Introduction: How I Destroyed Our Dinning Table.

Picture of How I Destroyed Our Dinning Table.

Somewhere around in the middle of the 1990's my mother bought a new "Solid" oak dining room set, a table and 6 chairs.

Having 4 teenagers in the house only 1 chair survived the past 20 years, but the table stood the test of time (somewhat), as you can see from the before pics, it only had some ware and tear to the finish.

We inherited the table about 7 years ago and I finally convinced the wife it needed refinishing, here's how it went.

Step 1:

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First thing to do dis-assembly. Remove table top and legs from the base, replace washers/nuts onto bolts you don't want to lose them.

Step 2:

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Next step was to use a technique called "Shou Sugi ban" to darken and protect the wood.

Shou Sugi Ban (or Yakisugi) is an ancient Japanese exterior siding technique that preserves wood by charring it with fire. Traditionally, Sugi wood (cryptomeria japonica L.f., also called Japanese cedar) was used. The process involves charring the wood, cooling it, cleaning it, and finishing it with a natural oil.

Step 3:

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With the legs finished I moved on to the table base.

Step 4:

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I started burning off the old finish from the table top, first on the sides then I moved onto the table top.

Step 5:

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After the initial charing/sanding of the top I went back over the top with the torch And that's when disaster struck, the top of the "solid oak" table top started peeling off... when I brushed off the charcoaled wood, I realized it was only a thin oak veneer that was glued to chipboard/particle board with a 1/2 inch of real oak around the outside lip.

Now I need to figure out what I can do with this hunk of junk table...and the wife was/is not pleased.

Thanks for looking at my disaster piece of an ible.


ThomasG187 (author)2016-11-26

somebody made a killing off these tables. We had the same table when I was growing up, (my mother still has it), my best friend in high school had the same table, (the middle insert was destroyed when he threw a burning dish towel on it), and my wife's parents have one too!

WB333 (author)2016-04-11


That's what you get when playing with fire.............

MarilynZ3 (author)2016-04-10

What am I missing here? I have refinished DOZENS of pieces of furniture of all types and sizes and woods and never had a problem with veneer.

smcmasters1 (author)2015-12-08

Much like others have suggested, new veneer would be great and cheap, but would no longer match ur charred finish on the legs and pedestal.but- this would require a lot of work- but what about a cut wood design. You know- where different types of wood are cut and placed together like a puzzle? Idk what it's called, but once done you could char it as well, or char portions and stain others to make a unique design

I think the word you're looking for is parquet.

paulalovescats (author)2016-04-09



wgrazier (author)2016-04-09

The charred parts that worked look really nice. There are several different ways to refinish the top so it will still make you smile when you use it :)

I've got the same table. I've been thinking about doing a penny or washer table top for it!

unabrow (author)2016-04-08

I do not understand. "hunk of junk?" Is this not the same sturdy table that served dinner for 20 years? All those birthdays, Thanksgivings,card games, Christmases, school projects, late night workbench? In fact, until you screwed the pooch this was the center, the heart of your home was it not? now its junk? Wow, if That doesn't say something...

MarcusAvery (author)2016-04-08

It's so interesting when people think something is "solid" oak. I worked for a charity that took furniture donations that we would pick up from the donors homes. We went to a ladies house that said she had a "nice solid oak entertainment center". When we arrived I told her it wasn't actually solid oak and she proceeded to bite my head off! I think whoever sold it to her used that as a selling point. At any rate, I turned the piece around and showed he a raw edge in the back that was clearly verneered plywood! I think the easiest way to find out if it's plywood or veneer is to find a raw edge or look underneath (like if its a table). I've sold a lot of these types of tables and people say they are going to sand them down and refinish them which I have to tell them would be a bad idea as veneer is usually surprisingly thin and will sand right off!

