When we found this vintage Singer sewing table at a local thrift shop (missing the treadle and band wheel), I couldn’t resist the challenge to repair the veneer and breathe new life into it! I had two very distinct visions for it – so we’ve upcycled it twice! We’ll have one reveal for you today and another – more unique one – next time.
Water damage and age were not kind to the table but the metal base was in perfect shape: not a spec of rust!
The finish was practically non existent on the outside, but when I opened the lid it revealed a darker stain.
With a light press on the bottom edge of the middle drawer, it swivels open to reveal three compartments.
As I was exploring how everything opens, Hubs was preparing to blow off years of dust with an air gun and compressor.
Once everything was relatively clean, we brought the drawers inside.
Then Hubs taped it up and turned the table upside down….
…so he could remove the legs and blow them off too.
We carried the legs and table down to my craft studio in the basement as-is so I could methodically take the rest of the table apart and document it with pictures.
The legs didn’t stay in my studio for long; once I decided on the paint colour, they were back outside to be painted with a metal paint. As you’ll see later, we didn’t tape off the Singer name, but in retrospect I wish we had. In the finished product you can still see it, but it’s very subtle.
Document with Pictures
As I disassembled the table down to the sum of its parts, I placed all the hardware into labeled ziplocks so we wouldn’t lose any pieces.
I took a lot of pictures so we could reverse engineer it back together again once it was painted.
We used a variety of screw drivers to get everything apart, but they all have something in common: a ratcheting feature and magnetic end. These features prevent wrist fatigue and hold onto the screws so they can’t accidentally fall and roll away.
The long screwdriver shown above is essential for taking off the drawer surround. It’s perfect for those difficult, hard to reach areas.
When there’s two similar pieces, mark each with a piece of green tape and mark them left (L) and right (R) respectively. Here are the drawer surrounds separated from the table and marked:
I always find the specialty hardware facinating. The one below is what allows the middle drawer to swing out.
The swing drawer at some point had a key to lock it – long since gone.
Murphy’s Law of Furniture
Here is my own personal Murphy’s Law of furniture disassembly. Whenever I get down to the last piece, there’s always ONE screw that I absolutely can’t budge on my own. It’s like furniture builders of yore turn that one screw extra tight so they can look down and laugh at me contorting myself to will it out of the hole. I always have to call Hubs to use this brute strength to remove that stubborn screw! What would I ever do without him?
Once everything was apart we took one last picture and put the hardware away for safe keeping.
At this point, as you saw in our last post, we repaired the loose and missing veneer on each individual piece. I mistakenly thought we filled this corner piece with wood filler, but after putting together the video (which you’ll find it at the end of this post), I realize we glued and clamped it.
Primer and Paint Prep
With the intention of painting the table, after sanding we tested two different primers. We placed our samples on the back of one of the pieces:
The primer on the left is Fresh Start from Benjamin Moore (K046). On the right is a product appropriately called INSL-X Stix. Both primers have excellent adhesion. I don’t honestly recall which one Hubs ended up spraying the pieces with, but for some reason we got a lot a weird colour bleed right through the primer (sorry there’s no pictures). Hubs changed gears and went out to purchase a different product – still in the INSL-X family called Seal Lock Plus. Seal Lock Plus is an alchohol based product that is phenomenal at blocking stains. It’s an alternative to shellac and dries in 15 minutes.
Hubs sprayed everything with the new primer again (except the few pieces we kept natural wood, which you’ll see later). To our relief, it did the trick and once dry he painted sprayed on the top coat. In our next post, we’ll show you how we spray all our painted pieces.
For the drawers, apply FrogTape to the inside where you don’t want paint to bleed and burnish it down well. Here, we’re demonstrating on the swing out drawer, but did this to all of them. FrogTape is edge-treated with a patented adhesive and it’s our preferred tape because it works without fail to provide crips lines without bleed-through (as long as you remember to put it back in container it comes with).
Once the FrogTape is applied, you can use cheap masking tape along the edge. This will give you a surface to attach the poly-coated paper. The poly-coated paper is essentially like a freezer paper and is impervious to the moisture in the paint. Together, they protect the interior of the drawer.
Use another piece of masking tape on the edge of the poly-coated paper and wrap it around the inside of the entire drawer to protect it from overspray.
The drawers are wrapped and ready for paint!
As Hubs was taking care of painting, I cleaned up the hardware. I didn’t want to affect the patina at all – just clean off years of grime. The bottom hinge is cleaned; it’s just enough of a difference to shine it up a bit.
