Friday, April 8, 2011

DIY- Refinishing a Lane Side Table

When the boy and I first moved here to California I decided to tackle some furniture refinishing projects as a result of searching for inexpensive ways to furnish our home. It ended up becoming a little hobby of mine since applying to jobs and not getting any replies was becoming the norm. I had to get my satisfaction from somewhere plus it was a good way to expend some energy as well.

So let me introduce you to this baby. She is a vintage Lane step end table for the Perception line that was designed by Warren Church. As you can see she was not in the best shape. I was a little hesitant to tackle this project because I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I must admit that this project took much longer than expected. It was hard to get motivated when I would spend countless hours hand-sanding and I was not seeing great results.  But alas, I took a deep breath and finally finished her up. Here she is in her current glory:

The final product may not be everyone's cup of tea but it is mine. It may be the purist in me that likes to see the natural state of the different woods used. Originally these tables were stained and finished to have the same honey color throughout. As you can see above, the ends are capped off with a bull-nosed oak and the larger surface tops are walnut. I like seeing the contrasting wood colors. 

I have included my steps for those of you that would like to tackle a similar project. I would recommended doing this outdoors because of some of the fumes from the chemical stripper that I used. ( I am going to try out citri-strip for my next project.)

Materials (for pieces that are varnished, lacquered or shellacked) 
For your protection: safety goggles, chemical resistant rubber gloves, and a mask

Stripper/ Refinisher (I used Formby's Furniture Refinisher because my item was lacquered, but I am going to use Citri-Strip for my next project), abrasive pads (to apply refinisher/ stripper), sandpaper (varying grits depending on the level of damage to your piece), steel wool, rags, metal bowl/ pan, drop cloth, wood filler (if you have really deeps nicks/ scratches) , wood conditioner, time and elbow grease. I would also recommend a hand sander if you know your piece is solid wood throughout. 

I also want to say that I am by no means an expert nor has my process been perfected. It is a work in progress.


Ready to Start?

1. Lay out your drop cloth in your desired work area. Wipe your piece with a clean rag to remove dust and other small particles.Gather all of your working materials.
2. Put on your protective gear. Play some music ( that's how I like to work).
3. Pour 1-2 cups of Formby's refinisher into the metal pan. Dip your abrasive pad and squeeze out the excess.
4. Start rubbing the pad in a circular motion on your piece about the size of a dinner plate. After the finish is picked up by the pad, rinse it in the pan, and squeeze out the excess. Repeat this step in an overlapping adjacent area until you have done the whole piece. (This takes a while)
5. When you find that the pad isn't working like when you first started, replace it. If the liquid in the pan also gets too gunky, replace it with some more refinisher.
( I had to go over the piece a second time to remove the finish, hopefully you won't have to)
6. If all goes well, you should just need to buff your piece with a dry pad. If it goes like it did with mine you have countless hours of sanding ahead of you.
7. In retrospect, because of the damage to my piece I should have used a stripper because I was going to have to sand the piece down anyway. I had to use 100 grit sand paper for the oak edges and the walnut tops. There were deep scratches and nicks that I tried to even out. I also had to hand sand instead of using an electric sander because supposedly Lane used veneer for these pieces. I still don't know if that's true because I haven't sanded deep enough to find out. I also had to use some wood filler for some nicks that were very deep. Once I had sanded the whole piece down to my satisfaction with the rough grit sand paper, I had to work my way up to the finer grits. After I finished sanding, I used a wood conditioner containing natural beeswax to really bring the wood grain to life. Finishing a piece is a matter of personal preference. You can oil a piece, lacquer it, varnish it, wax it and do many other things.It's all up to you.

For those who would like to tackle smaller, yet still rewarding projects I would start by gathering any lightly tarnished silver or brass objects. I learned about this trick while thrifting. I overheard a conversation on homemade ways to clean and polish your silver.

We all know that there are plenty of polishing and cleaning products for metals but little did I know that you can also use products that you find at home. For my Dansk bunny that I thrifted here, I used an old toothbrush, toothpaste and a rag.

It is recommended that you use a basic non-gel toothpaste. One that does not have tartar control or whitening chemicals. Supposedly you can use a mixture of baking soda and water, but I didn't have baking soda. I don't bake unless it comes premixed in a box. Shameful, I know.

With a bit of brushing, rinsing and wiping here is the transformation. Not only does the bunny look great but he smells minty fresh too!

Here is to a productive Spring weekend!


  1. Amazing. I love the beautiful look of clean wood, and I'm so glad you didn't paint it! I can definitely see the fruits of your labour on this piece. I really love it. Great work!

  2. Amazing made it (even more) beautiful. And as for that rabbit Wow!