Two Tone Dining Table – Part 1

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Dining Table Refinishing

My posts for the next three weeks will focus on a project I’ve been putting off for years now, our Craigslist dining table. The goal: to make it into a modern two tone dining table.

My father owned and single-handedly operated a custom cabinet business. When I say single-handedly, I really do mean it as my dad would design and build cabinets from pencil drawings on graph paper to the final installation in a home.

Growing up, my sister and I were expected, correction forced, to work in my dad’s cabinet shop every summer. When we were younger, we were left to our own devices playing hide and seek or creating imaginary worlds in half finished houses. My earliest memory of this was being on a construction site and really needing to pee. There was a porta potty, but I chose to go in the back of my dad’s pickup truck on a piece of cardboard. Now before you judge me, please keep in mind I was 4 or 5 at the time and the porta potty was pretty disgusting. This did not keep my older sister from judging me when she discovered the puddle in the back of the truck. She loudly shouted, “Oh gross Dad!! Leah peed in the back of the truck!” I was mortified.

Fast forward a few years and my sister and I were full time summer employees of the cabinet shop. We made shelves, sanded doors, spray painted and stained cabinets and puttied holes. I hated every minute of it. In fact, I swore to myself that I would never sand, paint or putty anything ever again.

A few years ago, though, I discovered that I actually loved this work when I broke my vow and refinished a night stand my dad built for me. I realized that as an adult, I enjoyed working with my hands and seeing the fruits of my labor manifested in a custom piece of furniture. There was something therapeutic about giving new life to the wood; sanding out every blemish and taking it back to it’s former glory.

So now that you understand my complicated relationship with woodworking, I’d like to share a project this week that I have been itching to get my hands on for months: our cherry dining room table. My husband and I purchased this table on Craigslist when we first moved in together and have been using it ever since.

Dining Table Refinishing

I have always disliked cherry stain and this table has it in abundance. On the positive side, it’s solid wood and extends on both ends, plus it was cheap. I am constantly amazed at how expensive, yet how poorly made new furniture is. It is so hard to find solid wood furniture, unless you want to pay an exorbitant amount. This is why I always go back to Craigslist even though I no longer have the excuse of being a poor college student.

Dining Table Refinishing

First things first, you’ll need to get all your supplies together. We made a trip to Lowe’s, but Amazon also has almost everything if you’re too lazy to leave the house. The only thing you may need to venture out for is the paint for the bottom half of the table.


Next step is to pick a sunny warmish weekend to complete the project. This took me 3 days total, but could take only 2 if you sand and apply the wood finish and 2 coats of paint the same day.

The first day we spent sanding and believe me it felt like more than enough work for one day. My husband and I took turns. This really helped because your arms get tired after a while if you do it all yourself. If you don’t have an electric sander and are trying to do this by hand, all I can say is good luck! It would have taken me days and days to sand this by hand. My advice: if you plan on completing more than one project, I would just commit and buy a sander.

Dining Table Refinishing

We first used the 120 grit sandpaper to completely remove the cherry finish. This took a bit of elbow grease as the finish did not want to come off. I find the shiniest finishes are the worst to remove and this was no exception. Once I was satisfied all the finish was removed, we started the second round of sanding with 220 grit paper. Always make sure you are sanding with the wood grain. We sanded the top of the table twice using the 220 grit to remove a white substance that was persistently sticking to the wood.

You only need to sand this thoroughly if you are applying wood finish because the wood grain and any imperfections are going to show through. The parts you are painting do not require this level of perfection. All you’ll need to do is rough up the surface enough to make the paint stick.

This completes day 1 of the project. Next week I’ll share day 2 and 3!

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