Projects & Improvements

Before & After: The Inspiring Rescue of a Heywood Wakefield Gateleg

published Sep 11, 2014
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(Image credit: John Zuerlein )

We love a good rescue and that’s exactly what John gave this Heywood Wakefield Gateleg table. His journey included Craigslist, ebay, lots of research and even more elbow grease but his results will blow you away.

(Image credit: John Zuerlein )

From John:

I had been wanting one of these tables for a long time. They’re not so rare that you can’t find them, but in nice condition, they can be over $800. I found this one on Craigslist listed at $250. I went to see it, and it was ROUGH…but I’ve done quite a bit of refinishing, so I knew it could be saved. The legs were in good shape, but the top had clearly been used as a plant stand for many years and had lots of water and sun damage. I was able to talk the guy down to $200.

The problem with Heywood Wakefield pieces of this era is that, they appear to just be clear coated, they’re not. The shellac they used was pigmented. If you just strip them and clear coat them, they look striped because you can see the pieces of wood joined to make the table tops.

A friend of mine told me about a guy on ebay who has perfected the finish. I figured it couldn’t look any worse than it currently did, so I found the guy and I bought one quart of the Wheat finish. It is NOT cheap. But it goes a LONG way. The quart was $45, but it was the best $45 I’ve ever spent on a project.

After a thorough stripping and sanding, I started with the shellac. It is AMAZING. I simply wiped it on with an old tshirt. The seller recommends 3 or 4 layers. I went with 4. Just a light sanding in between coats.

The after speaks for itself. I plan on enjoying this versatile table for many years.