I used Method All Purpose Cleaner; it didn’t even require rinsing. If you have a tried and true method of cleaning metal, let us know in the comments!
Seal Raw Wood
I don’t know the proper name of the piece you see below so I’ll call it the under belly. As I mentioned, I wanted to keep some of the natural wood so I applied Hemp Oil to protect it.
You can use a brush or wipe it on with a cotton rag as shown. Apply hemp oil generously. Let the wood tell you if it needs more. If it soaks in and still looks dry, apply more. You can’t really over apply it; just make sure to wipe away the excess within 12 hours. I wiped off the excess oil with a clean, dry cloth.
This was my first time using it; the hemp oil brought out the depth of the wood and grain nicely.
As you’ll see in the reveal, Hubs sprayed the metal stand with an off white metal paint that he custom mixed. For the rest of the wood he use a paint by PPG called Break-Through. He sprayed a few light coats of an icicle blue colour; I just love the combination of cream and blue!
Work close to the area where you plan on putting your finished piece. We worked on the floor on top of a piece of cardboard to re-assemble the piece. I transferred all our pictures onto an iPad so we could see exactly how everything should go back together.
This is where you’ll be happy you took lots of pictures and marked the hardware! Without the pictures to guide us, we would have been stumped about which hardware goes where!
As you can see, the hardware doesn’t look shiny and new. It’s clean and maintains the original patina. Just the way we like it!
The escutcheons were a bit difficult to put back because of the paint overspray in the holes. Hubs solution was to press it in as far as possible, then use a clamp to drive it in the rest of the way. Just by tightening the clamp, he was able to get them snuggly back in place. You can protect the metal if you like, but we didn’t bother.
We didn’t paint the end caps on either side of the swing drawer. I’d like to say we did that on purpose, but honestly they went into a Ziploc with the rest of the hardware and we forgot to paint them. It’s one of those ‘happy accidents’ that worked out better than planned!
One side goes on first before the drawer and then the other side gets screwed in place to secure the swing mechanism.
After that, the underbelly went back on. Look how drab it used to look originally before the hemp oil and paint.
Here’s the underbelly going back on. Doesn’t the wood look so rich and lustrous now? It slips in place via dowel and should sit underneath a metal catch (which we put on prematurely and had to undo to get it properly back in place later).
These L-brackets attach the middle section onto the table top.
Then we were able to screw the metal stand back on.
I guess I should have mentioned this earlier, but before screwing anything down, double check to make sure the pieces are facing the right direction. Above you can see the drawer surround is facing backward! Hubs only realized his mistake as we were starting to screw on the second one. He unscrewed them and turned them around 🙂
The last piece on the underside to attach were these brackets to hold the metal legs in pace.
We stood the table up and fixed the metal tab holding the underbelly. Although hemp oil was used on the outside, we painted the inside blue to match the rest.
We unwrapped the paper on the drawers. As you saw earlier, Hubs’ secret trick to preventing paint seepage into the drawers is to use FrogTape to seal around the inside perimeter before applying a poly-coated paper.
Peel the frog tape back on a 45 degree angle to reveal a crisp paint-free edge!
Remove any green tape from pieces that still have the R & L tags!
I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. Demille!
I think the touches of wood we left are interesting! I like having a few small references to remember how the vintage table used to look!
The end caps were the one thing on the table still in perfect condition; we didn’t have to refurbish them at all.
I haven’t sealed the inside of the drawers yet; I’ll either use hemp oil again or I hear Wise Owl furniture salve is great for this application too!
A Second Life!
I’m sure that many a person passed up this old table at the thrift store. They might do a double take if they could see it now! It’s come a long way, baby (baby blue, to be exact)!
After reattaching the lids, I displayed a grouping of succulents on top:
You don’t even necessarily have to replace the double lids again. If you prefer, one lid is perfectly fine to cover up the gap where the sewing machine used to be. This configuration would be well suited for a laptop station.
Watch the transformation in the quick video!
With the extent of veneer repair that was necessary on this piece, even I wasn’t sure it would look this good again!
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As great as it looks now, wait ’til you see what else we’ve done with this vintage sewing table! We took it one step further and I think you’ll get a kick out of the wow factor (and functionality) of the next reveal. Stay tuned, because it’s coming up next week.
In the meantime, check out the reveal of this waterfall dresser (in progress below) that was given the Birdz of a Feather touch: