At school, I used to look forward to our woodwork classes. I loved the process of being given a brief, producing a design, then making something with your own hands – Mum still has the wooden clock I made. But we didn’t seem to do woodwork for very long; it was the same with our metalwork classes – the only thing I remember making is a small metal whale which did nothing useful, whatsoever!
So, despite loving the practical classes, I never got the chance to get good at them.
Fast forward to grown-up land, and there haven’t been many opportunities to hone my skills. But recently I was given a chance to breathe some life back into a wooden coffee table. Time to flex those sanding muscles!
A friend was moving house and offered her mid-20th-century coffee table to anyone who could give it a good home. We’ve played around with our living-room layout a few times; we settled on one, but for some reason never got round to finishing it with a coffee table.
So it was a perfect match. The table has a style that’s made a comeback in recent years, but it’s special to know that this is genuine, not a modern copy. I loved it immediately.
I don’t think my friend will be offended when I say it’s a well-loved table! It’d belonged to her family for a generous number of years, and she remembers eating at one end of the table with her sister at the other, at their grandparents’ house. I love that!
She was happy for me to give it a makeover, knowing I’d treat it kindly. Luckily, there weren’t any nicks or holes that needed filling in, so I got straight onto sanding down the top layer. As well as getting rid of the heat rings and liquid marks, sanding helps to leave the wood with a surface that’ll easily take the varnish or wood stain that you use afterwards.
I borrowed an electric sander, which made the job many times easier than doing it all by hand. Although I did resort to sandpaper wrapped around a block for the legs and magazine rack. I used #180 grit sandpaper.
If you ever use an electric sander, please use a face mask as it produces an awful lot of dust! I did the sanding in the garden as I didn’t fancy cleaning up the mess indoors. Tip: sand in the direction of the grain – going against it can result in scratches.
Once finished, I used the hose brush attachment on our vacuum cleaner to remove the majority of surface dust, then used a damp cloth over the top.
I finished the table with Danish Oil; it gives a durable, water-resistant finish. The colour was “Georgian Medium Oak” and I used a lint-free cloth to apply. It went on smoothly, and when it was dry I gave it another thin layer.
As I didn’t want anything landing on it before it dried, I applied the wood stain indoors with the doors & windows open, as it has a light oily odour. I did this while the boys were at school and they were kept away until the next day – partly because of the smell, mostly to avoid mini-fingerprints (“Is it still wet?”) over the surface (they can’t help themselves!)
I have to say that I’m delighted with how it looks. I’m expecting to have to give it some more love every so often – perhaps giving it a light sand and another layer of stain or varnish. But I don’t mind that, because I want to give it a second long life in our home.
Have you taken on any similar projects? The thought of doing something like this is almost always the worst part; it’s incredibly satisfying seeing it finished. Rather than buying something new, you can pick up bargain items at charity shops and some recycling centres, take them home and give them a new lease of life! 🙂
Bye for now!
Please note: my little project was done by trial and error, along with a bit of internet research. There are likely to be more professional approaches, so check with someone who knows what they’re doing before copying my process! 🙂