Last month I showed you guys my foyer make over and you may remember the wooden bowl that I found at Target. I guess it’s more of a tray, really. Either way, I got it to catch our keys and sunglasses and other little things that need to be corralled by the door. It was half off so I was able to snag it for just $12! Plus, I liked the natural look of it and at that price it was a no brainer. But, it was actually very raw. The edges were really fiber-y and would catch fabrics when they brushed up against it and overall it just looked really unfinished. A few weeks ago Xan started working on a wooden mirror frame for our upstairs bathroom and that got me thinking that it would be really easy to finish the bowl with a little DIY elbow grease. And of course I decided to add a little something to it in the form of gold leaf as well.
Key Tray DIY Process
I started by sanding the whole thing with a 220 grit paper. I spent a while trying my best to smooth down all the live edges. After that I wanted to seal it some how and it turns out that we had this clear gel varnish on hand from the mirror so that’s what I used. I put a coat of that on the whole thing, working in phases because I couldn’t do the top and the bottom at the same time. I pretty much just followed the directions on the can, but a couple helpful hints I discovered are: 1. Make sure you wear gloves – I didn’t the first time because I figured I wasn’t using much so it wouldn’t be very messy. But it’s so sticky and soaks through the rag pretty easily. Once it’s on it’s really hard to get off. I basically had to wash my hands in nail polish remover. 2. Try to do it on a dry day. The first half of the first coat took SO long to dry and it wasn’t even a rainy day or anything – it was just your every day Southern humidity. It must have been a little drier for the next section because it cured much faster. I coated the bottom first, let it dry, and then did the top. Once I had a full coat that was dry I sanded again. This time I used 400 grit paper and that got it so smooth. It felt totally different than when I started.
After sanding the second time I wiped off all the dust with a cloth and then applied some gold leaf. I’ve actually never worked with it before and found it to be relatively easy. I used the pieces rather than the sheets for a more organic look. The thing that made the most difference for me was waiting until adhesive was almost completely dry. So I started using the lightest coat I could, like it kind of didn’t even seem like it was on there, and then wiping it down with a rag and then waiting until it was just barely sticky. And also be sure to work an area with absolutely no breeze. Even a ceiling fan will send your pieces of gold leaf flying! After leafing I did one more coat of varnish to seal everything and then I was done!
This project was super quick – especially if you don’t count the drying time. I mean the actual work that went into it was an hour, maybe two, you just have to spread it out over many days while the varnish cures. But, I love the look of the clear varnish – it just brings out the wood graining so beautifully. And now it’s so much smoother, it feels like it’s a real piece where before it felt a little like it was half finished. And the peek of gold on the bottom really takes it to the next level. Of course I feel that way about anything gold.
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