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Mid Century Modern Furniture has always been interesting to me, but I haven’t worked with it much. Nothing seems to be square, and the construction is typically light - WAY different from earlier furniture made with traditional joinery and solid woods.
One style that has always caught my eye is the Lane Acclaim Series, which features Dovetails inlaid on the tops. There were many variations of this design on coffee tables, end tables, desks, round tables and square tables. The center was always walnut, and the edge was white oak. Together there was a perfect contrast that gives the tables a traditional element to the mid century modern style.
The Project Coffee Table - $5
We picked our project table up off of Facebook Marketplace for $5. The lady selling it had painted it black, and let it sit on her porch where it got wet from the rain and weather. Turns out wooden furniture doesn’t do well outside, especially wood furniture that isn’t solid wood.
Overall, this table was in salvageable shape. One side had come off, and the wood was swollen from the moisture. Remarkably, the veneer was still in great shape, without any chips or cracks.
This table has walnut veneer down the center, and the dovetails are oak veneer. The frame around the outside is solid oak.
The first step was to glue the table back together. Since there was swelling to the core, I had to trim the table and the side piece to fit again. There was a tongue and groove that holds it on and I had to make some adjustments. I used a chisel to clean off all the old glue and make adjustments for it to fit flush with the top again.
Note - When using bar clamps it is best to put a scrap piece of wood between the metal of the clamp and the furniture. Without it, the wood will get marked and compressed where the clamp is. On this table it was difficult to add in the scrap wood without an extra set of hands, and keep everything in line. I had marks after removing the clamps, but sanded them out.
The next step in any restoration is to sand. The paint was very loose and didn’t need to be stripped with a chemical stripper. I used 100 grit sand paper on my palm sander and went lightly over everything. Be careful when sanding any furniture with veneer. Once I has all the paint off, I lightly hand sanded with 100 grit paper to give remove any orbital marks in the wood and make sure it was smooth. The legs and entire base was only hand sanded because it was all round.
After sanding, I applied a wood stain to even out the color and reduce the contrast from the walnut and the oak. I applied Minwax Dark Walnut to the entire table with a old rag. I was taught to stain with a rag and rub the stain into the grain, wiping it even. I know a lot of woodworkers brush it on and then wipe it off - which seems to be messier and waist more stain in the process. The stain soaked in nicely and left an even, uniform color.
The last step was varnish. I applied Minwax Satin Clear to the table for a protective satin finish. Its best to apply several coats to ensure even coverage, and protect against those silly people that don’t use coasters (use a coaster or you will be refinishing it again!). I typically brush on varnish, or use the roll and tip method. I like building up layers, and sanding in-between coats to ensure there is enough product protecting the wood.
Before and After
Not bad for $5 and about 3 hours of work. If you are just getting started, this is an easy project that can be done in a weekend. I plan to enjoy it for a little while and then sell it when we find another table or need a change.
The great part of refinishing furniture is, once you know the process you rinse and repeat on all kinds of wood projects. It is a cost effective way to acquire nice furniture that has superior construction to today’s store bought furniture.