Coffee Table JAVA – Part 2 – Decorating using Self-Adhesive Stencil

From the very beginning the plan was to replace the glass top with a timber inlay that would fit flush with the steel frame. The issues I envisaged were: firstly, how to fit the new top discretely with no visible fixings, secondly, how to make it lightweight. Luckily, I found a piece of a 3mm thick plywood in my garage, that was veneered with something resembling walnut or another kind of dark wood. It was so thin that I managed to cut the sheet to size with a knife and ruler. But I still needed a substrate.

The idea was to fit a thicker board, say 12mm MDF, to the underside of the frame and then bond the 3mm ply in the form of infill to the top opening keeping it flush with the steel. I needed only ca. 70cm square of the substrate material so I started my hunt in the nearby B&Q store looking for discounted offcuts. The offcut material is usually priced £1 to £2 apiece, so much cheaper compared with the whole sheet which is around £20. Finally, I found a suitable board of 12mm MDF, I cut it to the right size and sealed with two coats of water based clear varnish on either side. The reason for the varnish was that raw MDF catches moisture very quickly and starts bowing beyond control. Before I glued the thin ply to the substrate, I needed to create the artwork on top of it.

I photoshopped a quick visual of what I was aiming for – a coffee plant décor left in the exposed veneer finish and a brown metallic background to it. The most efficient way to achieve the decor was to create a self-adhesive stencil and spray the brown colour. I drew the plant in the Illustrator programme as a vector work. Please note the ‘boobs’ forms are purely accidental on it, I only started to see them later when it was too late to change.

I printed out the outline on A4 size self-adhesive paper, joined the sheets together, and then I needed my daughter to help me to cut out the actual stencil.

That was probably the most time consuming part of the job. We managed to cut the shapes and stick to the ply within two days. The next step was to source the brown metallic spray which I found in the local The Range store. They have a rack of a nice selection of car sprays so the choice is almost unlimited. I picked a neutral metallic brown – Hycote Ford Roman Bronze Metallic.

Here I got a lesson I realized after the brown was sprayed. I just bought a random self-adhesive paper on eBay and the result was that the stencil stuck to the board so strongly that I could hardly remove it. It might have been that the paint dissolved the glue a little bit making it more sticky. Fortunately, the brown spray finish was strong enough when dried and I could use white spirit to remove the stencil and the residues of the glue but it was an arduous work to do, smelly and dirty. Finally, I applied three coats of oil based clear polyurethane varnish (Ronseal Polyurethane Mattcoat Varnish) giving it light sanding between the respective coats. Those who have previous experience with using a roller to apply the oil poly varnish know that the varnish bubbles under the roller. The only way to get this nicely spread is to disperse the bubbles with a brush after the lacquer is applied by roller.

The top with artwork was now ready for a final assembly. Please read my next post to find out more.   

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