Olive Oil And Elbow Grease. Restoring a damaged furniture surface.

I found this antique table at a local Denton store, and immediately fell in love with it. I inquired about the price, and the owner told me she planned to paint it before selling it. My inner voices shrieked, “Noooo! That’s a travesty!” Since I always do what the voices tell me to do, I wrangled a price and bought it “as is.”

Damaged antique table

Now, I have nothing against old furniture being painted purple, or orange, or zebra-striped … but this beauty deserved better than that. Yes, the surface wasn’t particularly attractive, but what can you expect? The store owner told me that this table had survived a tornado and then had been stored in barn for several years.

Damaged table

You would look rough, too, after experiences like that! There are a couple of pieces of the ornate woodwork that have been damaged, but that only tells the table’s story. I brought that baby home and tried to think what to do with it. I figured I would polish it, and put it in the guest bedroom. But, then I remembered that I had seen a post on Pinterest about using mayonnaise to restore a finish.

Mayonnaise? Ick! The very thought of slathering mayonnaise all over it was repulsive (and I didn’t want it to smell like a stale sandwich), so I decided to try olive oil to polish it.

olive oil

Armed with olive oil, a soft cloth, some cotton swabs and plenty of elbow grease, I began to polish that table. I swabbed all the nooks and crannies, and even flipped the table over to wipe down the inside (where I had to scrape off a dirt dauber’s nest — proving that it really was stored in a barn). I was very careful about polishing all of the oil off of the surfaces, so it wouldn’t stain the carpet or other furniture. Some of it took an extra swipe of oil, because the wood was very thirsty. I might even have to polish it again in a day or two, as the oil soaks into the wood.

After about an hour, the result was much better than I had hoped. It doesn’t even look like the same table!

restored table

Am I going to hide this lovely piece of furniture in the guest bedroom? No way! I’ve found a place for it in the living room, so I can enjoy it every day.

You might be wondering where I stumbled upon this amazing antique find, and I’ll share that source with you another day. That new store in Denton deserves a post of its own … and besides, I want to get there and buy all the wonderful things that I want before I let you plunder it!

Just remember to try polishing a piece of furniture with olive oil before you pull out the paint brushes. The only problem with this technique is that now I’m eyeing all the rest of my furniture. I’m thinking, “Hmmm. What would olive oil do for that?” I have plenty of olive oil and cotton swabs — but I’m fresh out of elbow grease!

  9 comments for “Olive Oil And Elbow Grease. Restoring a damaged furniture surface.

  1. Kathleen
    September 26, 2013 at 7:26 am

    I’ve heard Lemon Oil is a lovely way to refinish too! That is a BEAUTIFUL table and you did a fantastic job on its restoration!

    • September 26, 2013 at 8:37 am

      Thank you! Unfortunately, at 2:00 in the morning (when I got the urge to work on this) the only oil available was what I had in the kitchen. 😉

  2. Julie Glover
    September 26, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Wood needs oil! County Seat Antique sells Howard’s Orange Oil, which is very good for the wood and smells lovely 🙂

    • September 26, 2013 at 8:37 am

      I might check on that, Julie. I have used orange oil in the past and liked it. I’m just glad that I snared this table before they painted it!

  3. September 26, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Good on you! That was a great save…and now you can enjoy a fantastic little treasure from the past. Thanks for sharing.

    • September 26, 2013 at 8:38 am

      It was a lucky save. I don’t even mind some of the nicks and dings. After knowing it went through a tornado, I’m just glad it is still around!

  4. September 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    What an excellent find! Real solid wood furniture stands the test of time, and all it takes is a little “elbow grease” to restore its luster if a piece is looking a little worse for wear. Try doing that with a piece of particleboard furniture you had to assemble yourself.

  5. WOL
    September 26, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    I don’t blame you for scooping this one up. The detail work on the top, the grill work! It would have been worth the price just to save it from being painted, but after your attentions, it has truly come into its own. I’d have gone for tung oil, but that’s only because I happen to have some. It has a sealing effect. Once you’ve gotten the wood conditioned again, some furniture polish with beeswax in it might be the way to go, since the beeswax acts to hold the oil and moisture in. That grill work is going to be a booger to dust, though. Maybe brushing it with a soft brush to loosen the dust while holding the vacuum cleaner hose next to it.

  6. Ann Smith
    September 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Gorgeous, gorgeous. You have the most amazing eye for wonderful things!

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