I bought this side table from my friend Melissa last year for I think $5 (she may have just given it to me too) when she was moving out of my place. Thanks Melissa! It's really a great piece, solid wood and very sturdy. The drawer slides well and everything. Really the only problem with it was the top was very beat up as you can see. I think that it turned out really well though!
The first thing I did was to sand it down to the bare wood. I got a little Black and Decker Mouse Sander which worked pretty well. I wouldn't do anything bigger than this though with that sander, but as advertised it did get into nooks and crannies easily. Even with the electric sander it still took me about 5 hours to get it sanded properly. I started with 80 grit, moved to 120 grit and finished with 220 grit for a smooth finish. I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to finish it until I had it down to a smooth wood.
I decided to try staining the top and nice mahogany color and painting the bottom white. So my next step was to do the top first because if there were any drips or runs I could easily sand it and cover it with paint. As you can see I taped the top off and got to staining.
I did two coats of stain, waited 24 hours and then did two coats of wipe on polyurethane to seal and protect the top and hopefully prevent the same kind of damage that was there before. I allowed the whole top to dry for a few days so the poly was totally cured before I moved on to the final step of painting the bottom. I wanted to protect the top though, so I carefully covered it with newspaper and taped it with Scotch Blue Painter's Tape. I started with one coat of a spray on primer, and then I moved it to the basement and finished with two coats of Sherwin Williams ProClassic Semi-Gloss in Dover White. This paint is designed for trim and doors and has an enamel finish so you don't have to put on a clear protecting coat of a poly. It's a little pricey, but it went on beautifully, I only used about a 1/4 of a quart for the whole thing, and it cuts out a step.
So without further ado: Here is the finished product!