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Refinishing the Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Six years ago we bought a mid century 1958 Drexel dining room table from a seller on craigslist. I didn’t know how much I’d grow to love the table when we first purchased it, at the time it just fit the bill. It had good lines, minimal wear and most importantly was in our price range. It cost us a whopping $325 for the table and a set of 6 chairs which included 2 captains chairs. I love this table! It’s seen its fair share of battle though: LEGO building, board game playing, puzzle making, Christmas-meal eating, friend feasts partying, and beer & cocktail-drinking sort of battles. The table top has been badly scratched and water marked for over 2 years now – to the point of having to cover it up with a table cloth any time we have anyone over.

We keep saying we need to get that table refinished – who has time and money for that though? Not us. I couldn’t imagine taking it apart, packing it up, bringing it to a refinisher and paying mucho bucks to get it refinished. I also couldn’t imagine that I had any qualification to refinish it myself.

Somehow over the course of the last few months I’ve built up a lot of skillz and confidence and started feeling more and more sure that I could do this. My big reservation was the walnut veneer top – I didn’t want to do anything that would harm the veneer and make this project into an even bigger can of worms (this happens to me more than I would like to admit). After careful and close inspection I determined that the veneer was about an 1/8 of an inch thick – thick enough for a good sanding.

It just so happened that I was a band widow last weekend – so while the old husband guy was not around, I decided it might be the perfect time to tackle a project like this. I did baby steps, starting with test refinishing one of the leaves. When that seemed like it was turning out well, I jumped right in and started on the table top. I’m so glad I did, I can’t stop staring at it now! I actually wish I would’ve had the guts to tackle this sooner; it’s a hard life being ashamed of your dining room table.

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Step 1:
Wash Table
Wash the table with a household cleaner. I used some Mrs. Meyers diluted in water and gave it a good scrub with a heavy duty scouring pad. Let it dry.
Step 2:
Use Acetone to Strip Finish
I had never used Acetone before, but discovered that people on the internetz recommend it for stripping finishes off of things that might have finishes on them such as this table. Never having worked with it before it took me a bit to get the hang of it. Work in small sections pouring the acetone on the table, give it about 30 seconds to soak in and lift the finish, the wipe of with medium grit steel wool. I followed this up by wiping the excess gunk off with a paper towel. Continue doing this as you move around the table. Tip – it stinks, so open up a window.
Step 3:
Sand
Now is when you start to see results. Sand the table starting with a 150 grit sandpaper – if that’s not strong enough for ya, step it up a notch and go for the 100, then move to the 150. Follow it up by giving it a once over with a 220 fine grit paper. I started off doing this by hand as I didn’t want to sand through the veneer but realized that my mouse sander was gentle enough to do the job.
Step 4:
Use Denatured Alcohol to Find Imperfections
The internet taught me that I could use denatured alcohol to get a preview of the natural finish. Wipe it on your table in the direction of the grain of the wood and then look closely to see if there are any major scratches that still need to be buffed out. The alcohol will evaporate within a minute or so, so look quickly. I found this step very helpful in achieving a perfect finish.

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Step 5:
Apply Teak Oil
Now its time for the fun part, the part where you really get to see how beautiful your messed up furniture can be, plus it smells kind of good in a weird sort of way. Apply some teak oil to the surface allowing the wood to soak it up for about a half an hour, then wipe off the excess and repeat letting the oil sit on the surface for about 20 minutes. I did this 7 times because I really wanted a perfect finish.
Step 6:
Polyurethane
The table was looking pretty great after the teak oil, if this was furniture that wasn’t going to be used all the time, I’d probably let it go at the teak oil but since this is our dining room table I opted to add a few coats of a satin poly. Here’s a few things I learned about poly – you need to mix it well and use a good brush. All polyurethane is natrually glossy, they add flattener to give it that dulled down satin finish and that stuff likes to sink to the bottom of the can. Use a stir stick (not to shake, shaking can cause bubbles) to stir in the flattener and do this often while applying the poly. I accidentally didn’t stir my poly enough and ended up with one shiny coat which I had to sand down and start over. Also, lightly hand sand between coats of poly with a 220 grit paper.

