Drexel Declaration Mid Century coffee table...

I know I am always talking about how AWESOME some of my furniture finds are, but this is truly an AWESOME piece!!! Mid century and walnut...my absolute favorites! (Check out some of my other mid century finds and makeovers here!)

We scored this coffee table at an auction.  I probably should have flipped it over and looked for markings before bidding, but it is pretty big and honestly, I didn't want to draw too much attention to it (gotta be "cool" at the auctions!) When I bid on it, I knew nothing about it other than it was walnut and mid century! Structurally, it was in mint condition and I knew it could be spectacular with a little elbow grease. The scratches and water sports were not too bad! We were told it had been stored in an old outbuilding for years....I believe it! 

The piece is marked on the bottom. It is a Drexel Declaration coffee table.  A relatively "rare" piece with a good value!

As I have said before, it is not the "profit value" that motivates me.  It is the absolute LOVE I have for this furniture.  

It has been in my garage for months. I just didn't have the time or space to mess with it! The first thing I had to do was strip it.  Keep in mind the finish on these pieces are 50+ years old so the old varnish has "yellowed" over time.  And of course there is all the wear and tear...scratches, water damage, worn finish! But you CAN NOT strip old paint or varnish inside. The chemicals are just too strong and stripping and sanding does make a bit of a mess so I made sure I got all stripping and sanding done before it got too cold to work outside! (I really need a heated shop!)

I almost always use Formby's furniture refinisher to strip old varnish.  I find that it really does a great job of "melting" the old finish off while hydrating the wood.  Occasionally I may have to use something a little stronger and on very rare occasions I will actually sand the piece.  I did take some sand paper to this piece only because there were several "water stains" that just couldn't be chemically removed.

I can not stress enough how important it is to CAREFULLY sand old furniture!  Veneers can be very thin and it is easy to get carried away!  Always start with a fine grain paper (220 grit) and work your way to a heavier grit ONLY if you need it.  Then work your way back to a fine grit!

You may not be able to remove every stain or imperfection.  And that is okay!  Old and antique pieces are going to have imperfections!  Embrace them!  My office desk I featured here is a prime example....

Try as I might, I could not get this old cigarette burn to go away...and that's okay.  It is a constant reminder of one of the many reasons I shouldn't start smoking again!

Fortunately I was able to get almost all the "imperfections" off the coffee table.

Also, most finishes were originally applied in a way to make the wood grain appear "uniform."  A multi-layer technique may have been used or the finish and stain were sprayed on. Once the original finish is removed, you are likely to find that the wood grain no longer has a "uniform" appearance. Again, embrace it! 

After making sure I removed ALL the old finish, I "washed" the entire piece with mineral spirits. This is an important step when refinishing furniture whether you are applying a clear finish or painting.  It removes all the gunk and oils. Then I hit is with a very fine sandpaper just to knock down the grain a bit.

The mineral spirit wash will also give you an idea of what color the wood will be when you apply a clear finish.  Most woods will be a completely different color stripped than it will after a clear finish has been applied. After you wash the piece with mineral spirits, the wood will eventually dry back to a natural color, but while it is wet you will be able to tell what color it will be after a clear finish is applied and whether you will want to apply a darker or different color stain.  I personally love the color of natural walnut after a clear finish is applied, so rarely will I apply a stain.

After wiping the piece down with mineral spirits, I wiped the entire piece down with tack cloth to remove dirt and dust.  Again, you can wipe down a piece all day with the cleanest cloth...I can promise you the tack cloth will find more!  Use it and use it between EVERY coat of finish or paint! 

After stripping, sanding and tacking, I began applying the Formby's tung oil.  I love this stuff...in my opinion it is a superior finish to poly!  Super easy to apply and much less room for error. If it gets scratches in the future, just hit it with 0000 steel wool, tack cloth and then apply another coat of tung oil.  Simple!

Because of the weather, I had to apply the tung oil inside.  The smell and fumes from tung oil is not that bad. Steel wool itself tends to crumble and create "dust" so I decided to try something new...which is NOT something I do easily! I picked up these little "finishing pads." They seem to work pretty well! I still favor the steel wool, but the pads produced far less "dust" than the steel wool!

A little trick when painting or refinishing...place aluminum foil under the feet/base after you are finished sanding and tacking.  Most paint and finish won't stick to aluminum foil (unlike paper) and it will protect your floor and keep dust from being dragged onto the base when applying the finish!

I usually apply 3-5 coats of tung oil.  I use a "stain sponge."  You can usually find them in the stain section at Lowe's. Three coats is usually enough, but if I still feel the finish is "uneven" I will continue to apply coats until I get an even "gloss" look.  ALWAYS rub it down with 0000 steel wool and tack cloth between each coat. 

Whether you use steel wool or finishing pads or sand paper, make sure you always sand WITH the grain.  

"Sanding" and tack cloth between each coat is VERY important.  I used tack cloth before I applied the first coat of tung oil and I could still see and feel "crumbs" after it dried!!! 


I love this piece.  I think it looks a tad too big for my living room, but I just can't bring myself to part with it! Honestly, I think I would like it a bit better if I had a bigger rug.  This one has always been a tad too small, but it was cheap and I just needed something to throw down to keep our toes warm! With an old kitty in the house, you don't invest too much in rugs.

So I have been looking...Joss and Main...Overstock...I'm looking!  Someday.

(UPDATE!  Yep, that is the NEW rug...featured it here...and I seriously love it! I am so honored to be featured on betterafter.net!  Gail asked to see the inside, so here is a picture with the top open. As you can see it has a little compartment with a sliding drawer. The inside was in mint condition, so I did not do anything to it!)