Ever turn an old table into a kitchen island?

valzone5June 19, 2008

I just bought an old table that I plan to use as a kitchen island. To say it will require some elbow grease is putting it mildly, LOL!! But I am feeling up to the challenge. What can I use to paint it, so that it's safe for food preparation? Anything else that I should keep in mind?


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I love the look of an old table used for an island!

Not sure about paint as a food prep surface, though. I'd paint the base and legs if you wanted, then strip the top and use food safe mineral oil or wax. You could also do a metal top.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 1:33PM
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Of course kitchen tables are where kitchen islands came from. I remember touring a Parade of Homes kitchen that was English Country style. They had a huge, rustic kitchen "table" used as the island. I loved that kitchen. The legs were left as is, very rough, the top was sanded smooth and sealed with some kind of non-glossy sealer. It made the whole kitchen rock! I wish I had a picture!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 3:35PM
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It's one of my dreams to use an old table as an island.

The top would also look good with a marble slab - great for pastry making. A sheet of copper or zinc would be nice also.

If you are not going to be cutting on it I think it would be safe to just paint it. Once paint has cured I don't think it's a hazard.

If you sand it down to bare wood these are some recommended finishes...

Here is a link that might be useful: food safe wood finishes

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 5:22PM
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Good Stuff for Wood is approved by the FDA for food surfaces. This is where I order it from:

You could also have a new "old" top made from wood, if the wood is in really bad shape. Personally, I would not like a painted surface in the kitchen for a main piece.

Here is a link that might be useful: Good Stuff for Wood

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 6:39PM
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Is height an issue? (I've never had an island so don't know but I get the impression they are taller than a table). If you wanted to make it a little taller you could build the top up with a slab of wood (an unfinished door?) and put some sort of countertop on the top of that (tile, granite, butcher block, formica),
That way you could do an overhang on one side too if you wanted.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 7:15PM
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Thanks for your suggestions. I like the idea of a metal top, for food prep reasons, but don't think it would "go" with my style. At least not grey metal, however copper may work. Wouldn't it discolor though, if cleaned with water?

I examined the top more closely last night and it's in really rough shape - I may end up either putting another piece of wood on top of the old top, or removing the current top and replacing it. It's sturdy, just banged up/gouged. I thought about pricing a piece of glass to go over the top, so that the old top could show through but not interfere with food prep.

I was concerned about height too, but I am going to put castors on the legs and that will raise it high enough.

This is either going to be a really great island, or a total disaster, but I bought the table for $15 so I figure I can't go wrong. If it's a flop, it will make a great potting table.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 7:29AM
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I love the idea of using an old table as an island. Copper and Zinc both would change colors depending on what acids and cleaners they are exposed too. If you are going with an older worn in cottage look, that's not a bad thing. If you're looking for some thing that will stay pristine, it's not a look you'd like. Copper for the most part could always be polished back up, but it will require constant maintenance to keep it that way. If you decide you want to go with a wood top, Waterlox is also food safe after it's cured and works very, very well.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 9:43AM
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If the copper turns color, is it still safe for food?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 10:12AM
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I would not do food prep directly on the top of the table -- whether or not it is covered with wood (especially painted) nor metal!

Both may hold issues of food contamination AND the metal top would seriously ruin any knives.

Do paint your table and -- if possible -- add a metal top (and your wonderful idea to add casters) BUT do have some great looking wood cutting boards on hand for food prep. And some easy-to-wash plastic ones too!

Thats how I handle any food prep at my tiny (a mere 24 inch square) island. It has a sliding metal basket drawer underneath -- and the plastic cutting boards live in that --- and there are classic wood cutting boards available too.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 10:24AM
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Truth be told... I rarely cook, LOL! I do, however, bake on occasion. I would like to be able to roll out a pie crust on it. I think that I will just get some nice large cutting boards to use on it, and roll out pastries/cookies on the kitchen counter, to be on the safe side. I never even thought about the fact that metal would dull knives. A butcher block top would be great, and maybe some day I will invest in one, if the table turns out to be worth it. For now, I'll go with paint, and if the top does end up needing to be replaced, I'll seal/condition it with one of the products mentioned above.

Thanks for helping me think this through!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 12:34PM
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Ohhh...I can use this on top of the painted surface!

Here is a link that might be useful: Who knew such a thing existed...

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 12:38PM
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Even better...

Here is a link that might be useful: This would work!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 12:46PM
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Having recycled our old table in this way, I can tell you that it worked out very well for us. After a remodeling job, we set about changing our decor, not only with new furnishings, but by making changes to form and function of the existing ones. Seen in the first photo below is a Taylor Craft farm table (that a used to be in our dining area) with repainted legs (formerly green) and added castors (to raise the table height and also to allow movement of the table)located in our extended kitchen where we have a wood-fired Tuscan oven. The tabletop has a smooth, solid oak surface, like butcher block, with a nontoxic finish. If I am doing knife work, I use a cutting board. I use it as a prep surface when I am using the oven and it also comes in handy when rolling out pie crust, etc.

and in the second photo, you can see the antique pew that I placed along side the table, which allows my friends to sit with a glass of wine and cheer me on.

