A Tale of Two Tables

You guys know how cheap I am, right? I had this plan for a new coffee table that would be large enough to serve both sofas (while still having room for pretty stuff), and I wanted to use very large casters. I just knew this idea would be out of my comfort area, price wise, mostly because of the casters. Those things are expensive! Even at around $10 each, which was the best price I found locally, that’s FORTY BUCKS before I even get to the actual table.

So I did what everyone does when they want a better deal, or a hard-to-find item; I scoured ebay and Amazon in the middle of the night for three days in a row. In the meantime, I talked myself into spending a bit of money on this project since we have used the current coffee table for eleven years and it was free! (You can read all about that here.)

I was all debating with myself, “you didn’t spend that much on Christmas and you used the last coffee table for eleven years, and it was free, and you’ll probably go back to it again someday…if you spend this amount on thirty years of coffee table usage, you’re way ahead of the game.”

After all that, you probably think I spent a fortune. Depends who you ask. As far as DIY furniture goes, this did not fall on the cheap end. At least not compared to many other furniture building, repurposing or refinishing projects I’ve done. But I provided myself with such a great argument, that I just couldn’t tell myself no. How ya like that justification?

Here’s the price breakdown:

Thrifted desk     $25
Veneer edging     $8
-shipping           $10
Stain                  $5.48
Set of 4 Casters $17.95
-shipping            $8.95
Total cost          $75.38

Seventy-five dollars!? Happy Valentine’s Day to me!

Okay, so I knew I wanted to use the top from my old dining table and put some large casters on it. (I had a reason for changing the dining table. I’ll blog all about it when I finish the “new” one.)

This dining table was the first piece of furniture that I built all by myself. Meaning, no help from my husband. Not one single bit. We had negotiated our previous one while selling a house. (“What? You want to buy the house if we’ll throw in the table for an extra $50? Um, sure!”) The previous one had also been a DIY project, but it was a team effort.


See the buffet back there that is now in the bedroom?

So yeah, this table was my first real piece of furniture. And, as you would imagine, it saw a few transformations in the years we used it. It started like this, with a dark espresso stain and shiny poly. It was so pretty. Unless we used it (which we did three times a day). That thing reflected finger prints like glass.

My husband taught my oldest son how to use a spirograph-type toy at that table. The beautiful scribbles that forever remained indented into the table top went lovely with the constant finger prints.

That’s okay. Modern-rustic was starting its heyday at the time. I just sanded the top down, more in some areas than others, and it honestly got better with time!

rustic table

This was the start of a dining room makeover; it went on to have gray walls and a better light fixture. Also chairs. 🙂

I very much liked the worn finish that we had acquired over the last few years. I literally just sanded off a stubborn, dried syrup spot one time. I also sanded off some permanent marker once. Since it got better with age, I thought it would be perfect for a coffee table in the home of three boys, a spirograph-loving husband, and a not-always-careful-while-crafting wife.

But a two-inch piece of wood and casters does not a coffee table make. Unless you’re into low furniture, which we’re not. (Gorgeous though, right?) So I was on the hunt for a while for something to beef it up.

I first just considered edging it in lumber to give it more height, but I didn’t love the idea. I was hoping to find something a bit more functional. Maybe a lower shelf? Maybe some drawers? I was keeping my eyes open.

Then I saw this at the OKC Habitat for Humanity Restore. (We were meeting the hubs in Bricktown and had a few minutes to kill. What the heck else were we going to do to waste time? It was freezing outside!)

mcm desk

Isn’t it lovely? Yeah. Sorry. I didn’t get to take a picture in the store because my phone was dead in the van on the charger. Then I forgot that I didn’t have a picture of it and just started right in on it without snapping one. It is laying on its side because we are about to cut the legs off. Anyway, it was a writing desk with two drawers.

It was not in the best of shape. In fact, if I had been wanting it for a desk, I would have found $25 to be a bit steep since the laminate was damaged on the corner.

damaged desk

But since I planned to remove the laminate, the damaged corner made it an easier job. The entire sheet pulled off much easier than I had anticipated. Hooray!

peeling laminate 2

laminate removedAlso, one of the drawer fronts was a bit lose, but it was easily repaired with some wood glue.

dovetail wood glue









We just used a circular saw to cut off the legs.

cut off table legs

Then we moved on to other projects while I shopped for casters and veneer edging. I wanted to cut the dining table top to the dimensions of the desk and stack it on top. Then I wanted to add veneer edging over the edge of the desk and table to make it look like one chunky piece of wood. But the largest width I could find locally was two inches. (I then recalled that’s why I made the dining table two inches thick last time.)

