"How to: Restore a Vintage Table" is part of a series of step-by-step guides showing how we bring our furniture back to life without losing original character and charm.
We started buying these old, vintage tables about 10 years ago. We started out with just 10 pieces, but this year alone we're on track to buy and sell over 400! They're incredibly flexible and versatile, and have each undertaken a long and comprehensive restoration process to ensure their functionality for another 30 years. Read on to learn a little about their history, how they are restored and how they can be used around your home.
They're very strong and sturdy, incredibly flexible, versatile and can be set up in seconds. This style of vintage table usually has an iron frame and legs. A top or legs and top made from tropical hardwood. Other styles include wooden legs and top. They're built more for function than good looks, but because they have been used so man times, they develop a unique character of their own. They've usually been painted several times and older layers of paint and the dark hardwood are often exposed. The big domed bolts and washers used to secure the wooden tops and tubular steel frame give this vintage table an industrial look and feel.
Vintage Table History
Originally these vintage table's are used as wedding guest dining tables. An Indian wedding will often have more than 500 and sometimes 2,000 guests, who over several days are treated to an amazing feast of Indian curries and traditional dishes as they celebrate the bride and grooms nuptials. These tables are usually covered with a decorative table cloth and then seat 4-6 guests.
Often called 'tent tables' across northwestern India, they are used repeatedly during the Indian wedding seasons. Traditionally Rajasthani weddings would have been held in brightly decorated decorated tents - to keep the desert dust and searing sun off the guests. The Indian bride, groom and their parents will look for auspicious dates in the Hindu calendar. January, February and May are usually the months with the most dates, which means in Rajasthan larger cities like Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur will see hundreds of weddings taking place on the same days.
We buy them their original very well used condition and spend around 2-4 hours restoring each table. Each batch of tables is different. A batch could number 10 or 150. Over the years the are hired out for wedding events they really do take on their own character. They will be painted and repainted every few years, over time the older layers of paint make come through. The wedding hire table owners will add their name and contact details on the tables. Some will need minimal restoration work and other substantial work to bring them back to life. We aim to retain their original patina and character. So we don't strip off the old paint, sand down uneven edges or even fill the gaps between the planks.
Restoring A Vintage Table
Here is a step by step guide to how expert blacksmiths and carpenters restore old wooden tables. Below you will see how we buy the tables: rusty, damaged and in need of some serious expert restoration. Sometimes we need to repair damaged wood. We took one table and spent 4 hours painstakingly restoring it. It gets taken from a rusty grubby table to a piece that's going last for at least another 20 years.
Smaller damaged wooden sections are cut out and a similarly sized and coloured replacement is added. Sometimes an entire length of a plank needs to be replaced using old parts of other tables. Of course it's not a perfect replacement, but that's how the tables would have been maintained during their life and in no time at all with use and wear and the replacement section will blend into the rest of the table. Where there's significant corrosion we'll remove the worst with sandpaper.
Often we'll remove all the wooden panels and Sankar, who comes from a long line of traditional Rajasthani blacksmiths, will repair the frame and legs which can become twisted and the folding legs may be wobbly. Where we've removed the top to repair the frame, we'll check the wood before we replace the top. We use bolts and nuts to secure the top. The wood used for the tabletops is
The penultimate stage involves washing the tables to remove dirt and grime. We finish off with a few drops of oil for the folding legs' joints and several layers of polish to nourish and revive the old wood and prevent corrosion. Our vintage metal tables are now ready.
Where To Use An Old Tables
The folding tables can be used as an industrial style dining table, office desks (Carl has one in his office), outdoors / /patio dining table, a large number of them can be lowered to a height that allows them to be used by wedding guests sitting crossed legged, making them perfect as coffee tables too. Being folding tables means they are very useful where space might be a challenge.
For an eclectic look pair the table with mismatched dining chairs - mid century, vintage and antique chairs in different colours. For an industrial style try Remploy plywood chairs or Tolix style chairs. WE thnk any atyle would work with these tables.
Old tables can be used as a desk for working at home or in an industrial influenced office. They can be easily moved. No toolbox and complicated instructions needed. Of course, they are at home in a kitchen or dining room. See Scaramanga's full range of old and vintage dining tables we have many in stock.