Short backstory: We updated our floors in 2009 from real pine wood floors in the kitchen & hallway to laminate walnut "wood" floor throughout. You read that right - we pulled up our real (highly damaged, i might add) wood floor & carpeted living room floor to put down a laminate floor. I can explain later.
Moving on, our old floors were pine. Our new floors are walnut. Our banister and handrail have been pine this whole time (gasp!):
The handrail is slightly more red. The trick will be getting them to match. While drinking.
The first step is the worst step: sanding. Ugh. I hate sanding almost as much as i hate when guys have landing-strip facial hair. Nothing says "Guilty of Rape" more than landing-strip facial hair. Anyway, sanding...
I used a 60 grit paper to start off with since i was trying to get down to the bare wood in a minimal amount of time, followed up with a 120 grit to smooth it all out.
And, just a tip if you plan to do this: invest in a wedged sanding sponge. I bought one fine grit sponge and easily wrapped and creased the rough paper around it during the initial stages. It gets into those intricate spots.
Here's what it looked like as bare wood:
For the record, the handrail smelled awful while it was sanded. What the hell kind of tree that wood came from, i'll never know.
Enter: my first experience with gel stain! Or any stain, for that matter. I went with General Finishes Gel Stain in Java, mostly because of it's glowing reviews on the internet. Apparently this stuff is super high quality, and if i was going to do this, i was going to do it right. And the price is basically what you'd pay in Home Depot for a lesser stain, anyway. I used latex gloves and wrapped my gloved hand in a cotton sock to apply the stain. It went on pretty dark - no drips. You know, because it's gel. And of course, always go with the grain.
For the intricate spots i couldn't get to with my clubbed fingers, i used a wedged sponge brush. Keeps it smooth. I'm all about smooth.
And i've decided to paint the spindles white. I went back and forth on this as it'd be SO MUCH easier to just stain the whole thing one color, but i decided they'd look best white. Sometimes, the easiest thing isn't always the best looking. That's a mouthful - am i right? But judge for yourself. Here's the view from the new wall (after a coat of mud):
I let it sit for 24 hours because i wanted it to fully dry between coats. Also because i didn't have time to do it sooner. Here's what it looked like after a second coat:
Here's a close-up of the color it's giving me, and i couldn't be more pleased:
Here's the Before & Progress pics:
Next time, i'll get to go over my experience with oil-based primer. That's what the nice bearded gentleman at Home Depot recommended i get for priming the spindles. If you should trust anyone, it's a bearded man in a home improvement store.