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Dining Room Tables


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We bought table pads along with our dining room table. The table is so pretty it seems a shame to cover it up. Depending upon what type of entertaining we are doing, we use the pads + table cloth or placemats with a runner down the middle of the table.

The table has lots of light scratches in it, depending on the light, but none that would be considered gouges. How do you care for your table? Do you cover it up and protect it or is there a way to enjoy the beautiful wood and not destroy it?

Many years ago my mother decided to coat her dining room table with multiple coats of polyurethene and forget about the pads and cloth. I'm wondering if that is the way to go.

KathyM

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Many years ago my mother decided to coat her dining room table with multiple coats of polyurethene and forget about the pads and cloth.  I'm wondering if that is the way to go.

As a woodworker I consider "multiple coats of polyurethane" a crime! Cover it when in use, use a good quality polish and enjoy its soft natural gleam at other times.

Edited to add: and don't leave the pads on it when it is not in use. They'll dull the finish over a period of time.

Edited by Ted Fairhead (log)
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As a woodworker I consider "multiple coats of polyurethane" a crime! Cover it when in use, use a good quality polish and enjoy its soft natural gleam at other times.

Edited to add: and don't leave the pads on it when it is not in use.  They'll dull the finish over a period of time.

This is pretty much what I do. cover it with a pad and tablecloth for use, and leave it uncovered all other times.

Marlene

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Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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As a woodworker I consider "multiple coats of polyurethane" a crime! Cover it when in use, use a good quality polish and enjoy its soft natural gleam at other times.

Edited to add: and don't leave the pads on it when it is not in use.  They'll dull the finish over a period of time.

This is pretty much what I do. cover it with a pad and tablecloth for use, and leave it uncovered all other times.

Uncovered when not in use.

When in use, a felt-backed vinyl pad, then a tablecloth. Sometime a runner or two on or three on top of all that.

I can't imagine ever using just place mats on the bare, unprotected table. So why did I buy 12 place mats? I guess so that my daughter will have them in the same tablecloth pattern in case she's more brave than I am.

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The only times my grandmothers table doesnt have the pads on it is when they are opening or folding the center leaf...ooooh fancy table who the hell knows its Covered all the time. So its 50 years old and in perfect condition...who the hell knows its Covered all the time

BAH

I use table cloths on the holidays just because I have to use folding tables to fit everyone

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I use tablecloths for when I go fancy, and leave it bare other times (it's a butcher-block table that's very pretty uncovered), and it does get scratches and a few other mars. But I don't like to be a slave to my possessions, and I can live with the imperfections it gathers. I remember the good times had at the table, and those mean more to me than a piece of furniture in perfect condition.

I use the natural wood with certain meals and sets of dishes, placemats on it for reasons of aesthetics when the plating seems to call for it, and varying degrees of tablecloth, from rustic, to formal, depending on the occasion.

Here's an example of when I go all-out formal

gallery_11181_3830_2907.jpg

and here's stuff served with the bare table

gallery_11181_3830_20716.jpg

edited to add photos as an afterthought

Edited by markk (log)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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My table is old, and my kids grew up doing their homework on it, so I only cover it when guests come over. I figure my things are here to take care of me, not the other way around. I buy nice things from yard sales so I don't have to worry about how much they cost.

I bought a very nice looking but inexpensive tablecloth recently. When my husband had some of his students over for dinner, some of them seemed nervous so I told them the tablecloth wasn't expensive; don't worry if you spill. And one of them did spill a glass of red wine and someone else their lasagna. The stains came out, but I was more concerned about people feeling comfortable in my house.

And I'm comfortable with a bare table with a multitude of scratches, so it doesn't bother me.

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I have an old table, it's supposed to be an antique and I polyurethaned it. Previously one of the pizza carry-out boxes slid off the towel and left an awful white spot on the wood that would not budge. So I refinished the whole table top and polyurethaned it so it would be durable & never happen again. Then stumbled across the easy peasy get-the-white-out stuff at the store. :rolleyes:

However, my story has to do with some very chi-chi people whose very fancy house was being used by a relative for a wedding reception. The cake was small but deadly heavy and it was a long winding way from the car to the table through a narrow passageway around a lot of milling people.

