Monday, August 12, 2013

Farmhouse Table Re-Do

Now that we're once again on hold with the foyer project, I'm sure you are thinking "Oh dear! How ever will they spend their time now!!?" Ah, not to worry, because we have an entire garage full of furniture that needs work.

And believe me, these pictures are somewhat outdated- they were taken back when there was still room to actually walk into the garage.  Picture this with another large table (the subject of this post), a dresser, a couple more shelves, a rocking chair, a pile of old wooden crates, and various other random treasures.

Due to the lack of space we've been forced to move our main work area out to the driveway, which is a disadvantage because now we can only work when it isn't rainy.  The good news is that we have several things that are close to being finished so that we can move them to the antique mall and reclaim our nice indoor workspace.

Ok, on to today's project.  A while back, we went to an estate auction at an old farm in Jefferson. While they had several really nice pieces of furniture, those were quickly snatched up by dealers with deep pockets and sentimental family members who were willing to pay handsomely for their heirlooms.  This actually worked out well for us, because this left a whole section of old dirty, broken furniture that had been dragged out of the barn.  Amidst the wreckage, Lance spotted an old table lying in the grass, legs piled beside it.  It was solid wood (and HEAVY!), but at some point someone had tried to pretty it up by cementing a big piece of old linoleum to the top.  We managed to get it for $2 and at that price, we figured it was worth at least trying to fix up.

This was actually taken after Lance had already put in several hours of work trying to remove the linoleum on the top (that's what's in the bucket).

It was stuck on with that hard black tar-like adhesive that I'm guessing is about 1950's (?) era.  Back then everyone was all paranoid about nuclear attacks, so I'm guessing it was very important to make sure that even after the apocalypse, your floors would remain pristine.

Getting this stuff off seriously took an entire day of Lance scraping with a putty knife and trying all kinds of different solvents (soap and water, large amounts of Goo Gone, vinegar, Simple Green) but it turns out the best solution was just good old fashioned back-breaking labor.

When he was finished, the table looked like this:

We spent a LONG time (like weeks) trying to decide what to do next.  We liked the rough shabby look of the top as-is, but there was that one stupid leaf that didn't have the same look as the rest of the table, and we didn't think we'd be able to reproduce that look exactly.  We then thought of various painting techniques like doing a crackle paint effect.  According to numerous You Tube Videos and the Elmer's Glue website, this can easily be done with some Elmer's Wood Glue and paint.  I tried several test patches on a spare piece of wood using different amounts of glue and varied drying times, and every single one was an epic fail.  Even by following the directions explicitly, the only way I was able to achieve even a slight crackle was by using a hair dryer to speed up the drying time.

We then thought of whitewashing the table or just painting the whole thing, but ultimately decided we wanted to keep a weathered shabby look.  I didn't really know what I was doing, but I figured if it didn't turn out, I could always just cover the whole thing with paint and call it good.

First I taped off the edges because they already had a nice worn look I wanted to preserve.  Then I painted the whole top of the table with a coat of gray paint (leftover from the night stand projects).  I didn't use primer because I wanted the paint to chip away easily.  Once that dried, I painted a coat of white over the top and let it dry for a full 24 hours. If you are painting furniture and do NOT want a distressed look, I would recommend letting the paint cure for 48-72 hours.  

Once it was dry, I took a piece of 100 grit sandpaper and sanded the entire top of the table by hand. I started off doing a small test patch with 220 grit, but it was just too fine and it ended up just leaving tiny little scratches in the paint rather than distressing it, so I switched to 100 and it worked perfectly.  I didn't use an electric sander because I didn't want it to look uniform- I needed it to look like it was naturally worn, so I concentrated on spots that would receive the most wear (around the edges, for example).  Once that was done, I left it for a full week before I sealed it.

Now at this point I should clarify which product is best for sealing painted wood.  You DO NOT want to use actual polyurethane! This will yellow over time (or even right away) and completely ruin the look of the furniture (if you read the label on the can it cautions that the product will cause "slight ambering").  This works fine for both bare and stained wood, but NOT for painted wood.  Instead, you need to use a water based Polycrylic.  This is the only one I've been able to find:

The advantages to using a water-based product are that it dries clear, and cleanup is really easy- just dish soap and water. The downside is that it is waaayyy more expensive (I think we paid a little under $20 per quart at the local hardware store) and it is less forgiving in terms of visible brush strokes. And you need to use a high quality synthetic fiber brush (no foam brushes!)

Anyway, so after one full coat of polycrylic (we used the satin finish) and a touch up, our rustic farmhouse table is finally done!

It drives me nuts how asymmetrical it looks with the leaf in it, but it is meant to fit tight against a wall on one end (hence the rounded off edges on the left vs. the squared off edges on the right) so in that setting, it will look fine.

 Not bad for a $2.00 investment! 


  1. There are a couple more furniture projects on the brink of completion. I am in the process of using the water-based finish mentioned in this article to complete said projects. These are long forgotten, abused and left for dead turn arounds.

  2. And one of them is an especially impressive makeover! Pics coming soon.

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