I'm refinishing a 100 year-old oak decorative mantle, and I could use the advice of those more experienced than I. I was told that the mantle is made of quartersawn oak, but I'm not sure about that. The mantle likely was original to our 1917 house. I'm planning to refinish the mantle, likely with an oil-rubbed penetrating finish, and install it in our living room. (The house never had an actual fireplace, but decorative mantles are not unusual in our neighborhood.)
I think I made a rookie mistake and need guidance about what to do next. The mantle had about 30 years of paint on it. I removed the paint and sanded the mantle--sanded too much, maybe. Here is what the mantle looked like when I removed all the paint and initially sanded:
When I sanded further, however, I seemed to be removing some of the rays and what I think might be figures in the wood. Here are close ups of the face of the right pillar, the face of the horizontal board at the top of the mantle, and the horizontal face of the shelf in the middle of he mantle:
My question is what to do at this point. Should I continue to sand until I remove the current top layer, showing the emerging layers in each of the faces? Or is there something else I can do to mitigate damage at this point? I'd appreciate any guidance.