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DIY: Updating side tables! 

If you don’t already know, I’m getting ready to move in to my first apartment! I have been very busy getting things together and figuring out what I want to do with the place. I am so thankful that I have people in my life willing to help me with this part of my life. Furniture is so expensive now days and it is difficult to afford these things as a college student. Luckily, I do have these great people and family members who have provided me with some old furniture and other apartment supplies! For this post, I will be talking about these side tables that I got from my grandpa!


I have 2 identical side tables. This is how they started out. I’m guessing they are pretty old, considering my grandpa has had them ever since I can remember and the way they are out together is a bit old-fashioned. There was also a lot of scratches and damages to the table top.   Now I am gonna tell you everything I used to make them new again!

  • Varnish stripper (I got mine at Menards! I tried a few different kinds to see which one worked best. I found that the stripper that foamed up worked the best for me).
  • Sand paper
  • Rubber gloves
  • Putty knife/scraping utensil
  • Paint tray/ container to put stripper in
  • Detail sander/ regular sander
  • Wood bleach
  • Polyurethane
  • Sponge
  • Sponge brushes
  • Cardboard to sit your project on

This project took a while to finish. Mostly because I didn’t really have a clear idea on what I wanted to do with the tables. I knew that I wanted to bleach them or stain them again, so I set off to strip the original varnish off of them as a start. This process is not easy and it is very time consuming. Patience is definitely necessary when stripping wood, especially very old wood. The stripping process took about 6-7 hours total.

The stripper that I decided worked best was a kind of foam. It foamed up and you let it sit for 15 minutes, then you take your scraper and attempt to scrape off the old varnish. You have to let the stripper soak in before any varnish will come up. I repeated the stripped process 3-4 times on each table because this table was VARNISHED af. It had so many layers!! So after that I let them sit and dry. We washed them down after we were finished stripping them.

***ALSO: the stripper I used was extremely irritating to the skin so please please use gloves when applying it!!***

They dried within a day and this is the finished product after being stripped: 

As you can tell, it is not as shiny or smooth looking as the original picture and the scratches and damages seem to be gone.

I let these sit for a few weeks after stripping them trying to decide what to do. I decided I wanted a more rustic feel, so I decided to bleach them. I decided I only wanted to bleach the table-top and make them somewhat 2-toned.

The bleaching process was super easy and I would totally do it again. I was concerned that my wood bleach wouldn’t be enough for both tables, but I had a ton left over! This is the table before bleaching:


You can see that the table is more of a matte brown. It’s all one color and fairly dark. This is how I applied the bleach (excuse my horrid looking self). The bleach I purchased was from Menards. It had solution A and solution B. If you have a soft wood, you apply solution A and let it sit for 5 minutes (hard wood let sit for 10-15) and then after that you apply solution B to the surface. I applied he solutions with a sponge, but make sure to use 2 separate sponges and bowls for the solutions! After bleaching, you’re supposed to let it sit and dry over night. If you want the color to be even lighter, repeat the process! I sanded my tables after every bleaching process.


This is the final result of the bleached tables! 

I ended up repeating the bleaching process 3 times. I did this on a pretty hot day and they dried up quick (I’m an immediate results kinda gal). As you can see, they lightened up a lot!!

***My skin didn’t burn as aggressively from the bleach compared to the stripper but you should definitely still wear gloves!!***

Finally, I painted on some polyurethane to seal everything in. The polyurethane definitely darkens the table a tiny bit after the bleaching, but it will dry lighter. And viola! The final product!


I am so happy with how these turned out and I learned a lot from the process!! I don’t know how keen I will be on stripping wood in the future, but now I know how to do it!

Hope you enjoyed this DIY!

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