I bought this dining table four years ago from Loveseat Vintage, a used furniture store here in San Diego. I don't know if the store is still around, but at the time it was my favorite place to shop for good quality, affordable vintage furniture. I purchased this lovely trestle dining table for only $174. What a bargain! It's a sturdy table in great shape, but over the years the finish has started to look pretty shabby.

1 before
2 before close up

So Adam put his handy skills to work to give this table a much-needed makeover. And now it looks prettier than ever. If you have the space, and some basic wood finishing skills, you could easily tackle this project in a weekend. Here's how Adam made this shabby thrift store dining table look brand new.

STEP 1 - Strip The Original Varnish
Adam coated the table top in a paint/varnish remover called Citri-Strip. You leave it on the surface for anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours. Then when you scrape off the Citri-Strip, the varnish comes off too. This reveals the natural beauty of the wood beneath it.

3 pre scrape
4 scrape close up

Apparently in the past, varnish removers typically contained a toxic chemical called methylene chloride. This nasty solvent releases toxic fumes that can cause cancer. In 2019, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the sale of paint removers containing methylene chloride.

Citri-Strip is a safer alternative to the older type of paint removers. It contains citrus terpenes and methylpyrrolidone (NMP) as the active solvents. While NMP releases fewer VOC's (volatile organic compounds) than methylene chloride, it still carries some risk. It's best to work outdoors, or in a well-ventilated space. Wear gloves and a mask for added protection. There are several different products out there. You can read more about non-toxic paint removers here and here.

5 scraping

It's so satisfying to see the varnish come off. Check out the videos below.

STEP 2 - Sanding
After the varnish was removed and the table had completely dried, Adam sanded the table. He did a light sanding by hand since the original table finish was a thin veneer. If you sand it down too much, you can ruin it. After a gentle sanding, the natural beauty of the wood really stands out. So gorgeous!

6 sanded and dry
7 sanded close up

STEP 3 - Choose A Stain
As lovely as the natural wood looks, we still need a protective stain to keep it from getting scratched and damaged. We decided to try out a few different eco-friendly options before selecting a stain color for our table. We made stain using instant coffee, black tea, and Tried & True Wood Finish.

7a choosing finish

First we tested the different stains on the bottom of a bench that goes with our dining table. (Fun fact: Adam made this bench himself using discarded scrap wood from local construction sites.) We let the stains dry overnight before make a final decision. We ended up liking the Tried & True finish the best. This eco-friendly stain contains no solvents, zero VOC's, and no heavy-metal driers. It is 100% safe for food contact. You can read more about how we experimented with eco-friendly stains to refinish a set of thrift store chairs in this post.

7b choosing finish

STEP 4 - Stain
And now for the fun part - staining! You brush the stain on just like you would if you were painting. I helped out, and we were able to stain the bench and table pretty quickly. You can do several coats of stain for a darker finish.

11 bench before
12 bench after

I'm really happy with how things turned out! The natural wood grain really shines, and the table looks brand new.

8 finished
9 finished close up
1 before
10 finished alt

And last but not least, who doesn't love a good before and after? Check out how this $174 thrifted dining table went from drab to fab with just a little hard work and elbow grease!

For more fun DIY furniture make-overs, check out these posts:
From Trash To Treasure - Refurbished Adirondack Chairs
Thrift Store Chair Makeover - Part 1: Stain And Seal

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