We have an art deco table that Mr. Waffle brought to our marriage. He had it when I met him. He picked it up cheap from a charity shop in Brussels. When I first met it, I didn’t like it and I regarded its entrance into my life with considerable misgivings but after ten years of eating at it, reading at it, doing homework at it, working at it and telling children to stop standing on it, I have grown fond of it. It is both too big and too dark for our tiny house but I wouldn’t think of saying goodbye to it now.
But, it was old when Mr. Waffle bought it, and, though sturdy, ten years of family life have taken their toll on its surfaces. I saw this article over on design sponge and thought I would try to “refresh my table”. And now, let me tell you about my progress.
First, Design Sponge says, get the following materials:
* Murphy’s Oil soap
* Watco Teak Oil
* Howard Feed-N-Wax
* fine sand paper (super fine can be used, as well)
* lint-free rags
So, after GAA on Saturday morning, I took the boys to Woodie’s DIY superstore. Michael refused to remove his studs and tripped up and down the aisles sounding like a manual typewriter on overdrive as I tried to find my materials. Unsurprisingly, Woodie’s didn’t have the American products the names of which I had printed out and I looked for alternatives. The woman at information was able to point me in the direction of teak oil and wax but she was baffled by the oil soap. We were unable to explore this in the detail I would have liked as the boys were tugging at me, anxious that I should not miss the display of 50 swaying Santas in aisle 3. As I hovered anxiously over different types of teak oil, Michael announced, “I want to do a wee,” seeing my face like thunder, he added nervously “but I can wait.” I wasn’t sure how reliable that information was so I swept up everything I could find and began to hunt for a substitute for oil soap. In desperation, I approached a man who looked like a builder and he kindly pointed me towards sugar soap and I decided to give it a go.
Last night, I decided to begin the process hauling my materials out from under the stairs. This is step 1:
1. Map out the “trouble” areas on your piece, such as stains, water damage, ink and scuff marks and sand them lightly. When working with wood, always remember to sand with the grain. If you start sanding like a crazy person, you will ruin your finish!
So, I started with the paint marks. Our childminder had let the children paint on the table without covering it with paper with predictable results. She also let them wear their school uniforms. When her idiocy was pointed out to her, she shrugged her shoulders and said that it would come out. The disadvantage of having a French childminder. I have never sanded before. I was a bit unclear as to what sanding lightly might consist of. The table has a diamond in the middle made out of four pieces of wood, this is set in a larger diamond, which in turn is surrounded by four pieces of wood and then another 4 and then the whole has a rectangular wooden frame. This means that the wood grain on the table top goes 24 different ways. This is not where the amateur sander should start. I have also discovered what “sanding like a crazy person” means and it is not at all as enthusiastic as you might think.
On to step 2:
2. When you’re done sanding, clean the piece with Murphy’s Oil soap. This gets all the dirt, dust and grime off the piece and leaves a nice, clean surface for you to work with.
The sugar soap seemed to do a good job and, aside from a mild concern about the apocalyptic warnings on the side of the packet as to what would happen to people who didn’t wear gloves when applying it, I felt very pleased with myself. Onwards to step 3:
3. Apply the Watco Teak Oil. Soak your rag and rub the entire piece down. Wait 10 minutes and with a clean rag, wipe off the excess oil. Depending on how thirsty the wood is, you can do two or three coats of the oil. One of the great things about using oil to refresh furniture is that it restores the color and grain and seals the finish from the inside out.
The teak oil was great stuff. I soaked my rag (finally a use for that torn sheet of Great Aunt Cecilia’s which was in the back of the hot press) and applied liberally. The warnings on the teak oil bottle were even more alarming than those on the sugar soap. Particularly the one about using it only in a well-ventilated area. As I sat down to watch the second half of the nine o’clock news, the table started to give me a headache. Obviously, the wood, which hadn’t been oiled in the 10 years we owned it and possibly not in the 70 years before that, was thirsty. On the other hand, the teak oil bottle announced that I could not reappy for 4 to 8 hours. I think Design Sponge’s instructions may have been designed for someone who a) could take the furniture to a well-ventilated area and who b) wasn’t relying on that furniture to be available 10 hours later for family breakfast.
I decided one coat of teak oil was enough which even at the time, I suspected might be a fatal mistake. I took Great Aunt Cecilia’s torn sheet and laid it out flat in the back garden where it could be rained on. Mr. Waffle felt I was taking too much to heart the instructions which warned of spontaneous combustion if the teak oil rag wasn’t dried flat but still, is that something you would want to store under the stairs?
I decided to be first up in the morning and see how matters stood. As it happened, I was up with one of the children during the night and I was tempted to go down at 5 in the morning and apply another coat of teak oil. Two things deterred me, firstly, the fact that my teak oil rag was out in the storm and secondly, I still had my teak oil headache from earlier. Needless to say, I was not first up and even, if I had been, I don’t really think I would have applied another coat of teak oil just before the children started in on their corn flakes.
So, on to step 4:
4. When you’re done oiling and the piece is dry to the touch, you’re ready for the final step. Apply the Howard Feed-N-Wax generously with a rag and after about 20 minutes, wipe off any excess.
I had to go to work after the cornflakes. On Wednesdays, I collect the children from school but today, Mr. Waffle kindly took on that task while I waxed the table. Depressingly, it looked a lot better before the wax went on. The wax seemed to highlight some old scars I hadn’t noticed and also the crazy person sanding. And the fact that two corners are really very worn. I regret not going for the second layer of teak oil now.
Mr. Waffle washed the teak oil rag because he is a good kind husband. Unfortunately, he threw it in with the children’s bedclothes which now smell faintly of teak oil. This is almost certainly bad.
You do realise that this is only the table top and I still have to do sides, leaves, legs and the piece of wood connecting the legs?
Would you like to see the table top?
See what I mean about constant use?
Looks much much better (not sure if its worth all the effort)
That is a very beautiful table, and I admire both your boldness and your industry in restoring it.
Michelle in NZ says
The table top looks beautiful to me, and I think you’ve done an amazing job in restoring it. It has such lovely, warm-looking colours in the natural wood, which your work can only have enhanced. I’m sure it slurped up the oil and the wax!
Sibling – perhaps just the flash.
Dot, restoring is pushing it. But maybe next round will be better.
Michelle you are kind, would reiterate, dolefully, comment above re flash.