Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Refinishing a Table: Step One

This weekend, Tim and I put the motions in step to refinish a new dining room table.  You may remember from this video that we recently purchased a table from Goodwill that we were planning on combining with other elements and making over into a new table.  Well, when I was telling my mom about our project, she mentioned that the extra table sitting in their dining room was actually up for grabs and that it also had a leaf in it, so it was actually smaller than I thought it was!
Here's the table in all it's glory- full size and pre-makeover
Well, that might have been nice to know before we spent all that effort getting the Goodwill table to our house.  But oh well, right?  Now we have a really high quality table to make over, and best of all?  It was free!

We were so excited about getting a new table that we immediately cleared our plans and started a very long process of refinishing the table in Tim's parent's garage- thank goodness they have a three car garage!

Step one came and went last weekend, when we transported the table from my parent's to Tim's (they live about 15 minutes apart!), and got set up to strip off the old varnish.
Tim and my dad took apart the pedestal base from the top for easier maneuvering.  It was very simple- just unscrew four screws and it came apart!

Then, we spread out the pieces in the garage to work.  You'll see the table top, slightly spread apart so we can access the middle, the leaf, and the base. 
Another thing to mention is that the table came with these lovely brass plates on each leg of the base:
Weeeeeelllllllll, those aren't quite our style, so with a little help, we were able to pry them right off.

Then it came time to start the stripper.  We picked up a bottle of  3M Safest Stripper Paint and Varnish Remover from Eco Haus.  This stuff had literally no fumes, unlike the disguising chemical strippers you'd normally use from Home Depot or Lowe's.  It's also nonflammable and non toxic, so you don't even need to wear gloves while using it!  You can use it indoors and it's biodegradable!  In case you couldn't tell, I was super excited to use it!

So, we just simply poured the thick, paste like stripper onto the table and started painting it on.
Make a nice, thick layer and then let it sit and work it's magic!

And here was when we hit our first and only problem so far.  When we bought the stripper, we also bought a seal from Eco Haus.  I read both the labels at the same time, and the instructions to wait two hours on the seal carried over in my head to the stripper instructions.  So, while we both expected to wait two hours to be able to scrap up the old varnish, we actually only had to wait about 30 minutes.  As you might expect, by the time we started scrapping the varnish two hours later, it had already started drying and was really hard to scrap up.
After awhile, we just had to give up and try again.  Not wanting it to dry out on us again, we decided to just re apply the stripper to the top of the table.  

Meanwhile, we decided to just poke at the base while waiting to re-tackle the top.  Surprisingly, the bottom was still ready to go!  We were able to scrape it right off with barely any effort (OK, well it was quite time consuming and tedious to try and scrape along the groves and carvings, but it came right off!)!

Can you see the different between the part I've scraped off and the old varnish finish?  Here's half of the top ready to be sanded and half of it still waiting to be scraped:
After the second coat was ready, the varnish came off immediately.  I was so relived, because I was worried that it was our eco-friendly stripper that wasn't strong enough!  Turns out, it just worked too well :)!
Now our table is all set to be sanded and stained during out next visit!  Unfortunately, the whole process is going to take several weeks as we find time to travel all the way to Kitsap County for each step.  I'm super excited to get going!

As for the direction we're heading in terms of color and style,  we're planning on a dark table with white chairs.  After we Craigslist our old table, we plan to put the money towards new, nicer white chairs.  I'll probably also paint our existing chairs a bright glossy white.

Inspiration?  See below!

All images from Pinterest.


  1. Can't wait to see it all finished!!

  2. I love dark tables! I bought a dining room table (8mo after I moved into my place, which is hilarious) which is dark "espresso" colored and I love it. Can't wait to see the final product!


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