transformation: green telephone table

Did you know you can follow vendor profiles on Facebook Marketplace? I follow a woman who sells out of a storage unit right by my house. She usually has a lot of random IKEA furniture, but every now and then I’ll spot a gem at a good price. This is how the green telephone table came into my life.

“Solid wood,” the listing read. “Heavy and very sturdy.” I scrutinized the photos to see whether this was true — sometimes when people describe something as being made of heavy, solid wood, what they really mean is heavy particle board and veneer. It looked like wood to me. The listing had been up for a while, so I negotiated down the price a bit and off I went to pick it up.

It was wood alright — badly painted over with bright green latex house paint (please do not use this on furniture). 

My workshop space doesn’t have great ventilation, so I opted to sand off the paint rather than using paint stripper. Maybe that wasn’t the right way to go, maybe it shortened the life of my sander, who knows — it made sense to me, so I attached an 80-grit pad and started sanding the top to see what I could find.

I eventually took the table apart to make it easier to sand as well as to paint the spindles and legs. Based on the construction and slight variances in the turned components, this table looks handmade to me. I’ve learned from watching YouTube videos that this style of table was sometimes made by high school shop class students, so maybe that’s where this particular table originated, who knows!

I sanded the table tops and end grain to 220 (I did the edges with a sanding block to keep the curve intact), then wet the whole thing down to raise the grain and did one last quick hand sanding to get everything really smooth.

I stained the table tops with two coats of Minwax Early American and painted the legs and spindles with a Fusion colour called Putty. I let everything dry for several days because I was planning to put a water-based topcoat over an oil-based stain. You can do this as long as you give the stain a few days to dry thoroughly.

I applied three coats of Varathane Diamond satin wood finish with a Zibra fan brush. I was scared of this step because I worried about ruining all my hard work, but the brush made this process extremely easy. A few things I learned about topcoating effectively:

  • Read and follow the instructions! If your product recommends sanding between coats, do so. I sanded lightly between each coat with a 220 sanding sponge and the finish turned out really soft and beautiful.
  • Don’t shake the can as it will introduce bubbles into the product that will end up in your finish. Just stir it gently with a stir stick.
  • Don’t keep going over the topcoat repeatedly once it’s applied. Apply your product, go over it in one long stroke to remove any start/stop marks, and move on to the next part.
  • Check your edges for drips or globs once you’re finished — they’re easier to smooth over when they’re still wet.

Once everything was dry, I reassembled the table and took it home. I originally planned to sell this table, but once it was complete, I couldn’t bear to part with it, so now I’m using it as a nightstand.

I love the end result. It felt good to restore this table to its former glory, and it was a great practice project and learning experience. Not bad for $15!