Since mid-century furniture is typically very well constructed from quality woods, it's often worth the time and effort it takes to refinish, and a 1950s round Lane coffee table is no exception. Whether it's a hard-working hand-me-down on which you regularly rest your feet or a delicately cherished vintage used to display your favorite books and personal keepsakes, consider yourself lucky to own one of these timeless pieces. Give that classic coffee table the love and attention it deserves and there's no telling how much longer it'll live.
1 Dip a clean, soft cloth into a mixture of mild dish soap and warm water and scrub the surface to remove any dirt, dust or grime on the coffee table. Use a dry cloth to wipe away any water left behind while inspecting the entire surface of the table for any dents or scratches.
2 Squeeze stainable wood putty into any imperfections and use a putty knife to smooth it out, ensuring the putty is even with the surface of the table. Allow the putty to dry thoroughly before repeating the process a second time. Ideally, the patched area will be slightly overfilled and a little raised in comparison to the table surface.
3 Using an electric palm sander, start sanding the coffee tabletop with 120-grit sandpaper to remove the original finish. Always sand in long, even strokes moving with the grain of the wood, since sanding against the grain will result in a scratched tabletop. No need to completely remove the original finish if you are restaining it in a similar or darker color; just make sure to thoroughly remove any shiny shellac or polyurethane topcoat. Move to a higher 220-grit sandpaper and sand the top once more for a silky, smooth feeling on the wood. Sand the edge of the round tabletop and legs of the table by hand, first with 120-grit paper and then moving to 220-grit.
4 Visually inspect the patched areas and rub your fingers along the surface to determine if it has been sanded sufficiently. There should be no visual bump or divot in the wood where it has been filled in, and a seamless transition when you rub your hand over the surface. Continue sanding to smooth out the filler, if needed.
5 Clean away all dust particles on the coffee table with a damp rag. Allow 24 hours for any dust to settle in your workspace if you are working inside before wiping the table a second time with a damp rag.
6 Apply a water-based stain with a high-quality brush or clean rag, wiping it on in the direction of the grain. Using a dry rag to go over the brushed-on stain, gently wiping away any excess stain. Continue reapplying the stain and wiping it away until the desired color is achieved. Allow the stain to dry for at least 24 hours.
7 Brush on three thin coats of semigloss polyurethane topcoat with a natural-bristled brush. Overlap the brushstrokes and use long, even strokes. Allow the poly to dry thoroughly after each coat. Lightly sand the surface with steel wool and wipe away the dust before apply the next coat of polyurethane.
Items you will need
- Soft, clean rags
- Mild dish soap
- Stainable wood putty
- Putty knife
- Electric palm sander
- Sandpaper (120- and 220-grit)
- Steel wool
- Natural-bristled paintbrush
- Wood stain
- Semigloss polyurethane
- Wear a protective mask to prevent inhaling dust while sanding wood.
- Stainable wood putty accepts wood stain seamlessly.
- Sand the table prior to filling any dents or dings in the coffee table if it was originally coated in paint.
- Remove white rings on the tabletop by applying petroleum jelly and letting it sit overnight. Use a clean rag to wipe it away in the morning.
- For large chips or missing veneer on the tabletop, use epoxy putty to fill the spot by first kneading the putty between your fingers, then smoothing it into place with wet fingers until it is even with the surface.
- Do not oversand the coffee table; oversanding results in loss of the grain and a splotchy appearance.
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