How to: Aged Paper Decoupage DIY Table Refinishing Project
I mentioned last week that I had been crazy busy trying to get my house ready for out-of-town family to visit us the week of the 4th of July. The week turned out kinda disastrous. First of all, we got hit with that really bad storm on July 1 – this page has some incredible pictures of it, by the way. It hit right around noon in the middle of our family reunion picnic with about 80 people over at my parents’ house. It was a miracle that not one person (or car!!) was injured – in less than 30 minutes, nearly every house in the neighborhood lost between 2 and 10 large trees. A tree 3 feet in diameter fell right across my parents’ driveway, and another knocked down power lines right above the picnic tent.
Enter the 4 days from hell.
We, my parents AND my brother’s family all lost our power. During that insane 105 degree heat wave. My brother was the only one that had enough generators to run both his appliances AND his air conditioning. So everyone stayed there and all my lovely plans went out the window – no family for me. I was rather crushed – none of them could see my pretty new table! (OR my mini-kitchen redo – another post for another day!)
So. I’ll share it with you instead.
Please humor me with a comment or two, even if you hate this project. I was *supposed* to have a dinner for 20 on July 3rd. It is July 17 and I still haven’t been able to show it off!
Onto the decoupage table project…
Our kitchen table had been BEAT to HELL. It was in embarrassingly bad shape. I always liked the size and shape of it – tallish, square, and can easily seat 8. But I was ready to toss it out when I embarked on the aforementioned kitchen makeover. Then, I got a little budget conscious, and decided I really didn’t want to buy a new dining set. The fact that I couldn’t find one single style I liked for a decent price may have had something to do with it. I would be ambitious enough to make one, but I didn’t have enough time to do that. I wish I had a true ‘before’ picture to share, but I was SO embarrassed by it I wanted to hide it from the world. Here’s a glimpse of the condition of the table top as I started refinishing it:
The shot on the left is pretty much how the entire table looked. The picture on the right is after I sanded it and had already started slopping ModPodge onto the surface. Speaking of ModPodge, this project was pretty simple, and didn’t take a lot of materials at all. The main cast of characters – ModPodge and a new Rust-Oleum glaze:
I have to stop and give a (completely unsolicited) shout-out to Rust-Oleum for this truly amazing new product. It is part of their set of products created to transform cabinets – but I’ve never worked with such an awesome glaze in my life. It is the perfect shade of dark brown, easy to use (and clean up – it’s water based), and it stays wet long enough to have a TON of control over how the glaze appears on your surface. Most glazes I’ve used in the past (including my own watered down paint concoctions) have dried so fast that I have to work at a super-human fast pace to ensure that I keep a wet edge between the sections I am working on. If you’ve ever glazed something and tried to take a break half way through the project, you know exactly what I mean. Once the stuff is dry, you lose all ability to blend any sections together, and end up with a ‘line’ in which the glaze is layered on top of itself, making it darker than the rest of your project. I used this Transformations Decorative Glaze on three projects at this point, and every time I’ve used it, the glaze has stayed wet enough to blend EVERYWHERE I needed it to blend – even more than 45 minutes later when I noticed I had forgotten a section. LOVE THIS STUFF.
Getting back to the project, as far as the “How-To” is concerned, this is pretty much straight up decoupage. Nothing fancy – nothing weird.
I created the artwork for this product from one of my vintage books – I scanned an old engineering schematic drawing of a late 1800’s boat, brought it into Illustrator to turn it into a scalable vector drawing, and then blew it up to the size of my table leaves. I had to create three panels, each about 18 inches wide by 52 inches tall. Since I don’t have a large-format printer, I emailed the files to a FedEx/Kinko’s location and had them print them out on simple, everyday 24 lb printer paper. Total cost for all three panels was less than $25. Score. Side note: I have one free vector download on the site – it is from the same 1888 engineering book and it is of a lovely old clock face.
