The Wobbly Old Shelf (And A Chalk Paint Review)

 A friend of mine lives in an old farmhouse. One day she went into the attic of said farmhouse and discovered this really old shelf.

She asked me if I wanted to redo it and I asked her what she had in mind. She said “I don’t know…just do something.” Do something…I can run with that.

First thing I did was remove the little corner doo-dads. Two were broken so I thought that ripping them off would be easier than attempting to fix them. Luckily I know someone who thinks tools and destroying things are just about the best thing ever.

Next we had to de-wobble it. To do this I just added some wood glue to the joints, clamped them tight and let everything dry for about a day.

And then I set out to try something new…

That’s right, chalk paint…the real thing baby. A friend actually gave me this quart, saying she wasn’t going to use it. Awesome, right?

So, the nursery that this shelf is going into has a grey, white, and yellow thing going on…except that the only yellow that is in it (at least that I can remember) is in the bedding. Therefore, the shelf needed to be yellow. The chalk paint I had was white. I had a gallon of obnoxiously bright yellow paint leftover from a project at the church. Google was no help when I tried to find out if mixing the two was okay. So, I just mixed ’em.

I did 3/4 chalk paint and 1/4 yellow paint and if you keep reading I’ll get to the review part. For now let me move onto my brilliant idea for the top. I wanted to do some sort of design on the top, but instead of painting or staining it on, I wanted to burn it into the wood. I know, I was excited about it too. I remember my mom having a woodburning pen when I was a kid, so I called her up and asked if she still had it. She did!

The date it was made was stamped onto the instructions…here is a close up…

This suckers from 1992. You might be thinking “Hey, 1992 wasn’t that long ago!” It doesn’t feel like it, but 1992 was 20 years ago. This pen was made back when Ross Perot took on Bill Clinton. Back when Wayne’s World and Sister Act were what the cool kids were watching and Americas Funniest Home Videos with Bob Saget was what I was watching. In 1992 Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” was just hitting the air waves and you were probably rocking out to it in your stirrup pants and slap bracelets. Oh 1992, if it wasn’t for you then wedding receptions everywhere would be missing out on the awesomeness that is the Boot Scootin Boogie.

Anyway, I wasn’t up for freehanding a design, so I traced a stencil pattern onto the top.

Now for some weird reason, I decided that I should probably practice a little before I started burning a design into the shelf. Normally I would just jump right in without a second thought, but not this time. Something about a 20 year old flaming hot metal tool made me want to test it first. So I did…

…and it totally didn’t work. If I held it one spot it would leave a mark, but there was no way I was going to be able to draw lines. Dang…I was hoping to start an awesome new trend or something. The new woodburning pens on Amazon have some pretty good reviews, so maybe it’s just mine that didn’t work. I may never know. At least I practiced first, I have no idea how I would have fixed a partially burned wood top.

Luckily it was really easy to erase the lines, so no harm no foul.

From there I gave the top a coat of light stain (golden oak), distressed the whole thing, coated it in polycrylic and can successfully say that I “did something.”

And now for my chalk paint review….where to start? I like the paint. I like it a lot actually…it’s thick but smooth, has good coverage, and you don’t have to prime. It sands well and is easy to distress. It’s way better than my homemade stuff (though I know my homemade stuff wasn’t the best and there are much better recipes out there).


I still have one big hangup about the paint. It’s so expensive! I mean, the paint it great…but it’s not magic paint. You still have to do multiple coats and put a finish on it. It’s not that much easier to distress than regular paint. It’s advantages don’t justify the price (to me) I don’t think I’ll purchase it over cheaper paint in the future.

Anyone else feel the same? Anyone else super disappointed that my woodburing idea didn’t work out?

Looking for more furniture ideas? Check out THIS POST.
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  1. I am also super disappointed that the wood burning didn’t work out…that would have been really cool. Bummer! BUT it does look really amazing! Keep up the amazing work!

  2. Jenny@NorthwestLovelies says:

    The shelf turned out beautifully!! I LOVE furniture with painted parts and stained parts. We just did that with our desk! I used Chalk Paint on my guest bedroom and loved it. It’s definitely expensive, but I painted two coats on a four poster queen bed, tall dresser, two nightstands and a bookcase with two quarts- it seemed to go a long way! Of course I was also bound and determined not to buy a third quart, but it turned out great! :)
    Jenny@NorthwestLovelies recently posted..A Little Birdie Birthday PartyMy Profile

  3. My shelf! Looks awesome. I got all excited when I started reading about the wood burning. It looks fabulous anyway. Thanks!

