Refinished Endtables with Hairpin Legs

My first DIY in our new home turned out to be a big project. What I thought was a quick furniture refinishing job ended up taking six weekends. As often happens with my do-it-yourself projects, this one gave me several learning opportunities. 😉

Before I get into the details of the project, here are the results:

refinished endtables

These will sit on our enclosed porch. I’m super happy with how they turned out! Especially when I remember how they started:

We bought 19 pine “boxes” from the seller of a home we had listed a few months ago. There are five sizes and they can be configured in various ways for storage, or for display. You can see by the picture above they had been used in a basement utility room to hold paint, tools and building supplies.

The first step was to clean them. You can see by the water that they were quite dirty! I used TSP Heavy Duty Cleaner. I used a phosphate free version because it is safer and better for the environment. A heavy-duty cleaner is recommended when you are painting.

The boxes were not stained, but natural pine wood with only a polyurethane finish. At one time they were probably lovely, but they are now fairly worn. We used the best of them as our living room entertainment shelving system:

entertainment unit

This has really upped my #shelfie game! Someday I might refinish these, but for now, I love the look.

My End Table Project

I started by stripping five boxes. Four were 16″ by 16″ square and 8″ deep. These will be side tables. The fifth box was 32″ by 16″ and also 8″ deep. It will be a coffee table.

I like to use the natural orange furniture stripper, CitriStrip. There are several brands but I find this brand effective and the smell more tolerable.

Citrus stripper isn’t as strong, so sometimes you have to do multiple rounds of stripping, but it doesn’t have the harsh chemicals, so I just feel better about it. I did two rounds of stripping because the more you strip, the less you sand.

The stripping and sanding ended up taking three weekends for me to finish. At first I was using a hand block sander. I was experiencing a lot of fatigue in my hands, so my dear Mister bought me this Skil orbital sander. What a difference it made! It also made quick work of all the sanding.

Here is my step-by-step refinishing project:

I first used a regular wood stain, but it didn’t look good at all. The pine boxes were pretty worn. The stain showed every scratch and flaw. So I sanded as much off as I safely could, and looked for another solution.

Gel Stain Saved the Day

Then I was reading online and discovered gel stain. It is excellent for a project like this, where you want to cover up the flaws but still let the wood grain show through. It is especially good for vertical surfaces because it won’t run.

Regular wood stain gets absorbed into the wood, whereas gel stain sits on top of the wood.

Gel stain is like the chalk paint of the stain family! I used Varathane brand, although there are several other brands. I chose the darkest shade, ebony, to match my bedroom furniture.

As shown in the picture, I applied the stain with a foam brush and wiped it off with a microfiber cloth. I buy both items in bulk! Foam brushes are so handy, and so cheap. I use this three-colored pack of microfiber cloths for general cleaning, and for any messy craft or project.

I let the stain dry a full five days, mainly because I was only working on the project on the weekends.

Spray Painting the Inside

I taped over the edge of the box, then taped paper on the outside with frog tape. Then I used Rustoleum’s paint and primer in one to spray the insides.

I used the color “Lagoon” for two end tables and the coffee table that will sit on our porch. I used “Ink Blue” for the two side tables that will go in our bedroom. I chose a satin finish to minimize flaws and to match the finish of my bedroom furniture.

After the first coat of spray paint, I was a little nervous at how bright the colors were. But because they are on the inside, I decided they could use a little more brightness. After the second coat, I’m very happy with the results.

After the spray paint dried I applied furniture wax all over. I like the matte finish of the wax. Even though the gel stain and spray paint are sturdy, I wanted a little extra finish to protect them. Another weekend was over.

Building the End Tables

Finally, I was nearing the end! I had purchased 14 inch hairpin legs on Amazon. Amazon has pages and pages of legs, all sizes, colors, finishes and styles. These had floor protectors, which I like for more than the obvious reason: If your legs are not quite perfect, the floor protectors give it a little more stability and hide slight wobbles.

Because the screws were a little too long for the depth of the wood, I needed some blocks of wood to add thickness to the tables. In all my shopping for supplies, I found the perfect thing at Michaels… five-inch squares of craft wood that were 5/8 inch thick. They were $1.99 each.

I stained the squares along with the rest of the boxes. Then I glued them 1/2 inch away from the edges with wood glue. I clamped them on with some left over styrofoam that was originally packing material. I measured and marked, then drilled pilot holes. (measure twice, drill once!) Then I screwed in the legs and, voila! Here’s the construction process:

A piece of green frog tape marks on the drill bit how far you want to drill…the point of no return.

drilled too far!

Even though I was careful, a couple of times I could tell I had pushed the drill too hard. Sure enough, I went too far on two pilot holes!

I just filled in with some wood filler, sanded it after it dried and touched up the paint.

If you have accidents, it’s much better when they are fixable!

The hairpin legs were 14 inches, the wood squares 5/8 inch and the box itself is 8 inches, making for a total of almost 23 inches. This will be a nice height for sofa end tables.

Refinished and Upcycled

I’m thinking that a lot of things can be upcycled into functional and beautiful pieces of furniture. Adding legs that you purchase from Amazon can be easy. Here are a few ideas:

  • Paint or refinish an old shelf and add legs for a simple coffee table or TV stand.
  • Add short hairpin legs to a bookshelf to give it some extra height.
  • Add hairpin or iron legs to a slab of wood, or an old door to make an end table, coffee table, or a console table.
  • Upholster an old board and add legs for a bench.
  • Add legs to a round wood disc to make a plant stand.
  • Change out the legs to an old picnic table bench for a stylish entryway bench.
  • Add legs to a vintage suitcase for a side table or nightstand.

The teal end tables and coffee table will go on our porch. I haven’t ordered legs for the coffee table yet because we don’t have a couch on the porch. It doesn’t make sense to finish the coffee table before we get a couch…I don’t want to guess at how high it should be, so I’m just waiting for the right porch furniture to come along.

Stay tuned for the porch reveal…hopefully in time for the warmer weather!

Pin for Future Reference:

Categories:   Do It Yourself