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Take Old Furniture and Make It New

Updated on June 3, 2011
This is the color stain I used to darken the squares
This is the color stain I used to darken the squares
it is easy to make an old table look like this
it is easy to make an old table look like this

Refinishing Wood Furniture

Finding old tables and chairs and other furnishings for kids is great.  Sometimes when you have a houseful of kids and others, you do not always have the cash to buy new furniture, and to tell you the truth, I prefer taking something that looks as though it has seen better days, and fixing it up to make it either look new, or to change it to suit the needs of the room you intend to use it in.

For example, I took a small oak table that my mom had used for a few years in her living room, just to hold a lamp, and I saw something else entirely in it when I looked.  To me it would be the perfect size to make a chess or checker board right into the table top.;  The table was just the right size for kids to sit on the floor and play games on it.    It was on, and I went and found some sandpaper and began my project. 

The table had been painted brown, and I didn't know what was underneath, so I began sanding.  The top of the little table was a beautiful oak, a light colored oak, and as I got all the paint off and smoothed the wood down to a smooth finish, it was amazing to me how someone could actually think that it would look better covered up with a layer of brown paint. 

After I sanded all the paint off and the whole table was smooth, I dusted all the dust from the sanding off with a slightly damp rag.  I was careful to dust all the edges and joints where the legs were connected to the top.  After the table was completely free of dust, and I was sure that there was no moisture left from dusting it, I took another small soft rag, making sure it was clean, and applied a small amount of linseed oil.  This does two things.  First of all, the oil soaks right into the wood, especially if the wood is older, and two, it makes the color of the oak several shades darker.  It also gave the table a very nice shine, making it appear to have been newly built.  Again with a clean dry rag, I wiped the table down one more time to make sure that all the excess oil was removed, and the table would be again a dry surface.

At this point I got creative, and got a ruler and measured out the correct number of squares needed to make a centered and equally spaced chess/checker board on the surface of the table.  After marking the squares lightly in pencil, I took a square, and a small screwdriver, and scored the chessboard squares on the surface of the table, making the scored marks only about a sixteenth of an inch deep. 

Then, with a darker wood stain, I carefully darkened the right squares for the chess board, and made the scored outer square bordering the chessboard also stained dark to outline the chessboard.  I did this using a pencil and a very small rag with the stain on it.  I was getting close to being done.

At this point you have a couple of options for finishing this project.  Some people like a varnished look, making it shine and easy to clean.  I do not like varnish myself, for with time it discolors, and it is very difficult to remove.  With this particular piece, because it was going to get a lot of use, and there would be many small hands touching it playing the games, I decided to put a thicker layer of resin, only on the top of the table.  The legs  and other parts of the table I left with only an oil finish. 

To apply the resin to the top of the table, prepare the resin as directed, and simply pour a small puddle in the center of the table top.  Then, taking a squeegee like you would use to clean a window, move the resin over the top of the table evenly, getting it as thick or thin as you like.  Be sure you tape the sides of the table top before you begin, and when the resin is set you can pull the tape off making the edges very straight.  Allow the resin to set and harden before touching, and with this, you will have a table that doubles for a checker board in the kids room. 

If you want to add another personal touch, you can attach a small velvet or cotton pouch to the side of the table to keep the chess or checker pieces safe and where you will be able to find them every time the family wants to play.  The resin top is very durable, and very easy to wipe clean with a sponge and soapy water, and the rest of the table should be oiled every few months.  A cleaner like pledge is another way to keep the wood oiled if you prefer.


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  • puddingicecream profile image

    puddingicecream 6 years ago from United States

    Interesting article. I personally also like to refurnish old furniture. That way, I get the chance to get in touch with my artsy side without feeling horrible about messing up expensive new furniture. Plus, this is a great way to spice up your home without spending a ton of money.

  • profile image

    janellelk 6 years ago

    Thanks for the share. I've been looking into doing some furniture restoration lately. I tackled my first project -- a lot more elbow grease and energy goes into it than I originally thought! Loved the final project and the cheap budget, though!


  • LaurenLL profile image

    LaurenLL 6 years ago

    Great post, I could Refinishing my old furniture on my house so that it's looks like new.

  • profile image

    marellen 6 years ago

    I like doing things like this too. I love to stencil on furniture too...Nice look and fun for kids too.

  • Paradise7 profile image

    Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

    Great project--I've restored a few things, myself. I turned an old dresser into a new one with some white enamel paint (the wood finish was past praying for) and some new drawer pulls. I don't think I'd have the right skills to make a chessboard table top. Good for you!