Tom's first step in the restoration process is to strip several coats of old paint from the iron base and apply a wax layer to protect it from rust. Tom replaces the tabletop altogether with a 3/4-inch birch plywood.
To form a lip on the underside of the tabletop, he glues 1-by-2-inch strips of wood along the edges of the underside. Using a countersink drill bit, he makes three holes on each short length and four holes on each long side (a total of 14 holes), and uses 1-inch wood screws and glue to secure the strips.
Because leather is much easier to manipulate when wet and shrinks as it dries, creating a nice, taut surface, you should complete this project in one sitting, before the leather dries completely.
- 5-ounce piece of leather (a few inches bigger than your tabletop on all sides)
- Staple gun
- Protective goggles
- Tailor's chalk
- Scissors or utility knife
- Upholstery tacks
Soak leather in hot water until completely saturated, about 5 minutes. Place leather facedown on work surface. Center tabletop facedown on leather.
Stretch leather around the lip of one side of the tabletop. Using a staple gun (be sure to wear goggles if you are using an electric staple gun), staple the leather to the center of the inside edge of the lip first, then staple outward. Don't staple all the way to the end; leave some space to create the corners, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches. Pull leather taut, and repeat on all sides.
To make the corners: Take one corner of the leather in hand. Fold the longer side of the leather over the corner of the table frame. Using tailor's chalk, draw a line on the leather from the outer corner of the frame to the inner corner, creating a mitered corner.
Put in two or three staples just to one side of the chalk line. Pull the leather straight out and taut, and flatten it along the outside edge of the table frame; secure with two staples on that outside edge. This will produce flaps of leather on either side of the staples.
Using scissors or a utility knife, cut the leather along the chalk line. When you reach the staples, cut around them, so they continue to hold the leather down. Continue cutting down the corner of the frame and around the second set of staples, so they also continue to hold the leather in place.
Pull the flap of leather straight up, and draw a line on the underside of the leather, following the edge of the frame. Cut along the line.
Pull the remaining loose leather up and over the frame across the corner, covering the line you drew earlier. Draw a line from the corner of the table frame inward (on top of the one you drew earlier), creating a mitered corner. Put in three staples directly on the chalk line.
Cut the leather neatly along the chalk line and close to the staples, so they continue to hold down the leather; remove the excess triangular flap of leather. Staple the remaining loose leather to the inside edge of the frame to secure. Repeat process on all sides.
To finish the tabletop: Using the inside edge of the lip as a guide, trim the excess leather on the underside of the tabletop.
Use two or three upholstery tacks to hold the leather in place on the outside edges of the tabletop on each corner (where they're visible when the tabletop is in place).