Monday, February 18, 2013

The Magic of Varnish: Thrift Store Table Makeover

One of my favorite things about thrift store hunting is finding the unexpected. The other day when I was searching for a vase, I found this delicate and simple end table.

I tend to wander through all the departments of a thrift store, even when I'm searching for something in particular. On a clothing mission I'll check out furniture, on a knick-knack mission I'll poke through the shoes, and I usually check out the the lamps (I have a lamp problem). By doing this I expose myself to extra temptation, but when the price is right, I'll give in.

This table was only $4, a small enough dent in my wallet that I took it home.

But as you can see from this closeup, it wasn't in great condition. The wood was unvarnished, but it was stained light red.

I sanded it first with coarse sandpaper, intended for stripping, then with superfine sandpaper to smooth the surface.

I wiped away the resulting dust with a damp cloth and let the table dry completely. I didn't sand very vigorously, and as a result the wood still had a warm color, but you can see at the edges where I sanded too hard that the raw wood is much lighter.

I'm into the distressed wood look lately, probably under the influence of the big four: Pottery Barn, West Elm, Crate & Barrel, and Restoration Hardware. So I was intentionally imprecise in my sanding effort.

And here is my blurry, grainy shot of the varnish process. As on my Mid-Century Chair, I used Minwax Polycrylic in satin finish.

I have semi-gloss and gloss finishes in my supply drawer, but there's something wrong about a glossy finish on distressed wood. I like the distressed look because it makes you think about the whole lifecycle of your furniture, starting from its time as a tree somewhere. A gloss finish would take away from the memory of nature in the appearance of weathered and beaten wood.

I used a synthetic bristle brush and followed the instructions on the Polycrylic can, the most vital of which is sanding between coats, and applying a total of three coats.

I placed the table next to the easy chair in our living room. From the moment I first saw the table, I knew it's purpose would be as a convenient table for the lazy lounger who doesn't want to lean all the way forward to the coffee table to rest or retrieve a drink. I added a set of rubber cups to the metal feet of the table to protect the hardwood floors.

Also, I invite you to admire another recent thrift store find - an antiqued brass lantern, scored for $10 at Goodwill.

The result is a table with just enough gleam to look finished, but with some history and character showing through.

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