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

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24 comments
in Around the House, DIY, How-To




24 comments… add one
  • COLLEEN CLARK February 27, 2015

    Hey there,
    What color paint did you use for your living room?
    C

    • Scoops February 28, 2015

      Hey Colleen, The living room paint color is Dragonfly – Benjamin Moore. We love the color. Hope that helps!

  • SArah February 27, 2015

    After reading this I’m feeling brave about refinishing a small bookcase that needs it. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

    • Scoops February 28, 2015

      You can do it! There is some good youtube vids out there too.

  • Staci February 27, 2015

    This turned out amazing!! I have a coffee table that I’ve sanded and oiled (4 years ago) but this just might inspire me to turn things up a notch.

    • Scoops February 28, 2015

      Happy to help this might be of some help. If your table is looking worn I would highly recommend trying this out, a bit messy and dusty but worth it.

  • beks February 27, 2015

    Perfect timing, I have some danishy chairs I’ve been giving the side eye to and was going to tackle them this weekend!

    And did you get a new picture? lovely!

    • Scoops February 28, 2015

      Hey Beks, Ha, you noticed. I got a haircut yesterday so I figured maybe I was looking okay enough to take a pic – my hair is usually always tangled and I hide it in a bun.

      Good luck on your project this weekend!

  • Anna February 28, 2015

    Wow, the finish looks amazing, but I’m also dying over your tiger oak woodwork – gorgeous!

    • Scoops March 4, 2015

      Thanks Anna! We are lucky. I was anti unpainted woodwork when we were house hunting, but I made an exception for this quarter sawn stuff. It’s alright ;)

  • natalia February 28, 2015

    beautifull!!!!!! it looks great, I´d try it soon in my coffe table.
    like your new picture!

    • Scoops March 4, 2015

      Thanks Natalia, When I got all the supplies together it wasn’t too hard at all. The worst part was 72 hours between the teak oil and the poly, I just wanted to see the finished product!

  • Vanessa February 28, 2015

    Excellent work Scoops, your dining room is fantastic.

  • Katherine March 3, 2015

    Wow! Looks awesome, I definitely need to try this. Are your ranunculus real?? So gorg, my favorite flower as of late.

    • Scoops March 4, 2015

      Yeah totally real. I don’t know if you’re local but I got these beauties over at Spruce (48th and Chicago). They are one of my favorites too, that and peonies, and tulips, and…

  • Caroline March 3, 2015

    What a gorgeous, gorgeous dining set! I love Craigslist so much. I’ve been looking for a classic set like this for years. I have vintage mid-century dressers that have veneer siding and I’ve been terrified to refinish them until now, thanks to this tutorial. I also have an awesome mid-century desk I found on a tree lawn that I’m in the process of sanding, but I had no idea what to do next. I was going to use coconut oil! Ha. I am pretty sure your method is the right way to do things, rather than slapping coconut oil on furniture and calling it a day. I’m so excited now! Thank you!

    • Scoops March 4, 2015

      Hey Caroline. I would imagine that you should have no problem with that veneer as long as it’s wood veneer and not laminate. I’m guessing it would be wood since it’s on the sides. I bet coconut oil would look good, but would need to be reapplied every few months, just like mineral, teak or danish oil. If poly can used be with coconut oil you could finish it with that too. Good luck!

  • Alison March 5, 2015

    Hi – this is a test.

  • CHRISTINA July 8, 2015

    I HAVE THIS EXACT SET WITH 8 CHAIRS AND THE CHINA HUTCH. ANY IDEA WHAT IT IS WORTH??

  • ELIZABETH July 14, 2015

    I love the wood trim in your house! If I could afford wood I would put it in my house.

  • Nicki February 1, 2016

    Gorgeous! It actually looks like it has the same design features and lines as the “projection” line by drexel. I came across an entire drexel projection bedroom set for $75. Of course I snagged it and drove the 2 hours to pick it up! So worth it, beautifully mid century modern! I believe this line is made of pecan wood with walnut veneer? I’m starting my research on how best to refinish all of the pieces I was blessed with for $75. Just doesn’t get any better than that!

    • Scoops February 4, 2016

      Hey Nicki, Yep the table is part of the projection line. I love the bedroom set too, good find!

  • nicki February 12, 2016

    Good to know your table is from the same line! I’ve been putting off the restoration process for fear of ruining these pieces. Thanks for posting your process!

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