Have you ever worked on a project where nothing seems to go right? Yep, I’m there! We are refinishing a Mid-century Modern side table, with the popular blond finish of the 1950s. It has been sanded and bleached and it doesn’t look any better than when we started. It looks different, but not better! I’m losing my patience with the process but not my desire for my inheritance to take its rightful place in our family room. Believe it or not, the next thing we’re going to do is strip it! If I were to calculate the hours invested in this table…nah, I really don’t want to do that!
Finishes That Were Popular On Mid-century Modern Furniture
We did quite a bit of research on the various finishes that were popular in the 50s. Finally we concluded:
- our table manufacturer used a whitewash painted effect on the entire Mid-century Modern side table to lighten the oak or
- the finish on the oak veneer shelf tops and on the solid wood base is simply the original varnish that yellowed over the years and created the golden color results
Final Attempt To Create A Consistent Tabletop Texture
Whatever finish we have on our Mid-century modern side table, the stains on the top shelf require a more drastic process to get the consistent finish that we want. Therefore, we will make one last attempt to achieve this. We’re going to use a soy-based gel stripper on both shelves to get beneath the stains and even out the texture…hopefully.
Once the stripping was complete and, the wood had dried, the finish on the surface was smoother. Keeping in mind that the tabletop had areas of water damage and it has been around for over 60 years, it actually looked much better, acceptable even! We continued to hope that the final stain finish would even out the overall wood tone.
Applying White Oak Veneer Edging On Mid-century Modern Side Table
Before we can stain the table, we need to apply the wood veneer edging. We had never done this step before, so we hoped it was not too tedious a process. I went upstairs to locate and grab our iron, which doesn’t get much use these days. Then, I headed to the garage to apply the new oak edging around both levels of the table.
My husband bravely held the veneer edging in place while I used the iron to heat and melt the glue on the edging to the point that it firmly adhered to the table. Thankfully, it was an easy process. The veneer strip was slightly wider than the edge on the table, so trimming was required. He used a very sharp knife to trim off the excess veneer. Then, with a fine metal file, he sanded the edge smooth and even around the table.
We Are Ready To Stain Our 1960s Side Table
The moment has arrived! Honestly, I never thought we would get here. I’m ready to stain the whole table. We focused so much on the tabletop with its 2 shelves, the base/leg section of the table has been set aside and nearly forgotten.
The staining process was amazing from the point of view that it really did cover the imperfections in the finish. This was my dream! Yes, there may still be a few tiny cracks in the wood that reveal some light dry areas, but in the daily scheme of life, it’s not a big deal. With all things considered, I love the table!
We chose a medium-dark stain for the final table color. It’s not as light as the original table but, it’s definitely not as sad as the yellow color we started with. The color is consistent with tables of the 50s/60s and one that will blend with our family room. After allowing plenty of drying time, we coated the table with a water-based, high performance satin finish.
Refinishing our Mid-century Modern side table had several “bumps in the road” along the way but we’re very happy with the final result. Most importantly, a piece of my family’s history is preserved for future generations.