Budget Solution: Dining Room Table Finale

Yes, I’m finally getting to the end of this project! In case you’re just joining, my husband and I created a dining room table and a bench for ourselves in order to save money while also making something with a custom size. The process has been long, but I am happy to say the project is finally finished!

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Final step: Staining the table

Since it’s made of poplar, I needed to use wood conditioner prior to staining, otherwise my stain could have turned out very blotchy. This article gives a good run down for how to stain poplar wood. I went with MinWax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner.

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After a good sanding and applying the conditioner, it was time to stain! I went with Varathane Wood Stain in American Walnut. It advertises “no need” for a pre-stain conditioner (even though with Poplar you still should) and gets a richer color in only one coat. I used Varathane Polyurethane in a semi-gloss to finish and protect the table.

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My results were beautiful! I loved the color right away, and the stain was easy to apply. The wood conditioner did its job and there are no blotchy sections, which I was really worried about since poplar is used almost entirely to paint on. I only did one coat of stain with a brush, then wiped it off after about two minutes. After letting the table dry overnight, I applied three coats of the polyurethane. In between the second and third coats, I lightly sanded parts of the table that felt rough with a fine sandpaper (220 grit).

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Even though this project took almost 3 months, it was worth it to have something custom for our space and we saved so much money! Here’s the breakdown:

  • Poplar wood, screws, and wood glue for main table: $55
  • Reclaimed wood, pipes, and fittings for bench: about $50
  • 2 dining room chairs: Goodwill find by my mother, only $50 for both
  • Conditioner, stain, polyurethane, a brush an rags: $38
  • Total cost: $193

Under $200 dollars for a custom sized table that seats up to 6 comfortably? Not bad.


  • Stain outside if possible, but it’s okay to polyurethane inside, as the fumes were very minimal
  • In some spots I didn’t sand the wood glue reside enough, and glue does not take stain. They’re not in noticeable places, but if it’s going to bother you, spend extra time there when sanding
  • I forgot to buy both mineral spirits and gloves, which made stain clean-up very interesting. However, during my cleaning adventure, I learned that Soft Scrub (without bleach, please) also does the trick on both brush and hands, (and subsequently the wash tub in community basement/laundry room, which I also had to clean)
  • The polyurethane requires a full week to fully cure and be used normally, so give yourself some time if planning on a dinner party or something
  • My favorite thing about this stain is the dimension of the color. In different lighting, the table takes on either a brighter more red infused or a darker more brown infused, which fits all the different colors and textures of my space well!

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What have been some of your favorite home projects?

Lydia Jane

Poplar – Home Depot

Reclaimed bench wood – Rebuilding Exchange

Pre-stain conditioner

Stain in American Walnut


Dining room chairs – Goodwill, originally from Target

10 thoughts on “Budget Solution: Dining Room Table Finale

    1. If I make another one in the future I’ll keep that in mind! Would that be your recommendation because it’s pine? Or because that’s your preference? I didn’t want it to be too light since we have light floors.


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