Ah the finish...as I mentioned up top, this is where we ran into some bumps. Before I start though, huge shout out to my dad who put in a TON of work with the spray equipment and troubleshooting the issues we ran into. Thanks a ton!
The stain is Mohawk Special Walnut and is lacquer based. I brushed this on after assembly with a china bristle brush. I did keep the base and top separate at this step, but if I were to do it again I think I'd pre-stain as many pieces as possible prior to assembly. All the corners and joints made it hard to achieve an even finish. As a matter of fact, I had to sand down the top after putting on the stain for the first time because it dried unevenly...extremely disheartening but worth the extra work to do it over.
Next we utilized a trick we learned from our local paint shop. Because the project used Number 2 Pine and Premium Pine pieces, the wood took the stain very differently. To combat this, we mixed sanding sealer with a bit of stain and lacquer thinner then sprayed the entire piece in varying amounts. This served two purposes; the first was to shade the different wood to even out the finish and the second was to seal in the stain before the next step.
After the first coat of sanding sealer came a coat of Van Dyke Brown Glaze over the entire piece. This was wiped on with old t-shirt rags. We wiped off the excess, let it dry then sprayed the entire piece again with sanding sealer only this time.
After each coat of sanding sealer dried we very lightly sanded with 220 or 320 grit sandpaper and wiped with a clean rag.
Finally, the entire piece was sprayed with lacquer. I think the base received 2 coats and the top 3. After the first coat went on everything looked beautiful. We let it dry overnight and came back the next morning to find a milky white haze had developed over everything. After consulting with our paint shop again, they said high humidity had caused water vapor to be trapped under the lacquer.
Luckily for us they had a solution which revolved around adding a retarding agent to the lacquer and re-coating the piece. The retarding agent causes the lacquer to dry slower and the water vapor to escape. Also, the lacquer was chemically hot enough to melt through the first layer. This plus some light sanding between each coat fixed everything right up! Huge learning experience which is always good!