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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My daughter wants to refinish an old table that was my aunts. I do not know how old the table is or what type wood it is. But I do know it has been badly mistreated over the years. It has had paint overspray, water stains, and a very amateur attempt at stripping.

I'm thrilled that my daughter, who lives in another city, wants to restore it as best she can. Neither of us has any experience refinishing or initial finishing for that matter. As you might expect she does not have a shop or any equipment other than sandpaper, elbo grease and a can do attitude!

Any advice would be much appreciated! I'm sure there are questions that I will try my best to answer. The table is about six hours away.

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Is the top solid wood or veneered? If the top is veneered I don't think you will be able to clean up the spots enough to put a clear finish on it. Anyway the first step in refinishing it to strip the old finish off as clean as you can. I don't know what the temperatures are running where you are but even commercial removers don't do well below 70 degrees. Really 80 to 90 degrees is best for stripping furniture. The best retail remover I've used is Kleen Strip. It is usually available and most box stores and sometimes Walmart. You would brush a liberal coat of remover on retouching the spots that dry and let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes at 80 degrees. If it's closer to 70 degrees it may take 30 minutes. Then take a brass stripping brush and see if it cleans the finish off down to the wood. If not let is soak longer. Let the stripper do the work. When you can brush it all over and the finish comes off I would rinse the old finish and residue off with a power washer that is or can be adjusted down to less than 1500 psi. The power washer will remover the residue, old finish and stain better than anything you could use. If that isn't an option you can rinse off the residue with rags soaked in lacquer thinner. Be sure to change rags often and be thorough. The residue of the remover contains waxes to retard evaporation and it's very important you get all of the chemical off the wood.

If the top is solid wood and you can easily get it off the table I would probably lay it on a table and sand it with a belt sander to clean up the damage. If that isn't an option perhaps you should try bleach on it to at least even the color up. Most of the time common household bleach will work fine. Then the rest of it is just sanding and finishing. The table top is perhaps poplar so be sure to use a wood conditioner before you apply stain.
 

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As a novice furniture furniture restorer, living in tight enough quarters where furniture must be useful and not just decorative, here's what I want out of a table: a finish that showcases the table and wood itself, while being durable enough to set a drink on without ruining everything, because people are careless, and I'd rather not worry about that when people come to visit.

My formula is

1) Strip the finish with a gentle stripper. Use Steve's method above if you want, because your daughter's table has a bit more details than I'm used to tackling. I used Citrustrip yesterday with satisfactory results. I've never stripped anything before, but after applying with a $0.98 paintbrush, and letting it sit for an hour, the topcoat definitely came off with nothing more than a cheap plastic scraper.

2) Apply several rounds of mineral spirits (MS) to remove stripper residue, and also to get out existing stain. Do not use a mineral spirits "substitute". They are not as effective. The bottle will say (probably in very small print). Let it sit for about 30 mins, put on a fresh coat of MS to lubricate the surface, and use that same scraper to remove. Put a dollop on a #0000 steel wool pad and scrub the whole piece. Wipe clean with a MS-soaked rag, then with a clean dry rag. Swelling of the wood may have occurred, so let the piece dry for at least 24 hours to let it return to normal.

3) now that you have bare dry wood, sand out the imperfections with 120-, then to 220-grit sandpaper or sanding sponge.

4) To bring out the wood's luster, apply Danish Oil (natural is preferred, but if she wants color, she can get a tinted version). Watch the YouTubes to see how to apply it, but make sure to get in a wet sand to let the sawdust fill into the grain and give her a smoother finish. Have a fan to speed the drying time. Once she is satisfied with the look of the wood, let it cure for 72 hours.

5) Find somewhere you can get General Finishes "Arm-R-Seal" by using their website. Everything else can be bought at your nearby big-box hardware store. You can formulate a substitute, but I'm no chemist, and I don't have time for that. This stuff is really what you want. I get the satin finish, but it's available in gloss, too. Arm-R-Seal is a wipe-on poly that goes on smoothly with a clean old t-shirt. The guy at the woodworking store told me that after 4 coats of the stuff I could leave a glass of ice water on the table all night and not worry a bit. That's what I want, so that's what I did.

Let it cure, and you're good to go!
 

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Since you didn't mention what kind of finish you want to apply, I'll just address stripping. It's good to start with the least toxic of strippers. Citra Strip works in many situations, and its more user friendly that MC (methylene chloride) strippers.

If the Citra Strip doesn't work, go to a stronger MC based one. Off the shelf, the strongest one I've used is 'Aircraft Stripper' in the blue qt can. Putty knives, scrapers, and stiff brushes work well. I wouldn't use a power washer, as it has to be used outside. It will spray toxic chemical all over the place...on the grass, concrete, or asphalt. It can kill foliage. It will spritz chemical on yourself, and it can burn through the skin. If it gets into your eyes you could be blinded.

It can dislodge previous repair work, loosen joints and dislodge veneer if present. It will pressure force water into the pores of the wood, changing the moisture content. That could cause expansion of the wood and joints, and when the wood finally dries out, could crack. It also will raise the grain.

Some do this as a quick seemingly efficient way of stripping furniture. There are more subtle ways of getting the finish off. Lacquer thinner works good as a wash, and will further dissolve some finish that the stripper didn't get to. It doesn't affect the integrity of the wood.

Another option for finish removal is to use a heat gun...very effective.





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All of the above advice is excellent. The only step I add when I must hand strip is to wash the minerals spirits or lacquer thinner off with a liberal amount of acetone. This allows me to sand on the piece sooner.
 

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All of the above advice is excellent. The only step I add when I must hand strip is to wash the minerals spirits or lacquer thinner off with a liberal amount of acetone. This allows me to sand on the piece sooner.
I found that mineral spirits doesn't do squat to dried oil base paints, or lacquer.




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I wouldn't be too surprised if that table stated out life with veneer on the top.
As Cabinetman mentioned you didn't say anything about the finish, so you may have some problems with those stains showing on the top. Some wood bleach should address that issue, if that poses a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I wouldn't be too surprised if that table stated out life with veneer on the top.
As Cabinetman mentioned you didn't say anything about the finish, so you may have some problems with those stains showing on the top. Some wood bleach should address that issue, if that poses a problem.
And I wouldm't be suprised if you were right!!

Thanks!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks to all for the replies and advice. I think she was gong to start on the table yesterday :thumbsup: I will talk to her later and get an update! And of course pictures

Thanks again!!
 
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