So I added veneer edging to my ebay list, along with affordable casters. There are amazing veneer products to be found out there! It was like a candy store. I found some that was three and a quarter inches, which was perfect since I needed three and an eighth. It was listed at $12, but with a “best offer” option. I offered $8 and he accepted. (It was 32 feet, so not that expensive at all and I have plenty left for future projects.)

Once I knew that the veneer edging was going to work out like I hoped, we cut the dining table down to size. We chose a circular saw rather than a table saw simply because of the fact that our on/off switch is jacked up right now and you have to just plug in the saw and leave the blade spinning while you line up the wood. This top was too heavy to get a good handle on while being within inches of a spinning saw blade. (That saw has a couple of other issues also. It had a good run, though. The hubs will be getting a new one for Valentine’s Day, mainly because I’m scared to use it. Yep. I’m buying my husband a power tool for a romantic holiday but it’s really for me.)

cut table top

It looks like that saw would be cutting right into the ground, but actually the table top is just a piece of plywood with built-up edges, so the edge is resting on the ground, but not the center part.

built up edge

I had to build one side back up after the top was cut to size. You know I reused that wood, right? Haha. Of course! But only the end, not the entire length, because I wanted to keep it attached for a later project. I don’t know if reading that makes any sense. Hopefully pictures will help.

pry off edge

Pry off the old edge.

remove nails

Remove the nails.

reuse wood

Reattach to the old top.







I wasn’t gluing the top on upside down, like it appears in this picture, only doing a dry fit to make sure every thing was the right size.

I used wood glue and clamped my re-used edge and new side piece in place until dry. (Again, this is not clamped to the writing desk. The table top is just turned over upside down on it to make sure it fit.)

glue edge

Once the built-up edges were dry, we put the table top on the floor and turned the desk over on top of it so that we could nail it into place. (We also used wood glue just to be sure.)

stack together

nail in place

When both pieces were attached, I ran the belt sander around the entire perimeter just to make sure my edges were completely perfect before I applied the veneer.

I vacuumed all the dust away and then wiped down the edges to make sure nothing would interfere with adhesion.

vacuum dust

wipe down wood

Then I unrolled the veneer and realized it was not pre-glued (the kind that just irons on). Of course I went immediately to the ebay listing to see if it mentioned that, and it did. Guess I didn’t see it before. Ugh.

Wood veneer is just a super, super thin layer of real wood, so it can be stained and sanded. The edging veneer comes in a roll that looks like a roll of duct tape.

veneer roll of veneer


I looked around the garage to see what my adhesive options were before I made a trip to Lowe’s (honestly, I was tired of spending money on this project by this point).

Formica adhesive

I found this. It was used about nine years ago when we updated the laminate counters in a rent house. Then again a year after that when we did it in another house. But we haven’t used it in a long time and this can has been moved from house to house, sitting unopened for about eight years. I expected it to be all dried up, but it seemed fine.

I didn’t know if this kind of product loses its ability to function properly or not, so I did a little test with my veneer and some scrap wood. It worked.

test veneer

Contact adhesive is brushed or rolled (I used a foam brush) onto both surfaces and then it dries for 10-20 minutes and then you bond the surfaces. They really don’t move once they are bonded, so you have to get it right.

20140125_193543 apply veneer We let that dry and then cut off the tiny bit of excess.

cut off veneer

Then it was time to put casters on it so it would be up off the floor for me to stain. We marked the center point of the spot where we cut off the leg.

measure for casters

Then we measured the caster stem and marked the drill bit with tape to make sure we didn’t go too far into the wood (which would make the caster likely to keep falling out–not good).

measure caster stem tape drillbit

When my three-year old heard the drill, he came running to help.

cale drill

He assessed the situation and saw that we had four of these and that qualified as enough work to make it worthy of his Bob the Builder costume. (I genuinely feel sorry for kids these days that don’t know who that is; we’re so glad we kept all the Bob stuff from his oldest brother!)

cale wrench

These casters swivel, so screwing them in by hand is counter productive, but there is a bolt that you can tighten from the underside with a wrench.

tighten caster bolt

So then everything was all built and ready for the making-pretty part. I think my husband was starting to appreciate my vision by this point (we sometimes take turns not getting each other’s vision, but it always works out in the end). I feel like this is a good point to mention that this didn’t all happen in one day. It seems fast on a blog, kinda like a thirty minute HGTV makeover, but this was spread over three evenings by this point and then it sat there for a week until I came back to it to stain it.

The staining part took several more days. First, I stained the bottom (original desk part) and side (veneered part) dark so that I could take the same approach as I did with the top over time. I considered just trying to stain some areas (similar to dry brushing paint) rather than having to sand away some stain but I figured since stain soaks in right away that I’d probably just end up with a splotchy mess. I tested my theory on a piece of scrap wood and I was right.