I'm hovering with a $600 cake, very ready to set it down before I drop the thing, and we get into a 'discussion' about what I later realized was a really beautiful table inlaid and gorgeous. Dude wants me to guarantee that the masonite cake board will not scratch their precious tabletop. Agh, before I built the cake might have been a more opportune time to discuss this. At this point my eyes are watering bulging out of their sockets, cahhn't breathe must set cake down...It probably won't scratch it but I'm under some duress here and I'll be damned if I make some ridiculous guarantee so they can continue to show off a stupid table. Agh no, no guarantees.

I mean you can't really hug a cake to keep it off the floor, to undo some of the stress on your arms. You can't really grimace or squeal and be unprofessional and say, I'm gonna drop this on your fricken floor so long as it's not inlaid too of course. But they found a towel eventually and I got to set it down. And they did not cover up that ego laden table.

I mean the table had a paper doily on it to set the cake on. An expensive work of art on a paper doily. So God forbid we cover the table with a cloth and none of the guests can partake of it's beauty. They get a kitchen towel and fold it up to make a worthy barrier for the sweet traditon run amuck amongst their finery. A sweet bull in a sour china shop. They showcase a masterpiece cake on a terry cloth towel.

I like my polyurethane. I can set anything I want on there. No worries. So shoot me.

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I'm glad to see I have company in the uncovered table camp. Before purchasing our current table, we had a big piece of plywood on the previous very small table to accomodate family gatherings of 12 or more. We kept a tablecloth in place to hide the our "leaves". The current table has beautiful woodwork just under the table top and around the tops of the legs. It seems like such a shame to keep it shrouded.

Good point about expensive tablecloths. We have a few beauties from my mother-in-law that came from Italy. They terrify me! The polyester blend cloths I own are easy to throw in the wash but some stains just never come out and you end up with oily dark spots. Red wine, tomato sauce and espresso are permanently imbedded in these "easy to clean" cloths.

I might try using one of the "good" cloths this weekend. We have a small group coming for dinner. These cloths are smallish and do not fit the table with all the leaves in. I'll have to bite the bullet when something stains them. It's them or the table! What good is it to have nice things if you are afraid to use them? We might just as well all have cheap tables and keep them covered up.

KathyM

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What good is it to have nice things if you are afraid to use them?

My feelings exactly!

My mother-in-law inherited an old dining room table, and a secretary to match. The finish on both had deteriorated to the point where they needed to be stripped and redone, if they were to be usable. She chose to use a polyurethane finish, and that table and secretary now see everyday use without fear of destruction.

It drives me bonkers when I see one of the experts on Antiques Road Show bemoan someone's refinishing job on an antique. To me, an antique is worth far more if it is actually used. (And if it's really worth that much, I'd rather donate it to a museum and get a tax deduction for it, rather than worry about getting it insured!)

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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What good is it to have nice things if you are afraid to use them? 

I must digress only slightly from the topic of tablecloths to tell a relevant story. It's about bringing a bottle of very fine old Bordeaux to somebody's house, because the other guest, a friend of mine, is also a wine collector, and I wanted to share it with him. And it was his brother's house. So after we opened the wine, his wife asked the brother (whose house it was) for wine glasses, and was given some green-frosted plastic ones for picnic use. And she said, "I'm not drinking fine wine out of a plastic glass!" He then opened a cupboard and pointed to a mismatched set of jelly-jar glasses, and she said "I'm not drinking fine wine out of a jelly-jar either!" (I should add now that our "host" is a fifty year old hippie.)

So she marched into the dining room to the breakfront, and took out three wine glasses, and her brother-in-law screamed "Those are the Baccarat glasses !!!!" And she replied, "how perfect - the wine is a 1982 Leoville Las Cases [a very great wine from a very great vintage]."

And our "host" said, "You can't use those! They cost $65 apiece !!"

And she said, "Are you telling me that of all people, you spent $65 apiece on wine glasses?"

And he said, "Hell no! They were a wedding present 12 years ago."

And she said, "And don't you use them?"

And he said, "Of course not."

And she said, "You've never used them, or set your table with them, in the 12 years you've had them?"

And he said "No, of course not. One of them might break!"

And she said, "Well, if one of them breaks you can buy another."

And he said, "Why would I buy another? I'm not paying $65 to replace something we never use !!!"

And she said, "Well, if you never use them, and one breaks, you won't miss it then..." and she rinsed them, dried them, and poured the wine into them.

And he screamed, "If one of them breaks and I don't replace it, then I'll only have a set of 5 for the breakfront" and ran off crying.

Things break with use. Things get scratched, and stained. You gotta be grateful that you have nice things, and even more grateful that you have friends who will accidentally break, stain, and scratch them.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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What good is it to have nice things if you are afraid to use them? 

