Saturday, January 7, 2012

Project: Refinish Two Lane Acclaim Tables, Part 1

OK, so back in the summer I scored this great Lane Acclaim coffee table at an estate sale for a nice price because it had some serious wear on the finish.

I've been biding my time on tackling this project, but the other day I happened to find a two-tier Lane Acclaim end table at the nearby thrift shop/consignment shop, and it had similar finish issues but also was very solid.  Together I have only about $80 in these tables, so I think I'm doing pretty good.  Now to see if I can get them looking good again.

I've picked up some good information on these from several sources, including Mr. Modtomic, and from this link at JetSetModern.  I learned that the dovetailing at the ends of the tops is very think veneer, and so is the center section of the table tops.  When I say thin, we're talking almost paper thin.

I ran across someone on Flickr who did a lot of sanding and then applied multiple coats of lacquer to make her's look like new, so that was an option I for me, but man I hate sanding.  I do it, but I hate it.  And sanding this thin veneer is risky, you can cut right through it if you're not careful.

I figured I would first try a variety of stripper I've been using a lot (I went through a whole jug of the stuff on the metal outdoor chairs project).

It really works great and it's orange-based so it's not too harsh to work with.

The coffee table's one end was practically bare so I figured I would try a little of the orange stripper around that area.  After you let this stuff work for a while (usually 20 minutes is enough) you can scrape it off with a razor blade.  So I tried that, and I knew right away that I liked the results, so I did the whole coffee table top this way.

What I scraped off was sort of like molasses, but underneath I had a pretty nice looking result.  I did have one spot where the razor blade caught the veneer and took it right off, leaving an inch-long splinter that I had to glue down again.  That's how I know how thin this veneer is.

The razor also left some scratches in places, so I will have to do some sanding, and that light sanding should help ensure that I've gotten all traces of the stripper removed from the wood.

I decided to wipe down the remaining areas with mineral spirits after I had wiped off as much of the stripper as I could.

A couple of rounds of wiping with the mineral spirits showed where I still had some old finish to remove, so I hit those spots again with the stripper.

For the two-tiered end table, I decided to skip the razor blade and just wipe off the stripper with paper towels and 0000 steel wool.  This worked great, and I did the same with the legs and frame underneath.

That brought me to this point. that's where I'll pick up with my next post to finish these up.


  1. I bow down to you for refinishing veneer, I would be to terrified to even try it! I can't wait to see how they turn out!

  2. We had this set growing up and my mother gave it to me when I set up my first apartment. Like the young fool I was, I hated them for being old-fashioned and gave them to a friend who let her dogs run all over them and scratch them to pieces. How I wish I had them now! You are doing a great job!

  3. I've got 2 tiered end tables and three coffee tables that need the same treatment. Dealing with that thin veneer kinda scares me, as I've got some scratches to remove and I don't want to sand through. What finish are you going with?

  4. Thanks Sara and Brian!
    Nick - sounds like you have quite a hoard there! I'll post Part 2 shortly with details on the finish

  5. Those are beautiful! I'm way behind in my blog reading so I'm sure part two has already been posted. I can't wait to see the finished result, I know its only a click or two away!

  6. I am restoring the same table. I followed your advice and used the stripping gel. It took all the color off and is now as blonde as the scratches. Did I screw something up?

  7. How long did you leave the gel on the table? I left it on mine for about an hour and scraped it all off. Are you saying the lighter wood and darker wood are now the same color?

  8. Didn't do the top yet. Just underneath. I only left it on for about 15 minutes. I scrapped of a top of brown goo.I only bought the table for 20 bucks si I guess it's ok if I screw it up. It's pretty beat up.

    1. I got the same goo. Not sure what to tell you. The stripper will alter the color. You might experiment with some other kind of stain underneath.

  9. I am curious about sanding the veneer on top (I have four LA pieces I'm refinishing). I was going to use a random orbit or finishing sander with 150 or 220 with as little pressure as possible. Perhaps I will just stick to hand sanding. I have a triangular table and "going with the grain" is trickier with the angles... I'd appreciate your thoughts.


  10. Hey! I'm actually the gal you're mentioned from Flickr, you should add your images. I run the lane acclaim group there and I'd love to have your process be there for others.


  11. My parents bought the Acclaim coffee table, along with round and rectangular end tables back in 1962. I still have the end tables, which I refinished using Formby's Furniture Refinisher. I would HIGHLY recommend it. Formby's gently dissolves the old lacquer without damaging the veneer. It's fast and easy to apply (consistency of Mineral Spirits).

    After removing the lacquer, I buffed the surface with 0000 steel wood, cleaned it well and applied Formby's Tung Oil with a soft cloth. Amazing results!

    If you decide to give Formby's a try, make sure you're working with the original finish, as Formby's will not remove polyurethane.

  12. I have refinished a handful of Lane Acclaim tables and can provide some helpful tips....
    - Stripping...citristrip is great. Try brushing it over and over again and working the gel throughout. This will help get everything off. Also, NEVER use a metal razor. Use only plastic stripping knives found in your local hardware store.
    - Sanding....use a random orbital sander. Other sanders will leave streaks as well as hand sanding. Use 220 grit or higher. I prefer 320 but it is not always available locally. 220 and up will allow you to safely sand the veneer but don't concentrate on one area too long. For deep scratches that resemble more of a depression, try the ironing technique. It really works well.
    - staining....I prefer an oil finish with lane acclaim pieces. Danish Oil is easy to obtain, easy to use and will bring out the beauty of the walnut. I use a wipe on mix (pure tung oil, boiled linseed oil and polyurethane) with great results every time.

  13. Don't use a razor! Use a hard plastic tool.