*I do think that it was important that the print was from a laser printer and not an ink jet printer. The ink jet image would probably bleed and run.
I then sanded my table-top. You might not even have to do this part, but my table surface had become warped from water damage, so I wanted to sand it down to create a smooth, flat surface. Actually, the finished table still has a little surface warping, but the rustic effect of the finish makes it almost imperceptible.
I then applied regular ModPodge to the table and carefully laid down the large prints on one panel at a time.
Note that I put the black lines on the edges only as a guide to ensure the panels were easy to apply so that they were directly in the middle of the table sections. They were removed when I took off the excess paper around the edges.
Quite by accident, I found an intriguing way to make the paper look more antiquey than ever. When I spread the ModPodge on the first table section, it dried so incredibly fast that I had an insane amount of air bubbles. I figured I’d have to sand it off and reprint that panel. So I moved onto the second panel and made sure I was much more careful about getting the paper onto the table ASAP. Then I looked back at the first panel and thought – what if I doused the paper with water and super-thinned out ModPodge? I had nothing to lose at that point, so I gave it a shot. I basically went over the entire section with my ModPodge foam brush, dipped in water instead of more ModPodge. I then worked the water into the paper with my bare hands, smoothing over the entire section trying to get out every air hole possible (which is important, by the way). If there were wrinkles or even small tears in the paper, I just kept working with the damp paper, trying to get it to stick to the table without bubbles. In fact, the wrinkles turned out to be the best part of the finished design!
It totally worked. In fact, that panel ended up looking ten times better than the one I did ‘correctly’!.
I’ll stop here and jump ahead a bit to say DON’T WORRY if the paper tears. Well, don’t try to tear it, and do try to be careful, but don’t worry if you mess up. The glaze is brilliant at making all your mistakes look like they were on purpose. Check out this section in which I tore a big hole in the paper and used some scraps to try and cover up the mess. After the glaze is applied, it all just looks like one majorly old piece of parchment on your table top:
The next step is to let the paper dry – though if you are impatient like I am, you don’t need to let it dry all the way. Just enough that you aren’t messing up the adhesion when you add the glaze or sanding off the edges of the paper. Take off the excess paper now so that the glazing process can sink into the torn edges around the outer rim of the table top. Be sure to sand in a downward direction when you do this so that you don’t loosen any of the paper from the table:
You can just lightly go around the edge of the table with the sandpaper – just enough so that you can easily and cleanly pull off the excess paper that isn’t stuck to the table top. MAKE SURE that your edges are all securely glued to the table. If you need to reglue the edges with some more ModPodge, go for it.
Glazing the paper is easy-peasy – do it BEFORE you add any ModPodge to the top of the paper. Just grab a cheap sponge brush and brush the glaze over the entire section:
Try not to get too excited at this point, because your table is going to start looking awesome, and you won’t be able to use it just yet.
Next, let the glaze dry all the way. I decided I wanted to add a tiny bit more glaze around the edges for a slightly more aged look – that’s up to you.
After it is dry, I used the ModPodge Hard Coat product to seal the top of the table. Then I decided that my kids were going to be too rough on this table to trust the top finish to simple ModPodge (sorry ModPodge people!!). I then put 4-6 coats of regular water-based poly as a top coat. I’ll probably put even more coats of poly on it – as you can tell from my ‘before’ picture, my kids really know how to trash a table!
Here’s another view of the final product – by the way, the round dark circle in the bottom left is a shadow from my chandelier, not a glazing accident:
I knew the end result was going to look great, but I have to admit I even surprised myself with how beautiful the project turned out. The paper almost looks like an old parchment map – my husband came home and said, “How the heck did you get the paper to look like wood?” I just smiled and said, “because I ROCK.”
Edited to Add:
Since I’ve gotten several requests for this specific artwork, I’ve created a vintage nautical clip art set in my VintageFangirl Etsy shop that includes all three of these drawings plus a bunch more beachy-boaty-oceany goodness. Happy Decoupaging!
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