And our "host" said, "You can't use those! They cost $65 apiece !!"

And she said, "Are you telling me that of all people, you spent $65 apiece on wine glasses?"

And he said, "Hell no! They were a wedding present 12 years ago."

And she said, "And don't you use them?"

And he said, "Of course not."

And she said, "You've never used them, or set your table with them, in the 12 years you've had them?"

And he said "No, of course not. One of them might break!"

And she said, "Well, if one of them breaks you can buy another."

And he said, "Why would I buy another? I'm not paying $65 to replace something we never use !!!"

And she said, "Well, if you never use them, and one breaks, you won't miss it then..." and she rinsed them, dried them, and poured the wine into them.

And he screamed, "If one of them breaks and I don't replace it, then I'll only have a set of 5 for the breakfront" and ran off crying.

Things break with use. Things get scratched, and stained. You gotta be grateful that you have nice things, and even more grateful that you have friends who will accidentally break, stain, and scratch them.

Everyone is probably guilty of one form or another of this. We finally gave away the Waterford crystal glasses because of undue anxiety when using and cleaning them.

We're going to use that fancy table cloth this weekend along with Grandma's dishes that I can't find replacement pieces for. We'll also continue eating at the good table every day using place mats and trying our best not to mess it up. I'm still thinking about the polyurethane, but that will wait for another day.

KathyM

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I have a rather unique table.

gallery_6263_35_42374.jpg

The middle part is a lazy susan, and my parents bought it years ago for a song in Thailand.

I do believe it has a lacquered finish, and I'm not sure the best way to maintain this. Anyone have any suggestions?

But, it's obviously not a candidate for pads and a table cloth, so I use placemats (some really great cheap ones from Target which are reversible (lime green to blue and orange to shocking pink).

But, I have not one, not two, but over a dozen brocade table clothes from my grandmothers. I'm just about to cut these up and make placemats for "fancy" meals. Any suggestions on making placemats? Line two layers with a slightly stiff interfacing?

This is our family table, the one I grew up around, so my kids are growing up around it. Sure, it has a few nicks in the finish, but I figure that someday the kids will be gone, and once we've gotten through college, we can have it refinished and enjoy it's pristine beauty. But, I would trade a single nick for the discussions, arguments, tears, smiles and absolutely priceless meals we've celebrated around this table (I've celebrated just about 40 birthdays of my own around this beauty).

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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We have a large oriental lacquered dinning room table that I think is walnut. Very beautiful wood. We only use the dinning room when we have guests for dinner and usually eat at the kitchen island counter or previously at the kitchen table. My wife insists on pads and a table cloth when we use the table. I've seen enough spills over the years to think this is a good idea.

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. . .

Things break with use.  Things get scratched, and stained.  You gotta be grateful that you have nice things, and even more grateful that you have friends who will accidentally break, stain, and scratch them.

Thanks for saying it so much better than I could!

Every time I see the huge gouge in our buffet I am reminded that our elderly friend took a nasty tumble but the red stuff that I wiped up from everywhere was wine not his blood! (NO! he wasn't drinking but sent wine bottles and glasses flying off the buffet as he tried to save himself.) The beet stain in the carpet is a reminder of a wonderful visit from my sister who was helping clear the table and tripped with the pickled beets in her hand. Only the carpet suffered! When things are broken or damaged accidentally around here I try to point out that it's just STUFF and stuff is not nearly so valuable as people and their feelings.

My table is covered now not to protect it but to make it look a little more civilized since its age and use are showing beyond "patina". But I have no regrets. I just remember the fun times we have had around it.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

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My own dining table is relatively inexpensive but is old teak and pretty wood, so I use a runner as an accent and as a safe place for placing hot or messy platters full of food.

My role model is a friend of both taste and money. His dining room table is an antique George Nakashima--a collectible, really--which is too beautiful to cover with anything. He entertains often and informally, so that no one worries much about the fact that the value of his table is far more than that of our collective, recently renovated kitchens. He keeps plenty of coasters around for water and wine glasses, and puts trivets under serving pieces. Things get spilled or dripped, we wipe it up. Valuable, yes, but to be enjoyed with friends, not in a museum.


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I'm a woodworker also (actually, a furniture maker; there's a difference), and I made my dining table (42" x 102") of solid 2" thick teak in 1983. I finished it in polyurethane and I leave it bare, always. It doubles as my office table when no guests. My wife lays out placemats when we have company over, for looks, only. The table is still gorgeous, even with the inevitable dings and scratches. We love it, as does everyone else who sees it.

