Beginning of the End: Painting an End Table Part I

I have been loving the vintage campaign furniture that has been popping up in design blogs recently. This is a great little post about campaign furniture on Matters of Style. Jenny at Little Green Notebook featured her campaign reno here. And Bryn Alexandra featured a reader’s re-do on a campaign desk here. As I was scanning Craigslist for some similar furniture I found this Kroehler piece that looks similar to the campaign style, for only $12. (Anna, however, found a real vintage campaign desk for $15 at Goodwill! I’m jealous!)

I actually bought my brass thrift lamp to go with this table. Since it is a low table, it needed a tall table lamp.


  • STEP 1: My first step was to sand down the shiny finish a bit with a fine sandpaper. I didn’t sand off the varnish completely (which is only necessary in the case of restaining), but just roughened it a bit so the primer would stick better. I was curious if this made a difference, so I left the base unsanded. When I primed the base the primer had a much harder time sticking and required more coats, so the sanding definitely helped. You can see below that I had begun to sand the top drawer (you would think by now I’d remember to take the before photo.)

  • STEP 2: Cleaning the old brass handles. I originally planned to paint the ugly, outdated hardware with Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint. However, when I began to scrub at one of the handles with some Bar Keeper’s Friend, I realized that the ugly dark finish (tarnish?) came off and left pretty brass behind, and it won me over. Below is the contrast.

  • STEP 3: Still cleaning the handles…with ketchup?? The one handle took me a looong time to clean, with much elbow grease involved. I hoped there might be an easier way. After researching online I decided to try the option that would not require me going out to the store: soaking the handles in Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. I assume this is because the acids in tomato and vinegar break down the tarnish. I soaked them for 2 hours.

After soaking, I scrubbed with more Bar Keeper’s Friend. It was much easier after the soaking, although it still took time. Aren’t they pretty?

  • STEP 4: Priming the table. I primed the piece with Zinsser’s Oil Based Primer, using Whizz mini foam rollers. I painted 2 coats of primer, using one roller per coat.
  • STEP 5: Sand the primed surface with extra-fine sandpaper meant for sanding between coats.

I wanted to plug in my handles to visualize my finished product. Love it! Stay tuned for part II for the finished product. (Updated: Check out the finished product here.)



  1. Anna
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great job Sarah! Like the ketchup idea, only YOU would find that online! 🙂

  2. Posted August 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Ketchup? Get out! I can’t wait to see what else you share on here…

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