Buying a Used Drop Leaf Table

Buying a drop leaf table from a used furniture store or a thrift shop can be one way of saving money on the purchase.  Of course, my favorite shopping place for used tables, drop leaf or other styles, is at local auctions.  The prices are often as good as it can get.  However, there are some very important things to remember when shopping for a used drop leaf table.

What to Look for Before Buying a Used Drop Leaf Table

The first thing to look for when considering buying a used drop leaf table is to check to see that the leaves are level, not bowed or warped.  Often, particularly if the table has been stored in a less than optimal situation the wood will begin to bow or warp.  To be honest, there is no cure for warped wood except replacement.  That is definitely an option to avoid.  To put it bluntly, if the leaf is bowed or warped, walk on by.

Dropped LeafThe second consideration is the ease with which the leaves raise and drop.  The picture to the left shows a leaf that is dropped.  Please note the exact precision of the way the leaf fits to the table when in the dropped position.  The lip of the leaf should be positioned as seen in the picture.

Of course, when the leaf is raised as in the picture directly below, the surface should be completely smooth, as if it is a single piece.

If there is difference in the height of the table surface or the leaf when the leaf is raised, this is another reason to walk on.  Do not even consider buying the table.  It is easy to see how a table that is worth the price should fit together.

Take your time when looking at the used drop leaf table.  Raise and lower the leaves several times.  Listen for any rubbing or scraping sounds.  Feel the ease with which the leaves raise and lower.  If anything sounds or feels wrong, it probably is.

One thing to consider is that many drop leaf tables have a veneered finish.  Generally speaking the sheet of veneer is the thickness of the lip.  This is important because if the veneer is not in good shape, reworking the table will definitely take time and expertise.  A drop leaf table probably should not be the first go at applying veneer.

Check the supports for the leaves.  Something has to hold up the leaves when they are raised.  There are several options.  Some leaves are supported by gate legs.  Others are supported by wood supports.  Still others may have metal supports.  Check to see that all supports are original and not broken.

As an aside, if the support has been replaced that is not necessarily a reason to pass on the purchase.  However, if the support has been replaced and you are a novice at buying used furniture or attending auctions, it may be best to let the table go.  Even the most experienced dealers make mistakes when buying used furniture.  Until you are totally confident that you know what you are doing, don’t make the purchase.  But, hone your skills by looking at and handling as many drop leaves as possible.

Do Not Be Discouraged

Just as it has been said that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding the prince, you will probably have to look at a considerable number of drop leaf tables before finding the one you want to purchase.

Do not become discouraged.  Finding the perfect table for you should be an adventure.  There is always — and I do emphasize ALWAYS — another table to be found.  Keep looking and learning.  You will know when you find the table for you.

Admittedly, selecting the drop leaf table at a used furniture store or at auction can be one of the most difficult tasks when it comes to used furniture.  There are so many little things to learn to look for.  If you have a drop leaf table in your future home decor plans, start looking early and do not become too eager.  Take your time and choose wisely.