How to refinish a table


When Ryan and I moved in together 10 months ago (!) I started begging to refinish his dining room table. We agreed that it would be a summer project when it could be done outside. Now that it is done, I can say that I am SO pleased with the result.

The before:

The after:

I know the effect is remarkably subtle, but in person it looks like 400% better. For one thing, the color is not as yellowy (see the chairs next to it now?). Also, the old finish was cracking and starting to peel and the current finish is much more natural.

Here's how we did it:

We moved the table out to the back deck (all the way down the steps to the yard was a little too complicated). And then we busted out the safety goggles and dust masks and sanded this puppy down.

This was my birthday present from Ryan and I LOVE it. Made the whole job a million times easier.

Here is with the top halfway sanded. You can really see how different the wood looked without the shine!

After about two or three days of sanding with the sander and trying to hand-detail the tiny grooves in the feet and pedestal, we decided to use a finish remover. I'd wanted to avoid the chemical process but the sanding just wasn't doing the trick in the tiny crevices. First we used the vaccuum's brush attachment to clean all the sawdust off the table.

We only had to spray and scrape the bottom portion (see how much detail is in those legs? Note to self - only refinish SIMPLE furniture!). No pictures of the actual spraying because I went into over-cautious mode and kept everything away from the toxic stuff. We had to run out to get a tarp too, and the old spatula (above) was sacrificed for the cause. Although it SUCKED as a scraper and we ended up using a putty knife. Here is Ryan scraping off the yucky goop after it's had some time to work its magic.

All free of the previous finish! Though to be perfectly honest, I wish we'd skipped the chemical step and just sanded, because we had to do a final sanding job anyway. It was pretty frustrating.

Finally getting to the fun part! Based on my very handy dad's recommendation and the natural look we were going for, we chose to use Watco Danish Oil in a medium walnut finish.  The color actually gets into the wood instead of just sitting on top of it. Here you can see the oil already applied to most of the table top. The oil was really easy to use - you "flood" the wood with stain using a rag or brush (we used a rag). Then it cures for 30 minutes. A second coat is applied, which cures an additional fifteen minutes. Then you wipe the piece dry with a fresh rag and lightly sand with a super-fine steel wool. It is completely cured in 8-10 hours. After 24 hours you can choose to put on an additional protective polyurethane coat, but it is not necessary and we chose not to, to keep the rustic look.

Then next day we reattached the brass plates on the feet of the table and moved it back into the dining room! I think it looks great - more like an heirloom piece than cheesy 90's oak.

Now we just need to do something about those chairs...