Redo Step End Tables | Ugly to Gorgeous!

Written by on September 23, 2012 in DIY, Furniture, Upcycle with 1 Comment

Last summer, (yes, that long ago), I bought these two end tables with the intent to re-do them, give them some life and beauty. Unfortunately, life got in the way. We bought a house and moved. Since, they have been buried in the garage. I finally decided to dig them out, re-do them and get them in the Vintage With A Twist booth. So, here’s their transformation, documented.


All wood, step style end tables with one drawer and a marble inset. Not bad shape for their age (late 1960’s early 70’s).


end tables redo 1


end tables redo 2


end tables redo 3


I decided I wanted a drastic change in them. The wood had some bad spots — a dog had chewed one leg, the top step on one table had some water damage and there were assorted nicks and cuts. But, the lines were good, so I bought them anyway.

So, gathering my supplies, I started. Here’s the supplies:

end tables redo supplies

  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Zinsser Deglosser
  • Zinsser White Oil Based Spray Primer (love this stuff!)
  • Paint – Pittsburgh Paints Ultra in Clear Yellow (it’s really an off white hue)
  • Sand paper (assorted grit from 150 to 220)
  • MinWax Stain – Provincial #211
  • MinWax  Paste Finishing Wax
  • Saw Horses
  • Staining Sponge
  • Assorted rags and soft cloths

First thing I did was wipe down the very dusty surfaces. They have been in the garage so long, I could write my name in the dust. After I got the layer of dust off, I used the Denatured Alcohol on a rag to make sure all residue was gone. I took the drawers out and the hardware off. Not sure yet if I will use new or the original hardware.

end tables redo 4

Then, I put them, one at a time, up on saw horses so I could get to all the areas. I used Zinsser’s Deglosser to get rid of the remaining shiny, top coat. This stuff is AWESOME! No need to sand to get the surface ready for primer. I hadn’t used it before so I am definitely a convert!

It so easy to use and works fast. You rub it all over the finish on the piece in a circular motion (with proper gloves and eye wear of course) using a soft rag or cheese cloth. It evaporates leaving the finish dull. If there is a white film apparent in certain areas, you still have some finish or wax that needs to come off. Repeat until there are no filmy white areas.

end tables redo 5

Now, you brush on a medium coat of the deglosser. I used a sponge brush and it worked well. You leave it for 30 minutes. During that time I got my spray primer, spray can gun adapter and anything else I needed ready. You need to start your base coat of paint within 1 hour of the medium coat of  deglosser. Not sure why but I am a rule follwer, so that’s what I did. 😀

I used Zinsser’s oil based primer with the gold/brown label. Again, I love this stuff. It coats well, blocks out stains, seals the wood, dries quick (20 minutes between re-coats) and readies the item for paint. The paint finish is so much nicer with a good primer! Here’s what it looked like with the primer:


end tables redo 6


I finished two coats of primer on both tables and let them dry overnight. The next day, I put two coats of paint on them and then let them cure over night again.

The third day, I distressed them. I used sand paper in 150 and 220 grit in areas that would have normal wear like legs, the top, edges and such. I didn’t over do on the edges and legs but I did do a decent amount of distressing to the top of the step surface. I didn’t want it to look perfect but used, old. I put some scratches in the finish and a couple of very worn areas.

end tables redo 8

Next was another good wiping down to get rid of any of the paint I had sanded off. I, personally, don’t like tack cloths. They can leave a residue on the furniture so I use a damp, soft cloth instead and then follow it with a dry cloth.

Now comes the stain. I used the MinWax stain and wiped it on with a staining sponge and then off with a rag. I work in small areas because the stain starts to dry pretty quickly. I sponge on the stain in the chosen area, usually working from left to right. Then go right back and wipe it off. If it’s not dark enough, I repeat. Some of the areas of the tables where too intricate for the sponge so I used a small art paint brush with stain on it and then wiped it off with the rag.

Here is the back of one of the tables as I stained it:

end tables redo 9

before stain

end tables redo 10

sponged on stain


end tables redo 11

stain wiped off

You can see the difference in the color from the stained area to the legs and bottom part of the end table that was still off white.

I finished both end tables in about an hour and a half. One trick I have learned is if your stain starts to dry to quickly — before you wipe it off — add more stain and then wipe quickly. This will pick up the stain that was too dark.

While these were drying, I stained the drawers, being careful to get stain in the arches and designs of the wood with my art brush. Then, I let them cure overnight. Looking pretty good!

end tables redo 12

I have the finishing wax, attaching the hardware and inserting the marble slabs and I’ll be finished.

I am using the MinWax finishing wax. It’s a great alternative to polyacrylic or polyurethane. You apply it (to a dust free surface) with a clean, soft rag or cheesecloth — not heavy, just a thin coat. Wait fifteen minutes and buff it with a cloth, electric buffer or polisher. It leaves a hard, dry, oil-less polish to the surface — perfect for nightstands or end tables.

Anymore, the only time I use polyacrylic is it the item will be in the bathroom or kitchen. And, you could use the wax anyway and just do 2 coats before you buff. It is a bit shiny, not too much though.

I used the original hardware as it was. I was going to clean it since it’s brass but the patina looked better with the distressed finish than a bright shiny brass would have.


So, there you have it! These are going straight to the booth space and will be for sale for $42.99 each or $79.99 for the pair. Now, we just have to make room for them and stage them well!

end tables redo finished 1


end tables redo finished 2


end tables redo finished 3


end tables redo finished 4

One more time — Before and After:

end tables redo - before and after




The next project is a corner (triangle shaped) cabinet mom has had forever. It’s time to clear out the garage and get ready for the Riley Festival!


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