Rustic Refinished Coffee Table Plan

I was going through some old photos and ran across some photos for one of my very first projects about a year ago:  a rustic refinished coffee table.

My uncle actually built this coffee table for my parents when they got married back in the day, and my parents gave it to me when I went to college (my uncle built a pretty strong table.

At one point and time, I think we counted 6 people dancing on this coffee table at a party when I lived with my college buddies).

We wanted to get some new furniture for our living room, but – as with most furniture – we didn’t want to spend $500 to get it.

I figured this coffee table has withstood the stand of time, but with some updating, it could be a really neat piece.

Here are the basics for you to know how to refinish a rustic coffee table.

Here are the basics of the Rustic Refinished Coffee Table Plan and How To:

  • Skill level:  Beginner
  • Cost:  under $30
  • Time:  About 4 hours total

We’re modest (hence the name of our site), and we’re by no means perfect carpenters, so we like to give you the things we messed up on throughout our projects.  Here’s this one:


Do not NOT wear a mask when sanding!  I lasted all of 5 minutes and was coughing my lungs out.  I was also blowing dirt out of my nose for days.  Simply said – buy a mask and wear it when you sand!


So, here is what you need to know how to refinish a coffee table to give it a simple, rustic feel.


  • Coffee table
  • Sander
  • Golden oak stain
  • Black paint
  • Paintbrush
  • A couple rags
  • A mask
  • Mineral spirits

On to the steps…


Step 1:  Sand

Sanded coffee table on the way to be refinished

Sanded coffee table on the way to be refinished…

This is the majority of the project here – you have to sand, sand, sand.  I have an orbital sander that I use.  There was a very thick coat of stain and poly on our coffee table, so I had to sand for quite some time and still couldn’t get all the way to the bare wood.  That’s ok though – for those parts, I’ll just cover in black paint.

Step 2:  Keep sanding

No joke – I sanded for a while.  Keep sanding.  Sand it down until it’s bare at least in some spots – hopefully the coffee table you’re refinishing is easier than the one we did.  When you’re done sanding, you’ll want to run a wet rag or a rag with mineral spirits over the table to help pick up all the excess sand.

Step 3:  Paint

Typically I stain, then paint.  But for this one, I painted, then stained.  I’m not really sure why or if it makes a difference since you sand anyways.  The technique here?  Using very, very light amounts of paint and long, fast brush strokes – just like a reckless artist.  I was very sporadic here to make it look like it had a natural, weathered look on the table top.  I also had another rag here to wipe up my excess and blend the more heavily painted areas into the bare wood areas – this helps to make it more natural.  One of my tips here is to just go fast – for some reason, going faster with less paint seems to give a better effect.

I wasn’t able to sand down the legs to bare wood, so I decided to make them much darker, and almost had to have a full coat of black paint.  Don’t worry though – you’ll sand the edges later to bring some weathering to it.

Step 4:  Stain

Painted, stained, sanded refinished coffee table

The coffee table after being painted and stained. Now time for sanding… again!

After you’re done painting, go ahead and stain using the Golden Oak stain.  USE LIGHTLY.  In my opinion, part of the appeal of this table is the near ‘bare wood’ – if you use too much stain here, you won’t get that effect.  Again, dab your rag, and try to blend with the black paint as best as possible.  It’s ok to go over the black paint with the stain here – it won’t make a big difference.  As with the painting, run a rag over the stain/painted area to help blend (this will also help it dry faster – I’m very impatient :)).

Step 5:  Sand

Yes, break out the sander again.  This will help you to blend the paint and stain much more.  Just eyeball this until you get the desired look you want.  Something many people like to do is to sand down the edges to be bare, and that is just what we did – especially on the legs.  As with painting and staining – don’t be afraid to go fast.  I know most people say “take your time” on projects – on this one, I just went fast and I think I had better results.

Step 6:  Wet rag

As always with sanding, you’ll want to get rid of the excess sand using mineral spirits (I didn’t have any, so I just used water).

Step 7:  Poly (optional)

I actually didn’t have any Polyeurathane either, so I did not put a coat of poly on it.  Eventually I might to better protect the coffee table, but I didn’t at that point and time.

Final thoughts

Refinished rustic coffee table

All done and in the living room! (Don’t mind my shoes in the background)…

That’s it!  It’s a pretty simple project, doesn’t take long, and you can go FAST!  Rather than buying new furniture that had this look for $400-$500, I was able to finish this project in hours for under $30.  I’ll take that any day.

As always with all the projects, if you build one, let us know!


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1 Response

  1. June 23, 2012

    […] love this rustic refinished coffee table, and it cost next to nothing and really only took a half of a day.  Using some sandpaper, a little […]

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