Introduction: Restoring a Vintage Drafting Table to Repurpose As a Dining Table

After finding a beat up vintage drafting table on Craigslist I decided to refinish it and repurpose it as a dining room table.

Watch the video for a quick overview of the process, and follow the step by step instructions for more detail.

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Step 1: Gathering Tools

To refinish this drafting table and repurpose it as a dining table, I used:

  • Eye Protection
  • Hearing Protection
  • Masks appropriate for sanding
  • Chisel
  • Random Orbital Sander
  • Lots of Sandpaper: 60 grit, 80 grit, 120 grit and 220
  • Buffer
  • Rags to buff wax into hard to reach spots
  • Paint brush
  • Various screw drivers, wrench and pliers (specifics were based on what worked with the old original nuts, bolts and screws
  • Power screw driver
  • 4 L-Brackets and screws to attach
  • Level
  • Wood Glue
  • Rustoleum Hammered Metal Black spray paint
  • Martha Stewart Vintage Decor Paint in Clear and Brown

Step 2: Acquire Vintage Drafting Table

I found this vintage drafting table on Craigslist for $40. Its potential wasn't evident right away, but I bought it to serve as work table. It was nothing to look at, the base was concealed under a layer of gray and light blue spray paint (I didn't even know it was wood when I bought it). The top was covered with a vinyl drafting board cover that had seen plenty of use. But when I got it out of the car I noticed some spots where the paint was chipping off and some pretty wood was peaking through. So I decided to peel back the layers and see if it could be saved!

Step 3: Taking Apart the Pieces

When I brought it home the top was already disassembled from the base. I made sure I took plenty of pictures so I'd know how to put it all back together in the end, and from there it was easy work. None of the pieces were glued, so it was just a matter of removing the old hardware, keeping all the hardware and individual wood pieces organized.

Step 4: Remove Vinyl From Drafting Table Top

To remove the old vinyl from the drafting table top I started by pulling off a metal band that surrounded the table top. Then, I scraped, scraped, scraped and pulled off all the vinyl tiny piece by tiny piece. It was pretty old and very dry, so unfortunately it crumbled off in small pieces and was no easy task to remove. I knew the wood was going to require a lot of sanding to fully remove all the dried glue so I didn't worry about scratching the wood when I removed the vinyl. I tried a few different tools and ended up deciding that a chisel was the most efficient way of scraping back all that vinyl.Once I had all the vinyl bits off I sanded off the vinyl adhesive and paper backing that remained on the table top. I started with 40 grit sandpaper, then 80, to 120 and finally 220 grit to smooth it out

Step 5: Removing Paint

The underside of the top and the frame of the drafting table were covered in paint. With the table fully disassembled I sanded off all paint with my orbital sander. I made sure to use a mask, eye and ear protection. I started with 60 grit paper and moved up to 80, then 120 and finally 220.

Step 6: Fresh Paint for Drafting Table Hardware

I removed all the metal hardware and decided that it needed a refresh. I went with a textured black spray paint and gave all the metal pieces a quick coat. The metal hardware came out great, the textured pieces made everything look and feel like cast iron.

Step 7: Putting It Back Together

Next, reassembly! It was fairly easy to put back together, but with any refinishing project, this step goes much more smoothly if you remembered to take plenty of pictures before taking the piece apart. I reused all the original hardware. I used wood glue anywhere it made sense (i.e, only on the pieces that stay stationary, and not on any of the pieces where the table adjusts).

Step 8: Finishing

I wanted to keep the character of all that wood I just uncovered. To finish off the drafting table, I started with one coat of clear wax. I used Martha Stewart Vintage Decor wax in clear, applying a thin layer with a brush and then working it in with a power buffer. I used a rag to work the wax into nooks and crannies the buffer couldn't reach. In some places to get all the paint off I had sanded down to a newer looking wood than I wanted. I added back some of that aged wood color with a small amount of brown wax (Martha Stewart vintage decor wax in dark brown). I didn't use the brown wax on the entire table, just places that looked too light or where I wanted it to look a little more aged. I let the whole thing sit for a day and then came back through with another coat of clear wax to finish it off.

Step 9: Adding Bracing to Stabilize for Dining Table Use

I brought the table inside, adjusted the height to work with our bar height chairs and secured it to a level table positioning using the drafting table knobs. Because drafting tables are meant to tilt, the two posts that hold the table top are rounded on the corners. This poses a problem for dining room use because the top wanted to tilt. If someone put their elbows on the table, there was real risk of everyone's meals dumping over on their lap - that seemed like harsh punishment for elbows on the table so I had to find a way to secure the table top in a level position. I used 4 simple L-brackets, positioning two on either side of each of the two main posts. So they didn't look out of place, I gave the brackets and their screws a quick coat with the same Rustoleum hammered metal black spray paint. Then I made sure my table top was level and the brackets in place. This has worked really well for us, and completely removed the slight wobble the table had when using only the drafting table knobs to secure it.

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Bio: I like making stuff, especially furniture and am always up for a refinishing project!
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