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I purchased a used table online because I loved the shape of it. The ad did say that the finish was pretty bad, therefore it was fairly cheap and I decided I could refinish it myself. The staining job is very blotchy and uneven.
I would prefer not to paint it (unless it's beyond saving), and I'm planning on using MinWax stains as they've generally worked well for me in the past.
I'm just not sure where I should start with this table. My workspace is my apartment, so all the sanding will be done by hand. Is it necessary to strip it? Or can I just sand the hell out of it and condition and re-stain?
 

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Refinish

your table may be veneer. If it is, you must be careful to only sand enough to get the top smooth. I would start by using a stripper to remove any old finish. Sand the top with a block sander by hand or use an orbital sander with 220 grit sand paper.
 

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It appears the top had a lot of wear on it and someone put a coat of varnish over it to prevent it from getting worse. At this point it needs to be stripped and sanded and brought back to it's original condition. If the table is solid wood you should be able to do a thorough sanding on it. In the picture in the lower right hand corner there appears to be a gouge you may not be able to get out. About all you can do is fill it with a wood putty. I think the wood may be a soft maple so be sure to use a wood conditioner before applying a stain.
 
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