The case for patina: beyond refinishing and into redemption


Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom. – Psalm 90:12

It’s quiz time. Ready? Okay, here goes:

  • Question: What sounds like a good thing to do when there are only a few days remaining before leaving the country and there are literally scores of deadlines looming and there is hardly time to breathe let alone get ready?
  • Answer (well, according to my wife, Rebekah): “Let’s dismantle, strip, and refinish the antique, huge-normous, dining room table. And all the table extensions.”

Be honest, was that the very first thing that came into your mind? If not then you are probably more like me.

But there is more to this story. Our niece Sarah (rising high school junior) is staying the week and Rebekah thought it would be a fun project to do together; if you like that kind of thing, which Rebekah really does. And Sarah likes doing stuff with her Aunt Rebekah so it’s win-win.

Other than inhaling solvent fumes and warning Rebekah to avoid hurting her back, I’m really not involved at all. But I have been observing and it really is an interesting process.



The stripping – and, yes, we’ve gone through all the “So your preacher aunt is teaching you the ins and outs of stripping” jokes – is an intensive and messy process. And it’s especially gunky when there is more than 100 years of polish, wear, stain, dirt, and poorly applied high-gloss finish to remove.

So, patina. As someone sporting over six decades of day-to-day utilitarian use myself I appreciate the richness and character of applied wear and tear. Our dining room table came to us already sporting a long history, and we have neither the intention nor the ability to remove the deeper scars, the burn marks, the warping or the cracks.

1-IMG_E5516I have heard it said that “character” is who you are when no-one else is looking; but it is also true that character is what we are left with after the world at large has engaged with us, beaten us up here and there, scarred us, burned us, and generally buffeted us to the point that who we are today is an extended story. It’s a story that speaks to our character and at the same time produces our character.

So I would like to think of this furniture project as more of a redemption, a restoration, a rejuvenation, a reclamation, and a reanimation than simply a refinishing.

No bubble wrap if we intend to really live:

1-IMG_5498In our lives we all have experiences that we didn’t necessarily want at the time, that have marked us, bent and sometimes broken us, taken away the original shiny finish we had when we were younger, sometimes made us question everything. But now they help to define us. So while I welcome the rejuvenation and the reanimation that comes from the Spirit of God I don’t ever want to forget (or stop learning from) what I have experienced. And for goodness sake don’t cover me in plastic or bubble-wrap so I won’t get hurt again.

“And,” I pray to God, “please be with me but don’t insulate me from this world, Lord; instead, equip me to help facilitate its healing.”

There is a sense that, as I ease into this stage of my ever-evolving life, there is a richness here I would not/could not have known absent six decades of wear and tear.

So go easy on the reconstruction and the renovation, you don’t get patina like this overnight, you know!





  1. Derek and Rebekah, that’s a beautiful table, although I am sure you’ve don this before, make sure you attach the leaves together and sand again as the alignment dowels may cause unevenness after there joined. I truly enjoy renovating old furniture, our coffee table (originally a kitchen table until the termites got it)is @130 years old hand built by my great grandfather and re finished by my father @ 40 years ago. Jim Wills

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this! It turned out so good! I just started a new blog dedicated to trying out all kinds of new hobbies and documenting the process. My most recent post is about my attempt to give an older dresser some new shine! Check it out!!


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