This article tells you how to recycle a rusty metal thrift shop table for less than $30. Making something pretty out of something ugly is not as hard as you might think. To have a sturdy table for $30 or less is a real bargain.
Some of us just love a recycling challenge. That’s why I giggled with delight when this table was carried into our ministry center. We had kids working with us under a stimulus grant. A couple of other kids were juvenile offenders who were sent to “volunteer” with us from the court system.
The kids were all were convinced I had lost my mind – again. When the kids saw the finished product they were very proud of their hard work.
This table wasn’t hard to recycle but it was time consuming. A patient beginner could do it. Working on a table like this will take more than one weekend. We spent about two weeks from start to finish.
There are a few things to look for when you pick out thrift shop furniture. Be sure it is in your skill range. Unless you are an advanced craftsperson, be sure that the piece is sturdy and relatively free of the need for complicated repairs. A table should be able to hold weight without being wobbly. If it’s rickety keep looking.
The rusty metal thrift shop table in the photo was very sturdy. To prove this one of our juvenile offenders laid down on the top of it. That’s not the way I like to see a table tested but it worked this time. Fortunately, he was off of the table the second he saw me glance his way so that didn’t happen again.
Our rusty metal thrift shop table was sturdy. It just needed some TLC on the legs and a new coat of paint on the top. Here’s how we were able to recycle the thrift shop table for less than $30.
Supplies and Cost:
Spray Cleanser (on hand, no cost)
Paper Towels (on hand, no cost)
Several Sheets of Paper (on hand, no cost)
Tape (on hand, no cost)
Rubber or Vinyl Gloves (on hand, no cost)
$2 Steel Wool
$3 Metal brushes
$9 – 3 Cans of Red Spray Paint
$6 – 2 Cans of Chrome Spray Paint
$1 – Goggles
$1 – Mask
$6 – 2 Cans of Clear Shiny Polyurethane
The total of purchased supplies was $29. Many of these items came from the dollar store. The other items could be purchased at Ace Hardware or Wal-Mart.
Some of these items have fumes. For this reason you will always want to work outdoors or in a well ventilated area. This project was worked on exclusively outside.
The first thing you want to do is clean the rusty thrift shop table. Remove any cobwebs or loose debris. Spray cleaner and paper towels usually work fine. If the cleaner bothers your hands you can use the gloves.
We took the table outside and placed it on it’s top. This helped us better assess the rusty table legs. A small test area showed that the rust was near the surface of the metal legs instead of being deep. This was good news. The deeper the rust is the less likely it is to be an easy fix.
It took the entire set of wire brushes and most of the steel wool to get the rust off of the table legs. We also used coarse sandpaper. Particles can fly and be carried on the wind.
Use a mask and goggles for this part of the job.
It is important to remove as much rust as possible from the thrift shop table. After the rust is removed we rinsed the legs with water and let them dry overnight.
The next day we came in and reassessed the rusty metal table to be sure that all the rust was removed. Then, we wiped the legs down with a tack cloth to remove any remaining particles. The table was ready to paint when all the rust was removed.
For the paint, we used chrome RustOleum for the legs and red RustOleum for the top. There are other brands of paint that you can use. This is my favorite so far. It is easy to use, has good coverage and holds up well.
(Note: Even though it looks bad in the photos the table legs only had light rust. For heavy rust, a metal paint primer needs to be applied before the top coat can be sprayed on. Simply apply the primer and let the project sit overnight. Then apply the top coat.)
Cover any area with paper that you don’t want painted. Use old newspaper and secure in place with tape.
Hold the paint can about 18″ from the rusty metal table. Use short quick strokes. Several light coats of spray paint work better than one heavy coat. Let the paint dry thoroughly between coats. Repeat as necessary.
We let the legs on the rusty metal table dry overnight. Over the next few days a second and then a third coat was applied. You have enough paint coverage when there are no dull spots coming through the shiny paint. When you are satisfied with the coverage, remove the paper and check for any areas that need to be touched up with the spray paint.
Next, we were able to tackle the table top. First, we re-cleaned the top of the table and let it dry. Next, we covered the legs of the thrift shop table with newspaper and secured in place with tape. Then the table top was covered in several layers of red RustOleum spray paint.
A larger area can be harder to get smooth. Use several layers of the spray paint. Apply it as you did before with short strokes and plenty of drying time in between the layers.
For the last step, the thrift shop table was coated in several layers of shiny clear polyurethane. The polyurethane was allowed to dry thoroughly before the table was used at the ministry center.
This, my friends, is how to recycle a rusty metal thrift shop table for less than $30. We think the results are rather stunning. How about you?
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