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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Want to refinish/tune-up this dining table. I was going to take my Bosch DA/Orbital sander and see if that prepares the surface sufficiently. Start with 80 grit then go finer from there. Agree with that approach? I can't imagine this is a job for a belt sander (which I don't have one of). I am quite certain it is solid wood, not a veneer on particle.

Am going to do just the top. Need to be careful not to spend too much time and money as it’s a kid dining table. Just want to get rid of the rings and degradation of original surface.

Is it best to sand with the leaf in place? The ends of the leaf appear to be finished so is it best to sand it carefully/squarely by itself?

Going to then apply honey colored Minwax with Helmsman finish. I can talk myself blue and kids will still leave sweating cups on it. Is there a hardier finish you would recommend?

Thanks in advance – first post!
 

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Anytime you refinish a piece of furniture you should use paint and varnish remover first to get the finish off. Sanding just takes off what is on the surface and leaves what has penetrated into the wood. Then after the finish was removed you could start with 80x sandpaper and progressively change grits until you sand it with 180 grit or finer. It also helps to wipe the table down with a wet rag and let dry between grit changes. It raises the grain and makes your sanding more effective.

If there isn't any slack in how the pins on the leaf fit the table, I would sand it alltogether. If it fits loose then you end up rounding the edge of the table.

The minwax brand of stain is more prone to fade than other brands of stain. The fading will take years for it to show up. Sherwin Williams wood stain would be more colorfast. I wouldn't recommend the Helmsman spar varnish. It would be fine for your front door but any spar varnish is made a little softer so it can expand and contract with the temperature extreames of being outdoors. The fact that it is a little soft would make it easier to scratch from day to day use on a table top. For a table top it would be better if you used a interior oil based polyurethane. That would be as water resistant and resist scratches better than the Helmsman.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you so much. Is there a stripper (um, for this project - not the Vegas type...) that you would recommend?
 

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Thank you so much. Is there a stripper (um, for this project - not the Vegas type...) that you would recommend?
I normally use Kleen Strip. It's the strongest retail remover I've found and seems to be in a lot of stores. The box stores sell it as well as walmart. Just use it on a warm day. No remover even commercial removers work very good below 70 degrees. Since you are just doing just the top you might wrap polyethylene plastic around the legs to prevent getting the remover on the legs and skirt. When you use the remover let the remover do the work. Do half the table top at a time and the leaf separate. Brush a liberal coat on and let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes re-applying to the dry spots and take a broad knife and scrape the finish off. If it doesn't scrape clean let the remover soak longer. After you scrape the finish off as quickly as possible wash the residue off with lacquer thinner frequently changing rags. Removers contain wax to retard evaporation and you need to be sure the residue is cleaned off because sanding will just spread the wax around and not remove it.
 

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I would first try to use a piece of broken glass (or paint scrape) on the top to scrape (if it's dry enough) the finish off. That way you don't have to leave the stripper on as long and it's easier to clean up before you sand.
 

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Steel wool works well to remove the finish the scraper doesn't remove, and put some plastic down and do it outside because of the fumes.
 
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