Would it be possible for you to sand down your table top to smooth it out and expose the wood grain? Then you could use a nontoxic water-based polyurethane to finish wood, which would make it safe for food preparation surface. Mineral oil may also be used on food preparation surfaces.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 1:22PM
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val, I made our island out of parts meant to make a table. The top is just varnished wood. I keep a marble pastry slab on it to work on and set hot pots on. Works great.

I made ours table height because I wanted to be able to knead dough on it. Also our little kids have trouble getting up on counter stools (they have no trouble falling off them however)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 2:19PM
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n1cf2 - ooohhh...very cozy!!!

budge - I have a 5 yr old who would have trouble getting up on a stool, and I know what you mean about having no trouble falling off, LOL!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 2:38PM
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n1cf2, is that a church pew being used as a bench? Love it! Fabulous kitchen.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 2:40PM
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Budge - grrrrrr...this site never loads properly at work (which is where I usually check this site, LOL!) so I didn't see the picture that you posted when I last viewed this thread. You made that?!?! Girl you have talent!

Here is an update on my island project. I have removed the plastic that was screwed down to the top of the table, and started the sanding process. In hindsight, a paint stripper would have probably been a better choice than sandpaper. I left for a fabric sale and when I came back hours later, my honey was still sanding! He's a keeper!

Here it is as it looked when I bought it - it's hard to see but there's a sheet of thick white plastic on the top.

What it looked like when I left for the fabric store.

What it looked like when I returned from the fabric store.

Many, MANY pieces of sandpaper later.

See the marks on the edge of the table...looks like burn marks... I love it!!

Just a little bit more to sand down and then I have to decide what color to paint the base, and how to treat the top.

To be continued....

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 12:16PM
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Ooooooh, I love it! It is the perfect table for a kitchen islandy-thing.

I know it's too late, but just in case others read this - you should wear a mask when sanding old furniture because of the likelihood of lead in the paint. I've done this so many times, I think I have permanent brain damage. And yeah, it is easier if you strip most of the paint and then sand, but yours looks great no matter how you got there. Are you going to paint the legs? If you stain the top, I've found minwax has a colour called Early American that gives a nice antiquey finish. If it still looks too pristine/light you can lightly go over it with Minwax's Jacobean and it darkens it up and looks a bit more aged.

Make sure you post progess pics as you go.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 12:34PM
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Oh gosh.. I LOVE IT. Country Home often has tables for islands. I love the look.. much more than most of the prefabbed ones. Keep your eye out for inexpensive butcher block-- there's one listed on my local CL now and there's a guy who sells them on ebay. I bought a HUGE butcher block cutting board that I keep on my counter at IKEA a bunch of years ago. I think I paid $30 for it. Marble is great for the way you use yKeeour kitchen-- in fact, you just nailed my christmas gift idea for my sister. She'd love that big slab of marble too.

Your guy is something special for sure-- the top is looking great. Will you paint the bottom or leave it as is? Can't wait to see the finished product!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 12:43PM
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We did something similar. We found a great old refectory/tavern table and had a piece of wood added (the big chunk just under the tabletop) to bring it up to a bit higher than counter height. Sadly, there was no place for it in the new house, but I'm sure it went to a good home (sold in our antique booth).

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 12:57PM
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Love it! :) I can't wait to see the finished product!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 4:20PM
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Jakabedy, that table looks familiar. Do you have a booth downtown at H's or somewhere else?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 4:37PM
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If you want to use your table and you are worried about the top, why not put a piece of marble on it which was used for pastry for thousands of years before I was born. I don't know where you live but in our area, you could pick up a piece (remnant)on sale that size for about $50 and pay them $50 to customize it for you. Voila, you have nice pastry surface providing your table would accommodate the weight of the marble.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 4:46PM
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budge - thanks for the suggestions on stain color. I went to the hardware store and got a few samples to try. I'll let you know how they turn out.

jakabedy - that is a really neat table. Too bad you had to get rid of it.

I am not sure about the legs....my original plan was to paint the legs dark green. Then I thought about a dark cream. I like how banged up they are now, but I don't like the grey color.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 6:13PM
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Allison -

We sold it from the booth we had at Hoover Antiques. We got rid of most of the surplus from the old house and closed the booth back in May. $275/mo booth rental was a little steep when things had gotten so slow.

Of course, another dealer could have bought it and put it at Hannah -- who knows! If they did, more power to them. We thought about going back to Hannah rather than Hoover, but the latter was just too convenient to my office and to the new house.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 2:34PM
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valzone--I can't wait to see finished pics of your new island! I've thought about doing the same thing many times, but haven't figured out how it would work in our home. So I'm excited to see what yours looks like!

n1cf2-off topic, but I thought that my parents were the ONLY people in the world with a church pew in their kitchen!! Their church had a fire when we were kids and when it got redoen, they let people take pews, which my parents did. It's always a conversation piece for sure, and provides a good amount of seating too!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 5:31PM
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Jakabedy, Chris leases his place from us. lol I must have seen it there.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 8:01PM
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