How to Refinish a Vintage Mid Century Tray

Ahh mid century modern. Want to give the trend a try without the big commitment (and chunk of change)? There are lots of vintage MCM accessories out there for anyone willing to put in a little elbow grease. Today’s post guides intrepid MCM hunters through refinishing a vintage teak tray.

Dansk Denmark Teak Tray

I bought this beauty off ebay for $26. It’s a vintage Dansk Designs Denmark tray from around the 1960s. There are a lot of these Dansk trays floating around on ebay, craigslist, etc. You can read more about markings which help roughly identify the age of the piece here and here. In general, pieces marked Denmark are older as Dansk moved manufacturing to Thailand, Taiwan, etc. in later years once available wood dried up in Denmark.

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It was priced on the lower side possibly due to these markings and general used condition. Nothing chipped or cracked, but overall very dry. You can see an obvious dry spot/scratch near the upper right corner of the picture.


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To refinish a teak tray you’ll need the following:

  1. teak oil (I recommend Watco which is a true penetrating oil mixed with some mineral spirits to help absorption). Note teak oil is not food safe. If you plan on using your tray for food stuffs, I recommend Hope’s 100% Tung oil, mixed with mineral spirits for absorption.
  2. cloth (microfiber or cotton)
  3. acetone (nail polish remover) + q tip
  4. and of course, nitrile gloves for safety (not pictured)

Before beginning, wipe down the tray with a damp paper towel to remove any dust, dried stuff, etc. After letting it dry, it’s time to refinish!


Step 1: Check for any old finishes on the tray. Most vintage teak trays are treated with teak oil, which can simply be reapplied once worn off. You can tell if there’s any other kind of finish on the tray if there seems to be a shiny layer. If in doubt, use the acetone method.

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Soak the head of the q tip in acetone and wipe the q tip in an unnoticeable area on the tray. If anything bubbles or you notice the area you wiped looks different from the rest, you’ll need to do an extra step (buy paint stripper, follow the instructions. A safe alternative to the usual mineral spirits is Citristrip). It’s normal to get a little brown or yellow colour transfer from the wood onto the q tip.

Once you’ve determined there’s no finish on the tray…

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Step 2: Bring your tray to an outdoor, well ventilated space. Teak oil is still a hazardous substance! Make sure to put on your nitrile gloves as well.

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Open the teak oil and pour liberally onto the cloth. Some people like pouring directly onto the wood. I prefer the cloth as it’s easier to control and get an even application.

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Wipe liberally over the teak, pouring more onto the cloth if the wood soaks up the teak oil quickly. Wipe following the grain of the wood.

Wait 30 minutes. Then reapply liberally. Wait 15 min. Wipe off excess.

Step 3: Let dry in a well-ventilated space. I put mine in the garage with the windows open. It takes at least a day for the finish to really dry. So if you want to finish both top and bottom, you’ll have to divide the task over two days.

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And that’s it! Your new-to-you teak tray is ready to use. The teak oil will help fend off stains and water marks. It’s also super easy to reapply more if you find some dry spots a few days later. Just repeat steps 2-3.

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You can really see the difference after applying the oil. The tray is much glossier and warmer in color. That dry scratch has also completely disappeared.

Before (left) and after (right) for comparison.

 

Happy vintage MCM hunting readers! Would love to hear about your refinishing projects in the comments!

October 3, 2016
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