BetsyFartBlossom (author)2016-04-07

Ah geeze, that looks horrible! Yes, I did laugh:) There are some good fixes below, so you should be able to salvage it. Now, just in case you, or any of your readers, have a problem with putting something hot on a veneered surface, like maybe a pizza, (don't ask!) and getting a white spot where the heat/steam was, I can tell you how to fix it. Don't go trying the old hot iron and towel thing, it doesn't work. What does work, is plain old mayo! Yup, mayonnaise! Wipe it on with your fingers, you don't need a lot, let it sit for a minute and wipe it off. It gets the white off and there is only a little, not so shiny, but shiny, spot left. It doesn't harm the surface at all. I suppose if I really rub the spot with a good wax it will be shiny again, but I've lost interest now that the
white is gone and it looks pretty decent. You can't really see it
unless you look for it. Of course when my boyfriend comes over, (he put
the pizza on the table!), I point it out and say "Just look at that!
It looks horrible." Once he turned the table around when I wasn't in
the room, and I pointed to the wrong spot to scold him. He's just mean!

KyHillBilly76 (author)2016-04-07

Paint it. That's a simple fix.

john henry (author)2016-04-07

I had this same table and i knew it was a veneer table the moment i seen it.
not sure how you missed that. the bottom grain is way different than the top grain.
tall tails of it not being a real "solid" table. had a table cloth to hide its ugly grain design and worn out veneer. switched back to the old table after awhile.
still fun story. lol

TsungH (author)2016-04-07

Actually you can finish removing the veneer and apply a brand new one on top. It will look like a brand new table.

witherman (author)2016-04-07

your welcome, I enjoyed looking at the lble.

supernoodle2014 (author)2016-04-07

You can buy a 1/4" oak board sheet from Home Depot and cut and glue it to the table top.

fw 190D (author)2016-04-07

To be fair mate, you weren't to know a charlatan sold you a chipboard fake.

ElaineK1 (author)2016-04-07

Quick fix... table cloth. If you want to get fancy, get a piece of glass to cover it and do some decoupage to make it a "keepsake". :)

AJYC (author)2016-04-07

Oh dear! So very sorry! It seems, if you still have the table top and sides, you might try an amazing dark indigo stain or any color, brushed on. Let it soak in. Then when it's dry used heavy masking tape. Tape around the edge, three layers around the top. Mix up a poly resin and pour it over the top. I understand a heat gun, gently move over the top, about an inch up from the resin, will remove the bubbles. KEEP MOVING so as to not cause a fire. Once this has set, I'd give it a day or two (the container will tell you, remove the tape and polyurethane the sides. It could turn out quite lovely. Itthink it's a disaster waiting for "art".

TeresaM7 (author)2016-04-07

Oh, I would be furious! (not at you, at the people who sold my mother a "solid oak" table!) I'm sure you'll do something good with it, though. Can't wait to see the results.

Pete24 (author)2016-01-28

Since your putting it in your game room, a felt topped card (poker) table would work. Good luck! Thanks for sharing I wouldn't have known there is only veneer on table tops.

carrats (author)2016-01-10

I ? That you posted your disaster! :)

KeithW33 (author)2015-12-23

just get some veneer and redo it. you cant burn it but you can stain it in same dark shade with ebony stain.

kooler (author)2015-12-17

zebrawood veneer the whole table..

Thank you everyone for all of your suggestions, support and the many great ideas.

Since we needed a table for a Christmas party we went out and bought a new one, but good news I'll be painting this tabletop for use in my game room. We will rebuild it we have the technology.

P.S. I'll make an Ible when I'm finished with it. Thanks again.

iceng (author)2015-12-12

Great failures can lead to great success !

JamesW33 (author)2015-12-10

As jpshea suggested, why not add a new top? Finish off the charing technique and then add something over the top to cover the chipboard. It's a bit of a bodge, but if it looks ok then it can't be any worse.

J-Max (author)2015-12-10


Heat get rid of the veneering glue. You could not know, but this kind of pattern shoud have warn any woodworker. Jointing rules for solid wood cannot allow this type of assembly which is always veneer. Anyway, now you know how to remove the veneer, that will be your first task anyway.

