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Tips for Refinishing Table Top

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We received a hand-me down solid-oak amish made table from some family friends for free. The table is in good condition but has suffered some abuse and normal wear and tear over the years. Some of the finish has worn off, and there are some light scuffs/scratches on the surface as well.

My plan was to attack the finish using chemical stripper and a putty knife, and then do a final pass with orbital sander to knock down any remaining rough areas/scratches, but am interested in other tips/tricks to remove stubborn old finish as well. Once that's done i'll stain close to original color and put a few coats of poly down for protection.

You can also see there is some distress that has been artificially added (at least I think it's man made) by the way of scratches/pinholes, along with 1/16-1/8" grooves between planks running length wise. How should I plan on removing any existing finish from these spots? Wire brush? Scraping with a pick? Looking for some ideas here.

And here's the table.

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It should finish up real nice. A wet rag and a steam iron can raise some dents.
It’s up to you but I took a cedar chest that was in horrible shape to a place in wyandotte Had it refinished and it was worth every penny.
What did it run you?


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It’s up to you but I took a cedar chest that was in horrible shape to a place in wyandotte Had it refinished and it was worth every penny.
Could you just sand it down before using any chemical stripper.

I am interested in filling in some cracks in a custom made oak table. Maybe I could sand down some oak and use that as the filler. The store brought fillers never seem to match up. d_rek this may also help you with your project in filling in some of the holes. Did not want to change the direction of your thread.
I would recommend not using an orbital sander. Oak has a very porous grain, and sanding across it rather than with it tends to fill in those pores as you sand. May not be a big deal, but stained oak that has been only sanded with the grain really has that “pop” appearance compared to a more muted grain look.
Wash it, scuff it, coat it
Don’t overthink it, that’s a rustic table, if you put a heavy plastic coating on it, it will look plastic. Over finished.

Look up wipe on poly’s.
People pay extra for that current look...
I'd use a chemical stripper first, to remove all of the aged finish. Then I'd sand it with a block on all the flat surfaces. Then I'd take a 150 grit paper, and sand the cracks between the boards with a folded edge - mostly to clean it out, and rough it up. Then wipe it nicely with a tack cloth, and refinish it with something that will give a nice hard surface that will last a long time. Re-sand, and re-coat twice if you use Polyurethane. I wouldn't do anything special with the cracks, and dents. Sanding with a block will even the edges out nicely, and still leave the "stressed" appearance.
I was thinking wipe on or brushed poly in satin. 2-3 coats. We're going to have it for a while and my kids are also not going to be kind to it...

I don't mind a rustic appearance, but there's rustic and then there's "What trash bin did you pick that table out of?"

I think I can bring this table back to life without making it look plastic.
Wash it, scuff it, coat it
Don’t overthink it, that’s a rustic table, if you put a heavy plastic coating on it, it will look plastic. Over finished.

Look up wipe on poly’s.
No idea. If I had to guess a wipe on poly or varnish. Some of the finish was peeling up in the cracks already. Yellowish and pliable, not hardened like poly usually gets so not really sure.
What is the current finish?
Great to know. I did read a few things that read I should sand with the grain.
I would recommend not using an orbital sander. Oak has a very porous grain, and sanding across it rather than with it tends to fill in those pores as you sand. May not be a big deal, but stained oak that has been only sanded with the grain really has that “pop” appearance compared to a more muted grain look.
If I remember right I think it was around 500 dollars but I’m telling you it was a mess and I coukdnt belive what it looked like when they were done
What did it run you?


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I see nothing there that needs to be strpped
Wash it scuff it and spray can it with a polyester

Same as they do in your house floors

You don’t gain anything with all the extra work, plus it’s entirely possible you will totally change the color if you strip it
If you doubt me, do a test on the bottom of the table top

Also, that table top has breadboard ends, so just clean the cracks and try not to get any finish in there
That table top expands in width with humidity the ends of the planks are captured in a slot by the breadboard ends
Here’s what they did
Musical instrument Table Wood Flooring Bench
Table Wood Rectangle Hardwood Flooring
Musical instrument Wood Rectangle Table Hardwood
Musical instrument Wood Hardwood Wood stain Varnish
Brown Furniture Table Cabinetry Wood
What did it run you?


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Yeah, they didn't just scuff that up, and spray it with some spray-poly, lol. That's real nice work. I gave a friend a cedar chest exactly like that, many years ago.
I've had really good results with tong oil and a layer of wax. Kid friendly, able to buff.
Just finished up a rustic redo.
Small steps. Apply a cleaner and rinse to get off nasty factory stain,varnish. Sometimes I use a brass brush, plastic spatial, steel wool.
The rinse is where the steel wool will bring out the grains and character. I like to vacuum as I go for the cracks and crevices. Toothbrush's work to. Sometimes a razor... Be careful not to gouge it.
Sand in layers of grit to finish as you like.
I favor the belt over the orbital on a table top but some times black and paper is best. I like diablo paper good stuff
Keeping it clean with a solvent and various levels of steel wool.
Few coats of tong oil and a wax to your approval layer. Nice buff job with good towel.

Enjoy. I like wood working. Soothing.
Sand with the grain as previously mentioned. To properly clean before finishing you should air hose the surface to remove and dislodge residual sawdust from the grain/depressions. Wipe the entire table with mineral spirits and do a light sanding after - the spirits will raise the grain and any small 'shards' will rise and you can knock them down with the final sanding. Shards after finish can ruin your day. You can use a paper bag believe it or not or a high # grit paper. Personally I would use Waterlox on that table. Brings out way more character and depth and has a semi flexible cure to avoid cracking and lifting as time goes on. Good luck and post finished pics!
Are you sure it's cedar? It may be cedar lined, but to me that center panel looks like crotch walnut.
The whole case has a hard wood vibe to me. I'm by no means an expert, just an observation.
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