Need help with refinishing vintage baker's table

remodelflaNovember 30, 2008

I bought this off of craigslist for $250. I plan on using it in lieu of a baking counter in my kitchen remodel. I typically write in on the kitchen forum and they suggested I post over here. Here's a pic of the piece:

It's in rough shape. Here's a closeup of one of the larger drawer fronts:

Picture of unpainted wood in back:

Picture of smaller drawer fronts I stripped today:


Can you identify the wood? I'm uncertain if the wood is "special" enough to leave unstained and just use a satin poly or if I should paint it.

Thanks for any input.

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Looks like mahoghany. That was considered a 'plain' or 'trim' wood in the early part of the last century.

Strip the paint using an 'orange' (non toxic) stripper----but be careful, that paint may have lead in it. Stripping paint containing lead is not particularly dangerous as long as you wrap any scrapings while they are still wet and use gloves.

It will take several applications of stripper as a rule---that looks like several coats of paint.

Once you get as much paint off as possible, it will need some sanding. If the paint/primer contained lead, you need to have the piece professionally sanded or find a safe DIY procedure. I've done a couple pieces by using a filter mask, gloves, a contamination suit(the throwaway paper kind) and sanding outside with a large fan---I stayed between the fan and the piece.

Staining is up to you. Finish with an oil based varnish---that is non toxic when dry and easily repaired by blending the repair to the rest of the area.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 10:37AM
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Why is removing the paint less toxic then sanding? How do I determine if the paint has lead in it? How much lead is a danger?

So... you think it's mahogany rather then poplar?

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 1:03PM
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I don't see anything here that looks like mahogany. The unpainted wood on the back of the unit is some sort of softwood, probably pine; the reddish hue of the framing is the color of the finish, not of the wood. My guess is that those stripped drawers had a coat of the same red finish under the paint, and that residual redness is what sorta-kinda suggests mahogany. Those last two pics really aren't clear enough to make out enough detail to say what they are.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 2:17PM
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Sanding frees the lead into the dust---NOT GOOD.

Stripping keeps the paint damp and cohesive---GOOD. (Unless the resulting goop dries out.)

I can say fairly positively that wood is not poplar(poplar is listed as a hardwood---but is relatively soft and does not wear well under use.)

I should have been more precise. The back woods do indeed look like pine, but the drawer fronts are mahoghany, IMHO. Mahoghany cut over 50 years ago(Old growth) had a much more dense grain than modern stuff(New growth).

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 6:08PM
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Thanks for the specifics handymac. I'll be stripping the body of the piece this week and see what it looks like. One poster over on kitchens suggested the drawer fronts are maple that might have been treated with an orange shellac that left residual color. She said to spray with denatured alcohol, let it sit, and then use steel wool to remove.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 7:03PM
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stripped, sanded, steel wooled...etc. Looks like a tan tight grained wood. DH still thinks it's poplar... I'm thinking maple. It's a pretty wood and in good shape but I'm not sure if it's beautiful enough to oil finish/leave natural or paint. I don't think I'd want to stain it.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:13PM
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I'd say birch rather than maple. Anyhoo, nice work.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 6:41AM
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Yah, maybe birch.

Second to the Well Done kudo's!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 6:54AM
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Thanks! The encouragement means alot coming from the woodworking pros! There's much to do yet. Birch might work with the IKEA cabs I'm considering as one of the options. I'm anxious for my DH and DS to move the base into the garage for me so I can get to work on the rest of it.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 6:58AM
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Poplar-maple-birch....but nothing looks like mahogany..
And I never heard of a kitchen type of cabinet like that being made of mahogany.
It's terrific! Love those "possom belly" drawers!
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 10:20PM
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Now I'm here:

I'm trying to restore the zinc belly drawers well enough so I don't have to paint it. I've got one of them to this so far:


do you think I can get it good enough NOT to paint it?
Ignore the color on the drawer. I bought some paint samples but realized that the sample pots dont' come in the dead flat oil finish I thought I ordered. I have one drawer left to do.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 9:21PM
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