SANDINGBlack and Decker Mouse Sander. I paid $35 for it, and it's lasted forever. It goes into even the smallest areas with its pointy front tip, but you can also very quickly sand larger areas with it. I never use a block sander. Ever. I have three different grits of sandpaper that i change out intermittently depending on what I'm doing: 80 (course, for the initial sanding if the wood is rough), 120 (medium, for the initial sanding of normal, planed wood), and 220 (fine, for sanding in between coats of spray paint or poly). I know that some people recommend that you go through all of these different grits before you begin painting or priming, but this lazy girl does not. I use either the 80 or the 120 to sand the piece and lightly round my edges and then I move on. When you sand in between coats of paint/stain and poly, I always seem to get any extra splinters lingering around from the first sanding. Once you're ready to move on to paint/stain, make sure to wipe down your project with a damp low-lint cloth to remove all of the dust.
To start off, I must say that sometimes I don't prime. In some pieces, I like to see a little bit of the wood grain peeking through. But, most pieces, I really like a clean, even painted finish, which means you have to prime.
I always avoid using a paintbrush, so I love this KILZ Odorless Primer. Quick, easy, not messy, and unlike most spray paints, it doesn't kill all of my brain cells with the smell. Lightly mist, and in an hour you're ready to paint. The primer is about $7 per can, and it's worth every penny to me to not have to get into every crevice with a paintbrush.
SPRAY PAINTAh, yes. Spray paint. A lazy girl's best friend. I will spray paint anything. Nothing in the house is safe. (Like Sherry from YHL, I love me some ORB.) Sherry gets a lot of things right when it comes to talking about spray paint. My personal favorite is "If you’re a-sprayin’ your arm better be a-swayin’". So true. As long as your arm keeps moving, it's hard to screw it up. Sure, you can get it on a little too thick, but it's nothing a light sanding can't fix. Which is another thing I love about spray paint: It's really hard to screw it up. The most important thing to remember is to sand in between coats with a fine grit sandpaper. I cannot stress this enough. When I first started using spray paint, I couldn't figure out why the surface was so gritty... it was because I wasn't sanding. Once you put on that final coat, your surface will be silky smooth to the touch. Speaking of ORB... whenever you're in a hurry and don't want to stain, ORB it. I used Rustoleum's Oil Rubbed Bronze spray without primer on the double chaise that I built, and it looks a lot like a sparkly dark stain.
Whatever you do, do not buy regular paint in a can. It has killed many of my projects that still live in the garage, and they will probably never see the light of day unless I sand them down and spray paint over them again. It was a rookie mistake. Applying paint with a brush is a time suck, and just about any color you would want to paint your project is available in a beautiful can of spray paint.
STAININGLet me start out by saying that if you are a lazy girl, you should only stain if you absolutely have to. Like, if there is no more spray paint left in the world. Or, if you're building something for your BFF and they absolutely have to have a Pottery Barn-like stain. Then, and only then, do you consider this option. I only use gel stain. What I love about it is that it goes on super thick like a paint rather than a thin, watery mess like a normal stain. I've also found that with a gel stain I don't have to use wood conditioner (even with pine). This means one less step to getting your gorgeous finish out of the way so that you can move on to build something else. With a normal stain, if you don't condition, you get an ugly, splotchy mess as the stain sets in. I've actually had very strange results when using wood conditioner with the gel stain - it feels like the stain doesn't absorb at all. The trick to getting a deep, rich color with a gel stain is pretty easy... just leave it on for the longest amount of time possible. (For the Varathane Gel Stain that I love, it recommends no longer than 15 minutes, which equals out to about 4 songs on my Lady Gaga Pandora station.) The longer you leave it on, the deeper it sets in, which means less coats you have to do later. Since it's a stain, you can also really glop it on since you're going to wipe it off anyway. I always stain in the direction of the wood grain to give it that professional touch, but I'm never precise about how much I'm using. I also always sand with my 220 grit sandpaper in between coats to get the smoothest possible surface for my next coat.
Whenever I stain, I always finish off with a few coats of poly. Not only does it give a beautiful, glossy, Pottery Barn-like finish, but it also protects the wood from everyday life. I've gone through quite a few different kinds of poly, and I've finally found one that's perfect for me: Varathane's Crystal Clear Water Based Polyurethane (fastest drying formula, of course.)
This is the only time ever that I will break the spray-paint-vs-can-paint rule. I've used spray poly before, but I never feel like it goes on right. Coat after coat, I never get the seal and protection that I need from a poly. If I'm going to add a step, it had better be worth it. So, I use the can to get it right the first time. The reason I believe this is excusable is that this poly dries within 2 hours. Which, compared to any other poly I've used, is pretty amazing. I've waited up to 8 hours to put another coat of poly on a project... that's an entire day wasted literally waiting for paint to dry. SO not lazy girl friendly. This stuff is also super clean and doesn't stick to your fingers for a lifetime like its oil based counterpart.