Fixing up a coffee table

Image uploaded from iOS(3)

Our coffee table, flotsam from a live-in girlfriend a few years back, had seen better days. It had originally been rescued from a skip in Angel, and apart from a semi-uniform coat of white gloss applied by said girlfriend, hadn’t seen much love. Already peppered with woodworm tunnels, it was now chipped, stained, and decidedly wobbly since being used as an occasional stepladder or dance podium. If you tried to drag it across the room you’d risk leaving half of it behind. It’s been long-due an overhaul.

This is the thing with solid wood furniture – it’s pretty much impossible to irretrievably break them if you can embrace a look with character. Split wood can be glued back together, or repaired with a butterfly inlay. Much like how the Japanese art of Kintsugi celebrates the fragility of pottery by reforming broken pieces with golden fault lines, damaged furniture can be fixed in a way that acknowledges its history of inappropriate load bearing. Hooray for solid wood, boo to IKEA.

This stated off as a small job: I was just going to take the three planks off the top, repair a split in one, plane off the white paint and oil the bare wood. However, as soon as I removed the planks the whole thing fell apart: it turns out the dogs dinner of screws, brackets and dowels weren’t doing all that much. But that was good: I had a free Saturday and this would keep me out of trouble. I ended up trimming the boards down so the table was a bit thinner, and replacing the dowels with some short lengths of sycamore branches from a small tree I’d cut down a while back. Lots of PVA glue and clamps got the base solid again, and I nailed the three planks back on (minus white paint) with chunky horse shoe nails I’d bought to turn into hooks (something I still need to get round to).

The table was also missing a drawer, but had a hole where a draw should be. I had a bit of plywood left over from the wine boxes I’d used to make whiskey shelves the week before, and some thicker scrap wood for the sides. It looked awful with the mismatched wood, but I had a small pot of old Farrow & Ball paint kicking about. I painted over the white gloss around the base, as well as the sides and interior of the drawer before fitting it in and adding a handle.

I couldn’t be happier with the outcome: the table is presentable, and having all the bits lying about it didn’t cost a thing. But most of all by taking off the paint I uncovered a whole bunch of new stains and dents that the new finish shows off. It’s not Kintsugi-level, but it has character and history, and that’s something you can’t buy at IKEA. Thrifty and crafty: a Saturday well spent.



written by: Alex
Leave a Comment