rescued side tables

We just couldn’t drive past these damaged side tables on the curb. We didn’t mind that one was badly stained, one was warped, & one was missing  3 legs.  We won’t mention how long ago these gems were rescued, but we finally decided what to do with them.  Game Tables!  (tidbit: In case you didn’t know, David collects games.)

Step 1: Clean your piece. We recommend wiping the wood down with Mineral Spirits & a clean rag.  We do NOT recommend using furniture cleaner or degreaser.  These will leave residue on your piece that will affect the adhesion of the paint or stain later on.

If the top of your piece is ugly or stained or even burned, start by covering it with wood veneer.  This can be purchased at the local hardware store or through Amazon (see bottom of this post for product recommendations).  David had some leftover Birch veneer that fit perfectly.

Davids chess table before

Some veneer is adhered with heat (iron-on) and some requires a separate adhesive.  Read the directions that comes with yours.  Always clamp securely & allow to dry as instructed.  This should ensure that your veneer does not peel off.

Step 2: Stain the Background. Once your top is clean & your veneer is completely set (if you used veneer), you can choose which stains you would like to use.  You will need a light stain that will also be the overall background including the lighter squares.  You will also need a darker stain for the dark squares, border, & decorations.  We (heart) General Finishes Gel Stains.  Locally we like to pick them up at The Purple Painted Lady. She also has them in her online shop or you can order them from Amazon.

Using  your lighter color (we chose Prairie Wheat) stain the top of your table and let dry completely.

Step 3: Laying Out the Board. Measure the dimensions of your table top (our square ones are both just over 20 inches).  If you want a wide border like ours, divide by 12. If you want a thin border, divide by 10.  If you want no border, divide by 8.This will give you the size of each square (ours are 2 inches).  If your number is something crazy like 2.13 inches that’s ok.  You will need painter’s tape in the width that is closest to this number. We rounded down slightly to 2 inch painter’s tape.

Find the center of your table top, & with a light pencil draw a line dividing your top half.  Apply a strip of painters tape along the full length of this line.  Continue applying strips of tape along side one another until you have 4 pieces on each side of your center line.  Make sure these are as close as possible without overlapping.

Again, find the center of your table top, & with a pencil draw a line dividing your top half the opposite direction. Apply tape in the same manner.  This method does use a lot of tape, but at least you do not have to measure each individual square.

Using a straight edge & a sharp blade, cut along the edge of each piece of tape where they overlap. Do not cut horizontally beyond the last vertical piece of tape & vice versa.  Continue cutting along both sides of every piece in both directions.  Try not to cut only through the tape and not into the wood. A few small cuts won’t be noticeable.

Use the x-acto tip to lift the corners of alternating squares.  Peel up both layers of tape in these squares only.  Leave all tape around the main board in place.  With your finger press down all edges to limit seepage of the dark stain.

Step 4: Staining the Dark Squares.  Following the directions on your container, apply the darker stain over all exposed squares.  Once dry, remove all tape.

We used the General Finishes Java Gel Stain for ours.  We wanted the squares to be slightly different than the thin border.  Left image: After thinly & evenly applying the satin, we immediately went back & wiped off all excess resulting in medium toned squares.  Right image: Same application, but we left the excess to dry as indicated on the instructions resulting in dark squares.

Step 5: Staining the thin border. Apply painter’s tape along the inside the edge of your board to protect the edge squares.  Then apply additional tape approximately 1 inch away around entire board.  This measurement can be adjusted as desired.  Apply stain to this border area.  This can be medium or dark depending on your desire & technique as with the squares in step 4.

Step 6: Fancy Border.  This is the most personal part of the project.  You can choose any pattern, stencil, or design you like to fancy up your table.  We ended up doing one without a border and two using the same hand-cut stencil.


Tape the stencil down with painter’s tape.  Carefully apply stain inside the stencil.  Take your time with this step.  It’s worth it.

We would LOVE to see your home made game tables.  Leave us a comment.

Supplies we used:

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