Ray

Edited by ray goud (log)
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Character, that's what it is! If I'm going to cover the table up, why spend any money at all on a nice one? Might as well use a card table or a sheet of plywood.

We use a runner to accent the beautiful wood on our dining room table but over the years it has accumulated its share (or more) of dings, scratches, and nicks. And you know what? I'm pleased to have them. Adds character. It means the table has been used. If I want to see a pristine, mirror-like finish, I'll go to a museum. As long as I live in my (oops, our) house, I want to use the things we own--not entomb them.

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le goût de ce qu'elles sont."

Curnonsky (Maurice Edmond Sailland)

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To raid unsupervised food, our now-departed Jack Russell terrier mix used to take a running leap onto the dining table, and then scrabble with his claws to avoid sliding off the far end. These surreptitious canine incursions left several rows of paralled gouges on the soft pine tabletop. Combined with the unremovable remnants of various family projects, these dings commemorate the table’s 20-year service as central hub of the household. Not bad for an inexpensive flat-pack table, hauled from Ikea in a subcompact hatchback, and disassembled and moved from apartment to apartment and house to house.

When we get a new table, it will not be covered. Sometimes we do break out a tablecloth for parties.

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I'm a woodworker also (actually, a furniture maker; there's a difference), and I made my dining table (42" x 102") of solid 2" thick teak in 1983. I finished it in polyurethane and I leave it bare, always. It doubles as my office table when no guests. My wife lays out placemats when we have company over, for looks, only. The table is still gorgeous, even with the inevitable dings and scratches. We love it, as does everyone else who sees it.

It sounds gorgeous, and must provide a beautiful setting for your food.


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I think I'd have different answers in different circumstances.

The apartment we live in doesn't have a dining room or separate dining area. The pine table in the living room is where we eat, open the mail, wrap presents, work on the scrapbook and otherwise do anything that you need a table for. There's no way we could protect the table without seriously cramping our style, so we just use a cheap table and let the damage occur as it may. When we eat as a family, we just put our plates on the table and eat. We don't even use coasters for glasses. When we have guests over, most of the time we do the same. Only for a special occasion like Passover do we put a tablecloth down. I don't even like tablecloths for home use (how many people at home bother to do what nice restaurants do with pads and underliners?), but it seems like the right thing to do for a formal meal. We're able to keep the table looking pretty decent by cleaning it with Murphy's, and once a few years ago when we refinished our wood floors we had the floor guy sand and refinish the top of the table -- so it looked really nice for a few weeks.

Whereas, if we had a big house with a dedicated dining room and an eat-in kitchen, and we had most of our meals in the kitchen and only used the dining room for entertaining, I suppose we might be tempted to put a table in there that's more of an art object, since we'd have all-purpose tables elsewhere. Then again, the first thing I'd probably try to do to a dining room is break down some walls and make the living-room or kitchen bigger, or convert it into an office or bedroom. The house would need to be pretty damn big before I'd agree to let a dining room occupy a couple of hundred square feet of it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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My table is old, and my kids grew up doing their homework on it, so I only cover it when guests come over.  I figure my things are here to take care of me, not the other way around.  I buy nice things from yard sales so I don't have to worry about how much they cost.

I bought a very nice looking but inexpensive tablecloth recently.  When my husband had some of his students over for dinner, some of them seemed nervous so I told them the tablecloth wasn't expensive; don't worry if you spill.  And one of them did spill a glass of red wine and someone else their lasagna.  The stains came out, but I was more concerned about people feeling comfortable in my house.

And I'm comfortable with a bare table with a multitude of scratches, so it doesn't bother me.

I so agree! People should be comfortable, not afraid to enjoy the meal.

My table is a very old pine working table, complete with scratches, gouges, two carved initials, multiple dark stains, and hand made nails holding the top to the legs. I love it. Nothing worse can happen to it - short of a fire! - than has already happened. Food fights are allowed! :biggrin:

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

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The Army moves us around a lot so I knew my table would be taking a beating. So when I went shopping for one, I hit the resale shops and found a formica and chrome table (circa 1953) with tube steel and vinyl chairs. With all of the leafs in, it will seat 8. It may not be dressy, but I love that darned dining set. Back then, they built everything like it was an automobile. I think you could throw the whole thing down the stairs and it wouldn't have much effect at all.

So yea...no need for a table cloth here :biggrin:

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