Then you have many options :

- replace the veneer, but it's not easy on large surface for a beginer you need a vacuum bag to proceed easily. There's a way with contact cement, try to find some videos, Jon Peters did some :

you can be creative and change the veneer for any other material : fabric, velvet, melamine, rubber, whatever... That new material maybe requires durable protection, like varnish and/or resin.

- build a new top, which can be square or any shape you like.

- add a new solid wood top, the easy way is using floor boards (maybe already finished). Gluing floor tiles is possible too, but cutting round edges is not easy. If you own a router, you can trim the edges with a copy bit.

- sand and prepare the top then add a coating (paint + varnish, paint + crystal epoxy, or opaque tainted epoxy.

- maybe the easy way is to order a round glass of the same diameter, and paint the down side of the glass with a painter roller. Nobody can fail that.

Better luck next time ;)


jpfalt (author)2015-12-09

Lots of suppliers have iron-on veneer. Rockler, Woodcrafters, and others.

Just lay the veneer on the surface and iron with a clothes iron. The veneer has hot melt glue on the back and is much too easy to use for most serious DIYers. Then stain and finish.

Beaudiford (author)2015-12-09

Why not replace the veneer? I'm sure you could find some to match the rest of the table. I mean, if it has held up for 20 years without you even knowing it was veneer, then I would hardly call it a hunk of junk.

jpshea (author)2015-12-09

Have you considered faux marble or granite resin/epoxy?

cajunfid (author)2015-12-09

What about refinishing the table with one of those all too popular right now distressed paint jobs?

I feel your pain. When I was a teenager I decided to redo my parents "solid" teak dining room table and didn't realize that gorgeous top was veneer. Thankfully I only exposed the particle board in one really small spot before I realized it wasn't entirely solid, but I still look at that small spot every time I go to their house.

JGDean (author)2015-12-09

As a relatively inexpensive and not-too-difficult salvage job, you might want to try this: Find some cloth that goes well with the rest of the table. Mix some fiberglass resin and apply it as a glue over the entire surface, then smooth the cloth onto the resin. After it has cured, apply several more coats of resin with a squeegee until the top coat is reasonably thick, then sand it smooth. This may take a few iterations of the fill and sanding, but when you're finished you should have a good looking and very durable table top. Much easier and faster than trying to re-veneer, leather inlay or decoupage (which uses many layers of lacquer). Remember that most fabrics will darken when wet and whites tend to become transparent.

pcollins59 (author)2015-12-09

Fix it with some new veneer. Veneers are fairly easy to work with, can be stained or burned (carefully) to look like your original.

Yonatan24 (author)2015-12-09

While I clicking the vote button, I'm trying to imagine the face you had while finding this out... :)

gravityisweak (author)2015-12-09

Ouch! Bamboozled by the manufacturer. Well, at least it's a great opportunity to get creative in the creation of a new table, and your next instructable! Good luck!

WoodPlay (author)2015-12-08

I feel your pain. Nothing hurts more than your vision of a project taking a turn for the worse. Unfortunately, most tables that claim to be solid wood are only referring to legs and other secondary parts. Table tops are often veneered for two reasons. First, as a cost saving and, second, as a structural consideration. The latter is actually more important. Using solid wood for the top can lead to warping over time. A particle board, or other "manufactured" material, provides stability to an otherwise large, moisture-absorbing surface. Some of the finest, most expensive Victorian furniture has veneer over a more stable substrate.

All that said, your photos appear to indicate the outer edges of the top are indeed solid. The particle board is enclosed within. A nice option may be to use a "router sled" that rides on the outer, solid edges and lower the particle board by 1/16". (Just google router sled.)

Once the particle board is lower than the edges, refinish the entire table and then apply a 1/16" leather top with an appropriate adhesive. Leather and oak look very nice together. A synthetic leather may look just as nice.

Your best approach would be to purchase the leather first, so you know exactly how much you need to lower the particle board. Ideally, the leather and the oak trim should be the same height, but making the leather slightly higher will work as well. Just remember to leave a small groove at the outer edge of the particle board to tuck the leather into, so the edges don't lift.

