Done to Death, Newly Corked Table Tops

September 4, 2012Allison Murray


About two years ago I went furniture shopping. I found the sofa of my dreams but had the hardest time finding side tables and storage for cds, the archaic medium that they have become. Searching out the decent furniture shops, which are abundant in the Oklahoma City area, by the by, I couldn’t find a darn thing that I liked.

Then I went to Target of all places and found the perfect, perfect ones! They were huge, square, modern in shape and best of all… each had four cubbies for storage bins and four cubbies for magazines and the like. Sold!

The thing is and was that I knew that they wouldn’t last long. If my Mimmie taught me anything it is that you get what you pay for. Especially with furniture.

Flash forward to modern day and the tops of these tables are jacked. I have some really, really cool melamine Warhol coasters that I got for Christmas. I don’t use them. Instead I will set my sweaty glass of water on an unopened bank statement or a grocery list that bit the dust. The end result on pressed wood with a very thin veneer on top is not pretty.


I looked for new tables. Heck, I looked for the same tables to replace over again because I LOVE them so very much. It looked like it wasn’t meant to be. Walking through the hobby store I saw rolls of cork. Light bulb! Rolling with it.

To recover the tops of your worn tables with cork you will need:

  • Rolls of cork or slabs of cork – both sold a hobby stores
  • X-acto Knife
  • Heavy objects e.g. books, full boxes, cases of sodas
  • Wood glue
  • Wood Stain
  • Rag & Gloves
  • Polyurethane & Brush

First off, a few words about the cork. There are two viable options for your tabletops. First is a roll of cork.  It is 2 feet by 4 feet in size and I believe it is a litle shy of a quarter inch thick. It’s easy to work with and cut with an x-acto knife. But, it is the thinner of the two options. They run around $13 and you can use a discount coupon on them at Hobby Lobby and Michael’s.

I’m not sure what the really thick pieces of cork are technically called, but I only saw them at Hobby Lobby and I believe they were just shy of $20. It looked like they might have been for desk tops, but honestly I didn’t look too closely since I already completed the project with rolls. The size was also 2 feet by 4 feet but I’d say the thickness was closer to an inch. I imagine that it would be easier to cut with a utility knife than an x-acto knife.

Since my tables were 2 feet by almost 2 feet, one roll should have been sufficient. What I didn’t count on was at the end of the roll finding about six inches of corner  missing. So… unroll and carefully check before you start cutting. Because I didn’t do that, my cost for the project doubled due to having to buy another roll.

STEP 1: You can see my irritatingly scratched and scuffed tables in the first pic. What you can’t see is that I cleaned them with a dry rag and then hit them with some alcohol and allowed to dry.

STEP 2: Place a healthy amount of wood glue on the table top and a thick, thick line of glue around the edges. Unroll the cork directly onto the tables .

STEP 3: Place books, cans, and other heavy objects around the table, making sure to especially cover the edges and corners. If you go a bit overboard with glue, as I apparently did, be sure to clean it up while it is still wet. Allow to dry about an hour before continuing.

STEP 4: Use your sharp knife to trim up the edge of your roll and any areas that overhang. Use the leftover roll to cover another table, attach to your wall, or save for other projects. Before proceeding on, give your table(s) a good couple of hours to dry.

STEP 5: Take a finger and rub along the edges of your cork. If there are any areas that stick out, use your finger to remove the excess. Bust out your knife again if you need a little more assistance. You should notice that totally dry, you should have an easier time getting a close, straight cut.

STEP 6: Put on your gloves and dip your rag into your wood stain. If it’s really saturated, ring it out a bit. You want to very, very lightly stain the cork and allow to dry. Continue the process until you achieve the darkness that you are happy with. Allow the tables to fully dry, or until touching the cork does not leave any stain on your fingers. (for me this was overnight, but it also rained that day).

STEP 7: Bust out your polyurethane and brush and apply 2 or 3 really thin coats, allowing to dry fully between. When your last coat is dry, your tables are ready to get back into use.


I hope that you’ve been having a great week. I’m out of Texas and back in Oklahoma. Home sweet home!

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