  4. It looks amazing! But maybe I don’t get it. Why use chalk paint if its not a chalk board? Is it to be able to draw on the furniture?

  5. Too bad the wood burning didn’t turn out, maybe a newer madel may have more control over the heat it puts out? Anyway, I love the table. That color yellow is so sunny!!! :oD

  6. I was just talking to my bf about doing some sort of table or chair with a wood burner. I will have to figure out all that too i suppose, and i will let you know how it gos.

    Ive been waiting for you to do a review of the chalk paint, ive been thinking a lot lately about it, and found someone local that sells it, for $38.99 a quart! I thought twice let me tell you. So thanks for telling me it doesnt make fresh out of the oven cookies or something. LOL. you saved me some money!

    I like the shelf, it looks great.
    Melissa~ recently posted..Freshly Pressed’s Best Of July 2012My Profile

  7. Love this for a baby’s room! its fun and bright and lots of storage. I also got very excited about using a wood burning pen and dug mine out from my old crafting box from junior high! But mine was also a fail….. butttttt, what I did try was a tiny little mini blow torch (basically a little handheld lighter but with a trigger, although I think there are also ones called pencil torches that would do the trick as well) and although time consuming, i LOVED the result… u can see it here @ (the design was inspired by the sisal vintage revivals rug that Mandi did)

    Might be worth a retry if

  8. That shelf looks really pretty for a baby’s room. Such a lovely shade of yellow. Too bad about the pen, but good that you tried it out on something else first. I love the result that Kari got with her little blow torch. Now THAT sounds like a fun time! (Just don’t let Elijah see, lol!)
    Jan Elizabeth recently posted..Early Days – and How They Can Shape the FutureMy Profile

  9. Ashley, I’m bummed that your wood burning idea didn’t work. You do know that they make these wood burning pens now with all kinds of tips and such? May want to check out the newer models, and reconsider this idea. You inspire me, and I always look forward to what you are doing. Have a blessed day.

  10. Michelle Webb says:

    I love the chalk paint too, but it is so expensive. I met a lady at Ace Hardware this weekend when they were giving away free quarts of paint. She re-does furniture and says that the flat enamel works just like chalk paint. I was able to score 3 quarts of free paint at Ace so I will be trying it out. Apparently they give away quarts of paint almost monthly so I will be there every month to get my free quart!

  11. My wood burning tool is a lot like that one. It is pretty hard to use, but if you stick with it, the results are pretty cool. You just have to be careful about the soft parts of the wood grain getting darker than the hard parts, and go REALLY slow.

  12. Love the shelf ! I have been wanting so bad to buy that paint, but I just cant bring myself to spend that much money on paint. Maybe one day I might give in, but just cant seem to do it.

  13. Beautiful! I got super excited when I started reading the part about the wood burning pen, so I quickly scrolled to the “after” picture, and no burns. I really want to see you start this trend! I think it would look so unique. Even with no burns, though, the little shelf is beautiful. I love everything you have stained on this blog.

  14. Your comments about 1992 had me laughing out loud! :)
    Stacy recently posted..DIY Filing Cabinet MakeoverMy Profile

  15. That looks really good! My husband really enjoys woodburning, so he and I have collaborated on a couple projects that way, I do the girly painting stuff and he does the woodburning stuff. It does work pretty good, and look cool, maybe your tool was just a little too old. After all, it was just a year younger than I am!

  16. Love it! The yellow you made looks a lot like the buttery yellow I used in my guest room (Sherwin-Williams Parchment). And the top is really pretty, even if it’s not what you were shooting for.
    Devon @ Green House, Good Life recently posted..Green News: Financing Energy-EfficiencyMy Profile

  17. Beautiful piece! Love the yellow.

  18. I like how it turned out. I don’t have a clue about wood burning so can’t offer any words there. I loving all the two toned furniture I’m seeing out in Blogland.
    JoAnn @ SweetPepperRose recently posted..My Home Tour with Danielle at Blissful and DomesticMy Profile

  19. Your shelf looks great. I love the shade of yellow you chose. I really appreciate your honest review of the chalk paint. I haven’t tried it yet. I am however really excited to purchase MMS’s milk paint.
    brandi recently posted..Mango LimeadeMy Profile

  20. What a great finish! I like the black trim around the top, it really sets off the yellow.
    Donna Gelineau recently posted..Outdoor SofaMy Profile

  21. Thanks for the tip on the chalk paint!

    Popping in from Shabby’s link party.