This may sound like a challenge, but it's actually much simpler than learning the art of veneering.

All the best,

Hammerguy84 (author)2015-12-08

At least it could still function as a work table or arts/crafts table. :)

lomnicks (author)2015-12-07

Yikes! I have a table just like this that I was getting ready to rework. I thought it was solid but after looking at it closer it is a veneer top too. I was going to take a power hand plane the top, which would have been a disaster. I hope you find comfort in knowing that your "Fail" saved me a lot of grief. I think a gentler approach like careful sanding is called for. May end up just painting it. I must say the manufacturer did a very good and deceptive job of veneering these, so you were sort of set up. Thanks...

wobblycogs (author)lomnicks2015-12-08

Commercially applied veneer can be very thin, so thin in fact that you basically can't sand it no matter how careful you are. If you want to try use something like a 180 or higher grit and a random orbital sander on slow. Sand until you have literally just removed the old finish and be very very careful around any edges. I've tried it a couple of times with some success but I'm really not sure it was worth the work.

wobblycogs (author)2015-12-08

Well that could have gone a lot better! If it was me I'd fix it with the sabre saw and stove technique. You could apply a new veneer but unless you are practised with the technique I don't think the end result would be great and you'd have to source a thick veneer if you plan on scorching it to match the rest of the table.

beanfriend (author)2015-12-07

The table base seems fine--it's mostly the surface of the table top that is ruined. It might help to strip off the remaining veneer and then apply something else on top. I've seen people glue down pennies and then cover the surface with that epoxy resin. Or, you could attach a sheet of something (wood veneer, laminate, metal). Or, you could sand the surface smooth and take it down to the auto shop to get a spray finish.

Personally, I'd just make it into a game table with interchangeable inserts to play different board games and card games. I'd make up some large versions of my favorite board game playing boards, adhere them to something like poster board, then lay the one I wanted to use on top and cover it with a custom-cut piece of clear acrylic (or glass, though glass can be heavy). A tablecloth would solve the problem when you want it to be a dining table again.

solara70 (author)2015-12-07

Nice legs shame about the face ☺

4WantofaNail (author)solara702015-12-07

that's what she said... sorry, couldn't resist.

Joey John 9821 (author)2015-12-07

Design a custom top that will look amazing. I saw someone take vintage adds (reproductions) and covered them in poly and it turned out awesome

Mmerryweather (author)2015-12-07

I would suggest purchasing more oak veneer and glue that on after cleaning up the particle board underneath (for a flat surface to glue to). This should be easy enough to do once you have a good setup for applying pressure to the veneer evenly while the glue cures. Glue more, smaller pieces if you have to with your setup. This would also give you an opportunity to do something artistic with the veneer topping, especially with the "Shou Sugi Ban" look of the rest of the table. If you'd like to improve the table, just disassemble the particle board pieces and oak lip. The particle board pieces (if undamaged in disassembly) should prove to be decent templates for making your own oak top. Good luck.

BeachsideHank (author)2015-12-07

Your next experience in woodworking now is: "How To Faux Oak Wood Grain"

And don't char it. ☺

I now this Japanese method is the latest "hot look", but most cedars have a natural resistance to decay anyway that added substantially to the effectiveness of the technique, but it's not suitable for all wood species.

seamster (author)2015-12-07

Hey, I think you can salvage this just fine! That pedestal alone is something I'd snatch up from a thrift store.

Maybe new veneer as Wolfbane221 noted, or even a whole new top? Tile it?

I hope you'll stick with it and post the results of whatever you decide to do! :)

Wolfbane221 (author)2015-12-07

Ouch. That really sucks.. I would have made the same mistake and not even noticed the star pattern that's indicative of veneer rolled off a log. I wouldn't give up though! if you want to keep the charred pattern going you could source some pre-charred color oak veneer and apply it on the table. If you do it right it'll look great! I'd try to get one big piece of veneer that I could match the grain across all three pieces and maybe replace the border with a white contrast wood? if you order some I would actually call someone from the company to make sure it's the size you need though.

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