Retrocraft Design

Zinc Table Toppers

Zinc Table Toppers
In the category of “never-done-it-before-but-how-hard-can-it-be,” we present the zinc top table.  Okay, it wasn’t that easy but definitely doable for the handy do-it-yourselfer with tenacity. And the results are pretty pleasing!  It is great way to salvage a table with an interesting base but hopelessly ruined top, or to give a table or other piece of furniture a new look.  We loved the lines of the antique table we choose for the project, but the veneer on the top had cracked and bubbled.  After some research, we decided a zinc top was the way to go.

In the course of our research, we discovered Rotometals, a California based company that sells sheet metal and metal products. They also provide helpful online instructional videos and were willing to help answer my technical questions by phone. On Rotometals advice, we mail ordered a .027 zinc sheet for our project, as well as, solder, flux, glue, cupric sulfate patina and zinc sealer.

We started by making sure the top was smooth by removing the bumpy old veneer and filling holes with joint compound.
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We cut the zinc sheet with heavy-duty clippers, large enough to fold under the top of the table and then glued it down, placing 20 lb bags of sand on it to remove air bubbles and aid with adherence.  After letting it dry for two days, we cut the corners and folded the edges down, using a board and a mallet, and nailed the zinc under the table edge.  We also nailed on quarter round wood molding under the table to cover the sharp uneven edge of the zinc.  

That all went pretty well until we had to solder the rough edged cut corners together.  Soldering is more challenging than one would think. We’re not ready to do all our home plumbing but we started to get some feel for the process after repeated failures. Important lesson #1: the soldering tool has to be hot! After trying a couple of borrowed soldering irons and experiencing a lot of frustration, we purchased an 80-watt soldering tool, the most powerful option our local hardware store offers. The tip of the iron has to reach about 1000 degrees to melt the zinc solder.  You can use any solder but a solder without lead is recommended if you intend to use the table for dining and if you want to avoid lead fumes when soldering.  We used a lead free solder that was 85% tin and 15% zinc. Don’t worry if the solder looks bumpy—use a file and sandpaper to smooth it.

We wanted to give the zinc an aged look to complement the antique base.  After testing the cupric sulfate patina solution in varying degrees of concentration (the solution can be diluted with water) on several pieces of scrap zinc to achieve the desired color (higher concentration levels result in more blackening of the zinc), we applied the patina solution to the top with a brush.  The treated zinc must then be protected with three coats of a zinc sealer to guard against UV damage, which can further alter the color of the zinc, as well as corrosion, abrasion and humidity.
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As for the rest of the piece, we sanded the wood, removing some of the old finish but not all, to give it a distressed look. We finished the entire piece off with a coat of butchers wax.

Bet you feel inspired now!