Eero Saarinen dining table refinished in glossy black

Okay, there are a lot of Saarinen style dining table on the market now. From IKEA’s Docksta for $299, up to $4,000+ for an original with marble table top from Knoll. But it’s easy to see why people love this table. With its sleek curve from base to top, and no legs no fuss underneath, it’s a staple in the modern or mid-century modern home.

This particular reproduction dining table was used in home staging for upmarket real estate across Metro Vancouver. Moving house takes its toll, and this dining table probably had at least ten homes in a couple of years of service. All this meant the usual suite of dings and scratches near the foot of the pedestal, and a nasty looking gouge on the table top, which looked like it had nail polish brushed on top for a quick fix.

Another simple restoration job, but requires a lot of patience. This is something you could easily do at home without any tools, so if you’re looking for modern furniture in Vancouver and find one that needs refinishing, read below and give it a try.

I talked about using JB Weld epoxy putty in a recent post on restoring a set of Jacobsen Series 7 dining chairs, so you can read that if you are interested in step-by-step instructions for using putty. But what I forgot to mention was having a small bowl of warm water nearby. Epoxy putty fixes hard quickly, and sometimes you need more time.

Rubbing warm water on the putty and your hands can help buy you a few more minutes, and makes it easy to smooth the putty into any major scratches, dings or cracks. Most scratches on this table top only needed gentle sanding with 220 grit sandpaper, but some bigger dings needed the epoxy job. I let the putty cure overnight before sanding. Although the packaging says you can sand it sooner, I’d rather wait and be sure it has cured properly.

In fact, most of this job was sanding. I went straight in with fine grit 220 sandpaper all over the tabletop, edges, and the base. I didn’t use any power tools, as you can easily go through a laminate surface and into the MDF particle board. Instead, I used the same sanding disc for my sander, but kept it in my hand, sometimes with a sponge pad between my palm and the sandpaper to make the pressure as smooth and even as possible as I sanded. I probably sanded the table for at least three hours all over to get the surface as smooth as possible, and ready to spray.

I wanted to give this dining table a luxury look with a mirror-like finish. So I used a high quality Rustoleum glossy lacquer spray in black. This did two jobs at once, restoring the table to a beautiful even, glossy black, and providing a hard-protective coating that will protect against future scratches.

Spraying this lacquer is very satisfying as it dries fast, and you can recoat quickly. However, be warned that dry to touch doesn’t always mean you can pick it up and move it. I’d done three very light coats, and needed to bring the table into a warmer space to let it dry hard, before going for the second round.

The table felt dry so I picked it up carefully around the tabletop rim, and carried it less than one metre to a warmer spot. But when I rested the tabletop down and tried to let go – disaster. One hand had stuck to the rim, and peeling off my fingers also peeled away the three layers of paint I’d just put down.

Frustrating, but no big deal. Just more sanding to take the area back down to an even smooth surface, before respraying with 3 light coats to match. Then back for three more coats to finish. To get the super mirror finish, I had to put down a thick final coat using one whole spray can in just one coat on top of the table.

Step-by-step guide

Here’s all the steps, in order:

  • Deconstructing base from table top, cleaning all the pieces
  • Hand sanding with 220 grit sandpaper all over the table top and metal base
  • Epoxy putty filler in major dings, cured dry, and sanded to match smooth surface of the rest of the table top
  • Three light coats of lacquer spray
  • Re-sanding where needed to maintain a smooth surface
  • Three more light coats of lacquer spray
  • One final thick coat of lacquer to create a mirror-like finish
  • Buffing with a lint-free cheesecloth to clean off any dust and bring up the shine

Final result

Getting a perfect finish on the tabletop was the hardest part of the job. Six light coats of lacquer wasn’t giving the desired finish, but one final thick coat gave the lacquer a chance to create a strong and high gloss shine.

We loved this table so much we thought about keeping it in place of our existing CB2 Odyssey table, but in the end I hope it goes to another home that is going to love it just as much.