient. Set the table aside and let it dry for a day or two, making sure the paint is thoroughly dry and no longer volatilizing.

Step 3: Applying the Wood Stain

After the spray paint has been allowed to thoroughly dry, it's time to apply the wood stain. With a steady hand and a small brush, apply the wood stain in the area between the black border and checkerboard pattern. Along these edges, your perimeter score marks (from when you cut out the checkerboard and border) will help to keep the stain from bleeding onto parts of the table you don't want stained.

Be patient and use the same small brush to apply stain along the outside edge of the black border. Once you've applied enough stain so that you're not worried about bleed-over, you can use a rag or some other wider tool, to apply the stain to the rest of the tabletop, legs and (don't forget) the chairs!

You might need to blot or otherwise remove excess stain. Use a clean rag and wipe the outside edges, then grab another clean rag and BLOT the border area, making sure to use a clean portion of the rag for each "blot".

Allow the stain to dry overnight or a day, then you're ready to tackle the last step - applying the finish.

Step 4: Applying the Final Finish

On my project, I thought that the black paint looked a tad stark against the white, unstained wood. I debated about the best way to add an "antique" finish, but was worried about the black paint smudging or otherwise discoloring the blond wood.

I couldn't resist, however, and I began lightly sanding the tabletop. Sure enough, the black paint began discoloring the unfinished wood and I was presented with a problem - what do I do now?

Using clean sandpaper I managed to achieve a relatively uniform appearance, but it took a bit of work and cleaning with dry, clean rags. I don't advise that you attempt "antiquing" your project. At one point, I thought for sure that I had ruined it. In hindsight, the polyurethane finish I applied, sufficiently darkened the blond wood, reducing the stark contrast between black and "white" squares. (Another reason why, if I did it again, I'd think about a polyurethane spray stain, rather than black - or any other color - spray paint).

After I'd nearly ruined the project by mucking about with it, I was ready to apply the final finish. I'm a fan of polyurethane. It's very resilient to staining, various chemicals and stands up to abuse. Even if it is nicked or marred, you can simply sand it down and apply more coats, bringing back the luster of the original finish. I used and recommend a matte finish, oil-based polyurethane brush-on product.

The key with applying polyurethane is that three coats (minimum) are required and each coat should be sanded with very fine (220 grit or higher) prior to applying another coat. Because I had scored the top more deeply than I had intended, it took a fair number of applications of polyurethane, before they filled and were hidden under a glassy-smooth polyurethane finish.

Apply the first coat of polyurethane to your project. Make sure to sand the table legs and chairs, prior to applying the first coat (to remove any imperfections and achieve a smooth surface). You might want to start with a 100-grit sandpaper, then do it again with a 220-grit paper. Getting into all the nooks and crannies can be difficult, but just do the best you can.

Wipe off any sawdust with a clean, dry rag. For the first coat, it isn't too important, but generally, you want to apply polyurethane in a clean, dust-free environment. Oil-based polyurethane has a fairly long "open time", which on one hand is nice, because brush strokes have a tendency to self-level, but on the other is bad, because any bugs landing on the project then become part of the project. :p

Allow the polyurethane to dry overnight (24 hours is generally what I do, but it depends a bit on temperature and humidity). Sand the first coat with 220-grit paper and apply a 2nd coat to the entire project.

After the 2nd coat dries and has been sanded down, concentrate your efforts onto the table top, rather than the other parts of the project (if you want to have a smooth top). I figured that Alex would be drawing on her table and any scored lines would show up on her crayola drawings, so it was important for me to achieve a flat, even surface.

My third, fourth and fifth coats were applied only to the top and - because it's a flat surface - I made them a great deal thicker, in an effort to fill in my too-deep score marks. It took a fair few coats of polyurethane for me to cover up those marks (which is why I recommend not scoring too deeply, if you can.

After you've gotten the finish you want on the top, sand the project with 320-grit paper and apply a final coat of polyurethane.

Whew! You're done! What a handsome project! Clap yourself on the back for turning a plain Jane IKEA table into a work of art!

If anyone uses these plans for their IKEA (or other) table, I'd be curious to hear from you and find out how it went and see pictures.

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Updated: 4-Aug-2008
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1.flag Gary Comment
Nice Job Scott, Alex must be pleased with the end result, it looks a nice piece of furniture. You must show her how to play the game now and then she will be very proud of her Dad for making the table.

Must carry on at work now, few jobs to finish off before I finish for the week. We are going on holiday for a week tomorrow to Wales and stopping in a large caravan on a holiday camp site. Lets just hope the weather holds, its been nice here for the past few day.

Catch you when we come back, no computers for a week - Yipeeeeeee !

2.flag stk Comment
Thanks. I still need to make (or purchase) the checkers!

Have fun on yer holiday. We're headed to the cabin on Sunday, for a few days (we're taking our first "guests"). Hopefully, the trip will go a tad more smoothly than last time. ;)

You're not taking a laptop? :o I'll miss all your comments. :'(