Just Call Me Spindle-Rella. Seriously.

Just call me Spindle-rella.  Seriously.

Remember when your mother used to tell you “your eyes are bigger than your stomach’?  Well, I have that issue with projects.  I have these grandiose ideas of what I am going to do – always in some utterly ridiculous amount of time (I blame HGTV for this) – and I jump in with both feet.  Sometimes I really think long and hard about my “plan”, other times (mostly) I just wing it.

So, this house of mine. The oak - Lord help me, it’s everywhere. Look, I know some of you LOVE wood and can’t imagine painting it – my husband is one of you.  And I, too, love good woodwork! But my oak is 20 yrs old and just blah. And I know what it COULD be. Because you know I’m all about a new coat of paint!

I have contemplated, for YEARS now, the stairway.  Why so long you ask?  45 spindles is why….45 stinkin spindles. That is no stairway to heaven, I assure you.  Anyhow, I finally got around to deciding it was time to get busy finishing this house.  I called my trusty painter to see how much it would cost to paint all our trim white.  Holy smokes.  While he is WORTH every penny, I just didn’t HAVE that many pennies to spend on this project! SOOOOO.... Mama is painting the trim herself.  Sigh.

I decided to start with the staircase because #1) I was inspired to do it and #2) I knew it would make a huge impact on my entire top floor, hopefully encouraging me to keep plowing ahead. Here the beastly railing is at the very beginning of the project (and my dearest other half, faithfully doing the LOATHSOME job of taping).

I started by cleaning and degreasing the railing.  You can use a product such as TSP or a standard liquid deglosser for this.  Be advised, this post contains affiliate links and here’s the scoop with those.  If you so choose to click on one and buy something (at no additional charge to you than the normal site would be), we get a little “thank you” commission to help us pay the bills and publish this stuff!  And rest assured, we only recommend products we use and trust ourselves.


After cleaning everything, I then figured out my best option for taping since I was doing two colors.  I decided it was easiest for me to do the Java Gel Stain by General Finishes first. After taping was finished, I was ready to stain.  I applied the stain using a high density 2” foam brush.

You’ll notice that the gel stain doesn’t fully cover on the first coat.  This is okay, and some may want this effect, where you can still see the grain.  Each additional coat will become darker and increasingly opaque, so you can control the depth of the color. The gel stain is oil-based and you will have some time to work with the product.  Be cognizant of brush strokes, and stay with the grain of your project. Once I was done, it was dry time.  This product can take from 8-24 hrs to dry.  I have had it take longer too.  I store my foam brush in a sealed baggie overnight so I can re-use the same brush. Dry time can vary based on weather, humidity and cleanliness of the piece.  Once the first coat dried, I second coated.  And watched it dry. Again.

Then I got to pull tape.  Anyone find that as satisfying as I do at the end of a project – or in this case, at the end of one stage of a project?! Then, re-taped for the spindle painting.  Wow.  Tedious.  I loathe taping, and this was the mother of all taping projects, but it’s a necessary evil for nice, clean lines – and far less clean up if done well.  Thankfully, my 13-year old was content to crank up her tunes and tape away……hallelujah for her. 

Now for the spindles.  I primed those first, because they are oak and I am painting a light color.  Wood tannins will bleed through paint if a stain blocker or primer is not applied first, especially my oak.  On some colors this is a non-issue, obviously on whites or light colors, you should consider this prior to painting. I use Zinsser 1,2,3 Bullseye Primer. I painted each spindle, staying with the grain on each one and getting good coverage.  Let it dry completely.

Next, I moved onto the color.  I chose Antique White Milk Paint from General Finishes.  This is my “go to” white right now.  It’s not too buttery.  It looks great with both grays and browns - I just love it. I gave each spindle a coat, again, paying attention to the grain.  I waited for it to dry thoroughly and then touched up as needed.  This paint is water based so it cleans up with soap and water. I used a 2” chip brush to apply the paint and primer.

Because of the nature of the project, I had some specks on my java portion.  This happens sometimes and you just have to roll with it.  Cover where you are working as best you can and realize when working in super tight spaces, you might get a little paint spray.  I let everything dry, then I took 400 grit sandpaper (both block and paper) and sanded the Java.  This smoothed as well as took off all my little tiny white specks perfectly.  Once done sanding that, I took a damp paper towel and wiped off all the dust from my sanding.  You don’t want this on your spindles. Next, I distressed the edges of the spindles to give some character.  I did this with a coarser grit sanding block to speed the process. Only use the coarse block on the edges.  Use the 400 on the rest of the spindle to smooth it. Then take a damp cloth or paper towel and clean up all that dust.

Lastly, I top-coated.  I used High Performance Top Coat in Satin by General Finishes for this step.  It’s durable and I have not had a problem with it yellowing on me.  It brushes on – it’s super easy and that’s one thing I love! At this point I am over the moon with the results but OVER the project in general.  I need to be finished.  Desperately. So, we buckled down and got it done.  Again, a giant thanks to my super-duper 13-yr old helper!  She is helping me rock these projects out lately!

Now the staircase is finished, all the tape is pulled (ahhhhhhhh) and I.LOVE.IT. It is simply amazing.  It literally changes the whole front room when you walk in.  Even the “I can’t believe you’re going to paint wood” husband loves it.  It’s completely inspired me to press on with the trim because I can see what a difference it’s going to make!  Guess what folks, you can do this too!  It’s literally just paint and a little elbow grease in between you and a home you love again!

From our Nest to yours,