Vintage Dining Set Refresh

gayle's dining set after

Dining sets may be the death of me one day!

I am optimistic by nature, so as soon as I finish one, I get amnesia about what a struggle the table was.  Something about that big expansive flat surface, it just isn’t easy to get a uniform look.  And if anyone thinks it is, please share your tips with me! 

This dining set came to me from a grandma at our church who was downsizing a bit, and generously offered it to me. 

Gayle's dining set before

It is nice solid furniture, but the chairs hadn’t been well-maintained.  They were quite creaky and shabby repairs had been made to them.  My husband ended up breaking apart the repairs, scraping out old glue and re-gluing and screwing everything together properly. 

Let’s jump to how the whole thing turned out, and then I will take you back through the journey that was this dining set.

gayle's dining set after

Painting the Chairs

I started by lightly sanding and cleaning  the chairs and giving them 2 coats of Drop Cloth.  Shades of white are always a great choice to update dark wood.  This paint doesn’t need to be sealed with anything (yay for less steps!), so I distressed the chairs a bit around the edges and they were almost done. 

For the seats, my client Gayle, chose this Magnolia Ariana Coral fabric.  Isn’t it pretty?

chair fabric

Restoring the Table’s Finish

When it was time to tackle the table, I decided against stripping it.  The finish on the top was in pretty decent condition, and it was stained in a diagonal pattern on each quadrant.  I thought it should be preserved. 

Gel stain was my first choice to fill in some of the scratches and dings, but once that was on, I wasn’t really happy with it.  I had heard of a product called Restor-a-Finish, and decided to give it a go.  You apply it with a staining pad or soft cloth, rubbing in the direction of the grain.  I did this outside (on a warmer winter day), due to fumes and the odor.  It was a very quick process to apply it, and then I let it dry for about half an hour before bringing it back into my workshop.

Gayle's dining set detail 2

Gayle's dining set detail

Sealing the Tabletop

To seal it, I took another detour I shouldn’t have by using the Howard’s wax they recommended for the Restor-a-Finish.  The directions say not to use polyurethane over it, so I tried the wax.  It left a greasy streaky finish that wouldn’t clear up no matter how much I buffed it. 

I ended up washing the wax off with a mixture of vinegar and hot water.  Then I sealed it with Gator Hide, which is a polycrylic, and that worked much better.  It was now a smooth clear finish, but I wanted it glossier, so I added a coat of Clear Coat Gloss using my favorite blue sponge applicator.

One tip I’ll share for the edges of the top surface is to pull the sponge beyond the edge, rather than stopping at the edge.  This will give you less streaks and bubbles.

dining table top overview

We delivered the set to Gayle shortly after New Year’s, and she loved it! If you have an old vintage set like this, give these products and methods a try.  See?  I’m getting the amnesia already!

Gayle's dining set before & after

Resource List

Here are the products I used for this project:

Here is another dining table in a different style you can check out here:

Old World Dining Table

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