So here’s what it looked like during the first part of the first staining step. (Notice the bottom got a good sanding.)

dark stained

I used a color called “kona” just because I already had it on hand from the kitchen island in the house we just moved out of. I’m pretty sure the table top was not originally stained with this color, because I hadn’t even heard of the name until we did the island. I think the table was originally stained with two coats of dark walnut, which is exactly what kona reminds me of. It does in one coat what dark walnut (my favorite stain color of all time) does in two. (Well, if the wood is raw anyway. I just helped someone stain a previously-finished mirror frame with kona and it didn’t get as dark.)

As best I can guess, kona refers to the color of coconut shells? As in Kona, Hawaii? I have no idea, but it’s a nice deep color kind of in between espresso and ebony.


I got driftwood to go over the top of everything after it was all sanded back down. I just wanted a weathered look to the entire thing. In hindsight, I would buy the color called weathered wood (duh!) because it took about four coats for driftwood to make much difference. (I thought weathered wood looked too dark on the label.) I imagine it would make white pine or maple look gray after only one or two coats, but it was a bit too light for this project.

It went on kinda milky and then dried really sheer.

milky stain

The first coat barely made it hazy and then the second coat had a tiny bit of gray to it. By the third coat I could tell that it would work if I kept at it. I took pictures, but you can’t even tell in the images that there is any difference. The top drawer in this picture already had three coats. See how it was finally getting gray?

Remember, this process was done over several days. I let the dark stain dry over night before I sanded it. Then I was able to do two coats of gray in one evening, but I had to let that dry over night again before adding a third coat because it wasn’t dry yet. (If you try to keep adding stain over semi-dry stain, it will gum up and you’ll have to sand it down and start over. Resist the urge.)

So after a few evenings of working with the stain….

weathered table top weathered table leg weathered drawers

See how that top just looks like one thick piece of wood? I love it!

So here’s what we’ve got going on in the living room now.

living room

Wow, the sofa and table look all matchy-matchy here, but in person you can see the differing threads in the tweed-like sofa fabric, and the wood grain on the table. Ignore that white extension cord to the left. We have plans to add an outlet at the fireplace.

I like coral and orchids as much as the next girl, but I also like to have some purpose and meaning in my decorating. No, I’m not all deep and significant in every single item, but I do like to have things that really mean something to me and my family.

fir root bowl

The fir root bowl was from my oldest son about six years ago. I call it a Mother’s Day gift, since it was close to Mother’s Day, but really he just picked it out one day. He was fascinated with the assortment of bowls and trays. He was studying them really well and then asked, “is this like made from a tree? It’s so neat.” I read him the story from the label on the bottom that explains the process and how the Chinese farmers who make them are able to feed their families. He said, “Momma, can I buy that for you?” Um, duh. Yes! It was a tender moment of caring for the farmers, but also a sweet gift to me and not to mention it all began because he had a great eye! So yeah, long after these things have gone out of style, you’ll find that in my house. Maybe next to the resin grapes that remind me of my grandmother.

The little fire hydrant is a whimsical nod to my middle son who just loves them. No real reason, except that he just kinda discovered them on our Western Route 66 road trip when he had just turned two. I guess he had never paid any attention to them in our neighborhood, and suddenly became enamored with them everywhere we went. It has now become a thing we do. I could post dozens, but I’ll just show you a couple from that original road trip ’cause he’s so stinkin’ cute!

on a corner in winslow, arizona carlsbad caverns

That yellow one is on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. I’m sure he had no idea why we were just stopping to stand on a corner, and to amuse himself he found this thing on which to climb. He called it a robot. The red one is at Carlsbad Caverns. Obviously not on Route 66, but we went there on that same Western US road trip.

Someday he will likely out grow this fascination, but even on his wedding day I’ll be all, “okay, you guys get by the fire hydrant for a picture.”

Oh yeah, this blog is about my house and stuff.

thrifted books

These books are all thrifted except Young House Love and the Sabrina Soto one. I have to admit, I pre-ordered YHL; I was so excited about their book deal! That was over a year ago and I still have only barely opened that book. No offense to the Petersiks, of course. Just busy with homeschooling and DIY and stuff.

I got 20% off the Sabrina Soto one at Lowe’s simply for asking. The cover was slightly bent at the edge and it was the last one. They were super great about discounting it. I love that place!

I just found the Trading Spaces book this week and I couldn’t resist. It was forty-five cents, and it is hilarious to look at. Has that much time really passed?

And then of course there is some coral and an orchid and a candle and a tray and some magazines, you know…all the coffee table stuff.

I just finished this table so we’ve yet to be using it for 24 hours, but I think it is going to work out great. And when we’re bored, we might give each other rides up and down the hall. Or maybe hook it up to one of these?