Retro Chrome Table Redo

Written By petite karinne on Friday, December 5, 2014 | 10:07 AM

The story of a table that almost wasn't. 

A friend contacted me and said she had this table and wanted to know if I could do anything with it. I jumped at it and said "Yes!" 

My mom has been wanting a vintage chrome table for some time and this was a perfect opportunity!  I told Darlene that this would go to a good home and I'll do my best with it. 

So I told mom I got my hands on one and wanted to know how she wanted it done. Of course she wanted red to match her decor and as a reminder of the table my grandmother had. The legs were badly rust pitted, so I asked if she wanted paint color or chrome. She wanted chrome.

The main table top was chipped and scratched up. My first thought was to fill, prime and paint using a rag roll method to replicate the original "cracked ice" formica.

Retro Laminate Cracked Ice Red
50's "Cracked Ice" formica in red. 

The leaf extensions were in far better condition.

The legs were scary and challenging.

I used everything and every method to clean them. Sanding, chemicals, natural ingredients and even vinegar... ketchup... a next time this happens, I'll get a grinder.

After three weeks of chewing up all of my dremel wire and sanding wheels, the pitting remained deep. This was the best I could get the legs.

Getting the legs to the best I could, priming them helped to smooth out the pitting.

Then on to layer some chrome... well, I am no pro and I know chrome dipping is dangerous. To have it done professionally is extremely expensive. Certainly way out of my budget.

So for the first coat,  I used a crafting spray on paint, "Mirror Glass".
It didn't appear mirror glass at all.
For the next coat, I used Krylon Color Master paint and primer in  Brilliant Silver. It worked much better. It was followed up with two more even sprayed coats to ensure a good coverage.

I scratched the idea of painting a faux "cracked ice" formica in fear I wouldn't get it right and end up with a pile of enameled mess. Thinking a decoupage red gingham fabric followed with resin or a hardened polyurethane top would match the kitchen decor, I got 3 yards of it to cover the table and the extensions. In attempt to do a test run, I tried it on one leaf.

It was a very bad idea.

Being a lined, checkered design and a thin fabric, it zig zagged. It frayed. The original tabletop showed through the fabric. The edges wouldn't finish off on the chromed edges. It was ugly. Putting a clear coat on this mess would only accentuate the disaster. I could've peeled it off, primed and painted and started over but didn't feel confident the edges would seal nicely with fraying fabric. So I just peeled it off and cleaned off the surface.


So I checked back with ordering the oil cloth I previously used to upholster the vintage kitchen chairs. I got the material in two days for the chairs and could still get this done in time. Of course, as my luck has it lately, it sold out. So I was off to the fabric store for ANY oil cloth. I managed to get 3 yards of the same red gingham I ordered previously. My luck changed!

I tried it on one of the leaf pieces with spray adhesive...

it went on like a dream. Using a rolling pin to ensure an even layer, it didn't even have a single air bubble. It finished off on the edges perfectly with a razor blade, laying into the crevices. The leaf looked like it had been manufactured with a permanent table cloth, but very durable, scrubbable and... it is red gingham. I heard the Angels sing.

Because I wanted to be sure of no air bubbles on the top, I left the edges open and used contact cement to fold them over on each side of the leaf.

Then on to cleaning the chrome banding around the edge. 
The dull gray is a natural effect on chrome. Normal cleaning and buffing eliminates dulling but this table has been stored for a very long time. Using Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish to buff the chrome...

brought the shine back. The scratches and dings are still there, but cleaned out nicely.

After finishing both leaf extensions, I moved on to the main table part. Again, the oil cloth laid very well. I loved it.

It trimmed off perfectly!

I ran out of contact cement and tried rubber cement to secure the inside edges. Unlike contact cement, it remained wet longer. So I taped it down to hold for a few hours.

Another failure! 

When I returned to the progress... I cried. I cursed. I... almost gave up.

The rubber cement and its vapors found its way into the oil cloth and half way through the table top. It made rippling waves and huge air bubbles; basically ruined the entire job. After spending the night and wee hours of the morning, gluing with new contact cement and trying to pin and press out bubbles and ripples, I was defeated. It couldn't be corrected. What a huge waste of time, work and money.  I had to peel off the oil cloth and use mineral spirits and a lot of hot water and soap to remove the adhesive. It was a sticky and miserable job.

Back to square one.

So, after picking myself up off the floor I prepared the top for painting.
It looked amazing already with white enamel.

Now with a white glossy top... what to do? It was too plain. No red and I need red. I thought of stenciling some kind of design. But this style table needs "inlay" like the vintage formicas, not layers and layers could possibly lead to peeling and chipping.  I even thought of ordering red "cracked ice" formica to completely restore the top, but at $350 plus shipping and no time, it couldn't be a consideration.

I placed on one of the table extensions with the oil cloth still intact.
And liked it.
There was the design.
And it was red.
And it matches the gingham kitchen! So vintage looking too! By golly, I think this challenge is over!

Next, Mom's birthday gift. I ran down to Aunt Katie's Attic, a local vintage retailer and got my mom four old pyrex bowls.  She wanted yellow but I got  red, orange and green too.  Scored!

I really put myself under pressure for this project. First, the table was given to me by someone who loved the table and hated to part with it. She felt I was the right person to give it to. I didn't want to let her down, and knowing my mom wanted one, I wanted it perfect for her. I had other projects finishing up simultaneously with the same deadline; plus I had my mom's birthday, Thanksgiving, and a snowstorm that almost ended up in no Thanksgiving trip back north after all of this. My stress level was high.

Vintage all coming together. I am breathing now.

The cracked ice replacement is still a consideration, but I'll need to make a lot of extra money first.

Retro Laminate Cracked Ice Red We have metal banding 

This table was my most challenging project to date.

But I think it was all worth the troubles. 

And the storm cleared for the trip north for Thanksgiving!  (Insert huge smile here.)


Blog Archive

Popular Posts

Powered by Blogger.