DIY (Budget-Friendly) Countertops

This is one of our kitchen countertops.  I'm very happy with it!  It could be "temporary" (maybe someday we'll get granite???), but in the meantime, I like the look and I love how we were able to do a little customization.  Plus it was perfect for our shoe-string budget.

In a nutshell, we bought the highest quality plywood we could find and chose pieces that had a nice grain to them.  Then they were cut to size, given a hardwood border, stained, and sealed.

The stain we used was Minwax's "Jacobean."  We sealed them with a polyurethane...leave me a comment if you want to know the exact kind and I'll ask my husband.  I've already forgotten what kind we used.
Now for anyone who is concerned about food on a polyurethane topcoat, please don't worry, we don't plan to prep our food directly on our countertops.  In fact, most people don't, right?  So there won't be a lot of food-to-countertop contact.  So, no, 'not worried about it as long as the topcoat doesn't show any chipping.

Soooo, now for the fun part!  I did a little stenciling, and it's a bit of an oops-gone-great experiment, because it didn't turn out like I expected and I liked the unexpected results even better!

How about an explanation in photos??

Here's the plywood cut to size and that border I was talking about.  It's actually thicker than the plywood to make the countertops appear thicker, and the corners are sanded smooth so no one gets hurt.

 Then I printed out some wording to the exact size that I wanted the letters to be on my countertop, and with contact paper and spray adhesive, I glued the printed paper (face-up) to the non-sticky side of the contact paper.

 And while watching a movie one night, I meticulously cut out each letter with an exacto knife.  Not hard, just time-consuming.  

 Then I taped the edge of my countertop with "Frog Tape" as a guideline so that my phrase wouldn't look like letters diving off the side of a hill...

 Carefully arranged my letters...

(I measured each side to make sure it was centered)

And then I peeled the backing off of the contact paper so I could start sticking my letters to the countertop.
 (this is a side note just to say: don't waste your tape - recycle!)

Then I took a used up gift card and pressed all the edges down on each letter.

 And I was ready for the stain!

I'm no expert, so I won't pretend like I know any great tips about staining.  I just followed the instructions on the can.

 But I may have fooled you with this picture!  Professional Stainer at work...

Then the oops happened.  I peeled off my letters and whaddaya know, porous surfaces allow stain to seep under the contact paper.
 But I went ahead and peeled them all off and decided that I really didn't mind the bleeding...

 In fact, I liked it!  It wound up giving it a nice rustic/aged look.

So this is our "bar" countertop that sits happily in the kitchen, which I will show you as soon as we get it cleaned up this weekend ;)  We are making huge progress at the Queen this month.  We will soon move back in again (after leaving a while for lead dust abatement), and I can't wait to show you all of the new fun changes that have been made!


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