How should I fix the laminate/finish on this vintage sewing machine table?

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Forum topic by ForestQuail posted 08-02-2019 12:16 PM 740 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 132 days

08-02-2019 12:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing refurbishing

Hello, does anyone have any idea on how to fix up this table? The table is from the 60’s or 70’s and is a brother sewing machine table. I bought it more for the machine but I would like to make the table look a bit better than it does now. I don’t have much experience with this type of stuff so I don’t want to ruin it by accident.

I’m not sure if laminate is the right term, but I’ll just call it that for now. Whatever it’s made out of it feels sort of like plastic and has a wrinkled appearance. There’s also a very specific chemical smell not sure if that’s from the laminate or not. The top of the table has some greyish/white spots where I think water must’ve been spilled a few times. Can anyone tell me how to fix it if possible? For example should I take off the laminate and put veneer or something?

The legs of the table are solid wood, they have a few dents and scratches but nothing too bad. The finish on those spots is missing, so I’m wondering how I should go about fixing them?

Thanks :)

12 replies so far

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2086 posts in 727 days

#1 posted 08-02-2019 12:31 PM

I have one exactly like that. and I see them in Thrift Stores
rather cheap ($25). so there is no real “vintage” price to put on it.
you can repair and finish it to any degree you like.
removing the Formica laminate top is more trouble than it is worth.
the chemical smell is most likely machine oil that has been applied over the years.

Afterthought: take a little lacquer thinner and dab it on the backside edge of the
table top . . . . you might get lucky and it “could” be a wood veneer and not plastic
if the finish does not come off, it is plastic. if the finish comes off, it may
be a wood veneer. if it is all wood, then you could strip and refinish it if you wanted.
but, without some kind of experience, it could be a pretty frustrating project.
(but a nice “practice” project if you wanted to try your hand at it).
as SMP said below, do a good cleaning first to determine what you have.

if you do have an “all wood” cabinet, this is how it would look all cleaned up and refinished:

-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

View SMP's profile


1462 posts in 470 days

#2 posted 08-02-2019 12:37 PM

Honestly i’d probably just get Howards Restor a finish in a similar tone and use that to clean it up/refresh and put it to use. It would be easier to just make a new one from scratch than trying to replace some parts with wood.

View Ocelot's profile


2374 posts in 3202 days

#3 posted 08-02-2019 05:45 PM

I have essentially the same cabinet, but with New Home machine in it. It was my Mom’s. All steel, that machine, probably 4x as heavy as my wife’s current machine. My cabinet is all wood, and from late 70’s or maybe 1980, it’s also in the way and not being used.

View ForestQuail's profile


4 posts in 132 days

#4 posted 08-02-2019 10:43 PM

I’ve taken a few more photos, which hopefully show the laminate better than the first ones. I also added a picture of what’s under some of the peeling laminate.

I don’t think I have any lacquer thinner, would sanding a bit off the back work instead? Assuming it is laminate, and taking off the laminate is too difficult, could I instead paint over the laminate?

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2086 posts in 727 days

#5 posted 08-02-2019 10:59 PM

thanks for the additional photos.
spot sanding “may” tell if it is wood.
vintage veneer could be plastic, wood or paper with a woodgrain finish.
I have seen both real wood veneer and wood grain Formica tops of that era.
get a butter knife and paint spatula and start peeling the top off,
IF that is what you want to do. BUT – all you will have is a piece of raw
3/4” plywood – so you may as well just build a new top from scratch.
I still agree with SMP – a good cleaning and put it into use.
and yes, it is very okay to do any kind of antique faux finish or paint it.
you said you only bought it for the motor.
what are you plans now ? to build a new cabinet for the machine ?

Repurposed Vintage Sewing Machine Cabinets:


-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

View Lazyman's profile


4203 posts in 1952 days

#6 posted 08-03-2019 03:20 PM

The closeups of the top look like a vinyl covering to me. More like a contact paper than a laminate. Those became pretty common in the 70’s and are still common on the cheap “wood finish” furniture you buy from Target, Walmart and Ikea. I probably would not mess with it unless you want to completely remove it and paint it or apply a new veneer to it. While it doesn’t look too nice, I am afraid it will look worse if you try to fix it.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View johnstoneb's profile


3131 posts in 2737 days

#7 posted 08-03-2019 06:00 PM

Lazyman hit the nail on the head. The only way to deal with it is paint over it or replace with a new actual veneer or formica.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Ocelot's profile


2374 posts in 3202 days

#8 posted 08-04-2019 03:29 AM

I looked at mine today, in a dim light with my poor eyes.. .. can’t tell if it is veneer or vinyl.

But …on the bottom of the the hinged up part was a date stamp. Dec 1 1967. My memory wasn’t so good.

View ForestQuail's profile


4 posts in 132 days

#9 posted 08-06-2019 01:22 AM

Thanks for the replies,
I think I’m just going to paint over it and then use the table for something else. I’ll get a new table for the machine eventually, but its fine for now. I would love to build a table for it myself but I’m not at that level yet, maybe some day. :)

View LittleShaver's profile


600 posts in 1184 days

#10 posted 08-06-2019 03:00 PM

The “hard” parts are done. You have all the hardware and perfect templates for the top. I would make a new top. If you don’t want to try matching stains, then consider painting the top to contrast. Could be a great project to expand your skills.

-- Sawdust Maker

View Woodknack's profile


12945 posts in 2944 days

#11 posted 08-06-2019 06:04 PM

Agree with Nathan, the top looks bubbly and is probably paper or vinyl veneer.

-- Rick M,

View Kelly's profile


2536 posts in 3508 days

#12 posted 08-06-2019 08:54 PM

As to removing the laminate from flat surfaces, I use a regular clothing iron when laminate breaks lose. It re-activates the glue. Accordingly, you could use an iron to activate the glue and remove it.

I have a couple travel irons I keep just for that purpose. I run them on steam setting.

Some furniture actually has nice wood under the veneer or laminate. I’ve cleaned up a few old dressers and ended up with treasures.

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