  22. Great table! I, for one, am bummed that your wood burning didn’t work out. :( I think it would have added some super character! Maybe another project will be better suited for the wood burning. Love the yellow and the stained top though. Really pretty!
    Toodie recently posted..Burlap Covered Barstool…My Profile

  23. I love this!! such a cute little table :)

  24. I love this table, so bright and pretty but with the gorgeous timber top. I would like to feature this on my Sunday State roundup.
    Sarah {20 State} recently posted..Part 3. Kitchen renovation, it’s hammer time.My Profile

  25. Stopping by from Nifty Thrifty! Oh my she sure turned into a cutey! Love the color and love the natural top. Sorry the wood burning didn’t work out – but she doesn’t lack for beauty! My fingers are crossed you’ll share your creative inspiration tonight with Sunday’s Best – sharing is a good thing!

  26. That’s hilarious. SO glad you tested it first, I’m the jump right in type as well, pretty sure I would have screwed her shelf right up! Eek!

  27. Fantastic make over! Very glad you tested the wood burning first.
    SuttonsDaze recently posted..What to do….My Profile

  28. Great transformation! I love th bright yellow! My Get Social Sunday link party is live. Would love to have you come link up your homepage and promote your awesome blog!

  29. Gorgeous! I love the cheery yellow you chose! This is a fantastic project! Would you consider linking this up at my Pinworthy Projects Party? I hope to see you there!

  30. Really Beautiful job! I love the color you chose, that is what caught my eye as I was looking at the links at Southern Savvy Style, also I love the stained top. It looks great with the yellow! I am a new follower. I would love for you to visit me when you have a chance!
    Meaningful Nest recently posted..Organizing–Linen Closets and Master Bathroom Done!My Profile

  31. What a great result! Love the yellow. I wish I could be so creative as to find some old thing and turn it into something beautiful! l0l Glad to find out the chalk paint isn’t so great. Now I won’t make a special trip to buy some!

  32. Oh my, this is just gorgeous!! Lucky you with the helpers there! Thanks for sharing, featuring tomorrow ;) -K
    Karen recently posted..Le Time OffMy Profile

  33. I so love this piece, and the color. I’m partial to dark stained tops, I like the natural look and think they handle wear and tear better! Great job, you sure brought her back to life! Thanks for sharing your creative inspiration with Sunday’s Best – you helped make the party a success!

  34. Love the bright, cheerful yellow =) So pretty!

  35. so sweet! i love that happy yellow!

  36. this turned out absolutely charming! so happy to find your blog via MMS’s party where i am partying too. hope you can stop by–would love to have you as a follower.

    smiles and happy weekend.

    michele@hellolovelyinc recently room {a new beginning}My Profile

  37. It looks pretty as is but I understand how you feel about the woodburning. I used that technique on the wine cabinet I finished up about two weeks ago. I will say it is time intensive so be sure and charge more if you start incorporating this into your pieces. My burner was from Michael’s but I am going to check out Amazon since you mentioned it. Thanks so much for linking up this week.
    BeColorful recently posted..Color of The Week – ChartreuseMy Profile

    • I’m going to go check out your wine cabinet! I ended up buying a burner off of Amazon because I still want try it…glad to know that it worked for you, even if it took while. You know…with all the furniture I’ve redone I’ve never sold a piece. I always just give them away to friends and family… I would’t even know where to start with pricing!

  38. Anonymous says:

    I’ m glad I read this post before I went in search of the chalk paint. It’s all you hear about in blogland these days. Glad to know I can save some money! The table looks great!

  39. I love the wood top as you left it, very pretty! Great job with the yellow paint!
    DeDe@DesignedDecor recently posted..Decorating the Mantel!My Profile

  40. Very disappointed the woodburning didn’t work…I think it is still a wonderful refinished piece though. REALLY loving your blog. You have a great way with the written word. Loved your “furniture on the porch” story on the Union Jack Table blog entry. I am a new subscriber.

  41. Stephanie says:

    Chalk paint is expensive but you can make it yourself and its super easy . There are all kinds of recipes online . Try it its great


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