DIY Garden Furniture – Re-Purpose an Old Wooden Table

Short of readies? You might be a big fan of recycling and re-purposing. Maybe you just prefer old things to new things. If so, you can pick up an old pine or oak table for very little money, because ‘brown’ furniture is totally out of fashion. Not an actual antique, just something vintage dating back to the ’50s onwards. Just bear in mind that a table with a veneered top won’t last long outdoors. The veneer will lift when exposed to sun and rain.

Bright orange varnished ’70s pine is really nasty. Old, dark, sticky-looking varnished oak is pretty awful, too. When the varnish cracks, crumbles, splits and discolours, they look even worse. But the worse it is, the cheaper it is, and that’s a good thing for handy folk like you.

It’s easy to give an old table a new lease of life, transforming it into an attractive and practical item of outdoor furniture that’ll grace your garden rather than let it down. Here’s how to make DIY garden furniture.

DIY garden furniture step 1 – Scrub, sand and polish

A lot of the time you can restore the surface to its former traditional glory by simply scrubbing the grease and dirt off, sanding off the old varnish, then polishing or re-varnishing it. If you want to keep the interesting, attractive patina – stains and all – you can sand very carefully by hand to leave those lovely scuffs, dinks, holes and burn marks behind. If you want a smooth, new-looking finish, sand the surface off hard, starting with a very coarse sandpaper and ending with very fine to remove all the imperfections and stains.

Genuine beeswax furniture polish delivers a stunning glassy sheen. It takes time but if you enjoy seeing a piece of furniture steadily transformed from something dull and lacklustre to gleaming glory, it’s worth the wait. Wax your freshly-sanded table frequently – as often as you like – and you’ll soon build up a glorious, deep glow that’s the polar opposite of old-school shiny varnish and also helps to protect the surface.

Stain or dye an old wooden table for a fresh contemporary look

Maybe you love the style of table, and it’s perfectly fit for the purpose, but you really can’t stand the colour of the wood. That’s fine. You can cover it with a stain for a total colour change, or just stain the table top and strip or paint the legs and undercarriage.

Bear in mind scratches and damage might take the stain differently from the background wood, and do a test spot first to make sure you’re happy with the colour. You might like the patina of age, but if not just sand the table top right back to fresh wood for a modern, even finish.

There are countless gorgeous coloured wood stains to choose from, everything from bright to subtle, natural to dramatic. Wood dyes are much the same, and also come in a bunch of brilliant colours as well as natural wood shades.

Once you’ve stained or dyed the top you need to add a finish to seal the colour. A clear polyurethane varnish will protect the wood, available in matt and satin as well as gloss. Wax polish will also seal the stain.

Nice legs! Get busy with stylish heritage colours

There’s no reason why you can’t paint your old table any colour you fancy. Paint the top and leave the legs and underneath bits plain wood if you like, or paint the legs and undercarriage, leaving the top pure wood.

Enhance your table’s vintage looks with high gloss paint in vivid colours like bright orange or purple, celebrating the 1970s. Take the classy route and use a matt heritage paint, water based eggshell or even chalk paint in duck egg green, deep olive, French grey or pale lilac. Go for basic black or white for a smart, clean look that’ll go great in any setting.

Add a new table top

Great legs but a knackered top? You can always add an entirely new table top, either fixing it on top of the original – a super-sturdy option – or replacing it altogether. You might find some gorgeous old floorboards that would make a splendid table top, or an old top made from a beautiful type of wood. You can pick up old table tops for next to nothing simply because a table top without legs isn’t much use to most people. MDF is cool, too. You can get some cut to the right size, and the smooth finish makes an excellent surface for paint.

Wood glue is your best friend when all you want to do is ad a second top over the original, otherwise you’re looking at basic carpentry, taking the old one off and fixing a new one on using discreet screws, then filling the holes made by the screw heads and staining the scars so they don’t show.

Re-purpose old wooden chairs into garden chairs

You can do the same to old wooden chairs, either buying a set for next to nothing – old chairs are as cheap as chips right now – or buying un-matching chairs and painting or staining them the same colour, then adding fabric seat pads.

Storage through winter

You’ve just made yourself a set of re-purposed wooden furniture for your garden or patio, perfect for outdoor entertainment. It’s not going to last as long as plastic rattan, and like all wood furniture it’ll eventually suffer if left outdoors in bad weather. You can go with the flow and let nature do its thing, gently falling apart so you’ll need to make another in a couple of years, or stash it in a dry place through winter so your creations last longer.