I left my nightstand in the garage for a couple of days until I brought it in today. I wanted to make sure the poly was cured enough so it can handle some abuse. I knocked off all the dust nibs and smoothed out the final surface using a brown paper bag and then waxed the tabletop. All I needed to do after that was put the felt pads on the bottoms of the legs so it doesn't scratch up my floor.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. I'm really impressed with the clarity and color I get from the dye. It still amazes me how rich the color gets when the finish starts to go on. It really is very flat and not very appealing when it's just dye on the surface. The finish really makes it pop.
Aside from my obvious cutting mistake when I was making mortises, there were three things I learned pretty much the hard way. The first thing is that pine is extremely soft and a little careless handling can turn into scratches and gouges that don't really sand out very well. This led to a few small surface errors that I'll have to just live with now. This is a project just for me, though, so I can live with it.
The next thing I learned is that I have to back up my cuts to eliminate tear-out. When I was cutting my tongues for the breadboard edges on the tabletop, I got a fair amount of tear-out from my router bit. I had a similar thing happen when I made Nadine's table too, so I'm sure I made the same mistake again because it's been so long since I built anything. I'm noticing the finish hides a lot of these kinds of errors, but I'd rather just make it perfectly to begin with.
The last thing I learned is that finishing pine sucks. I don't know if it's just the quality of the wood I used (you can only expect so much from Home Depot, right?) or if pine is just plain difficult to finish, but even when I work with samples, it's always still one of those things where I just hope for the best. Using the dyes to color the wood is a huge help, but it is another extra step that adds time to the project since I have to do some finish prep before I can put the color on. If new pine weren't so pale looking, I wouldn't have to color the wood. I am glad that I'm learning the skills necessary to stain/dye and finish difficult woods to work with. I'm sure this will make my experience when I build something out of oak make it seem like a walk in the park.
Although finishing pine is an adventure, I would like to highly recommend aniline dye stains made by W.D. Lockwood. These are also sold under the J.E. Moser's line from Woodworker's Supply. I first used this dye when I built my chest of drawers, and I was very happy with how they worked. The color I used on this nightstand is Cherry Rosewood, and I have to say that the color is awesome. I'm tempted to use this on another project where I use wood that behaves better in terms of coloring just because of its look.
I was so happy with these dyes, I ordered three more colors direct from Lockwood, so I have some other finishes to try on my next project. I have a plan for a bookcase and storage unit that I'm working on in Sketchup right now, but I'm still trying to work out a few kinks in the design. Once I get that done, I can get to work on building it. I have to price out some plywood and cherry. I think next time I build something, I'll actually make it out of cherry. Then I won't have to try and stain some other kind of wood to make it look like cherry.
As always, there's too much to do. I better get started on cleaning up the garage and doing maintenance on my tools for my next project. I have to sharpen my planes and chisels too. That will take me a while. I'm looking forward to getting my next project built.