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Hello everyone. New poster here. I've recently gotten into woodworking, mostly just refinishing items in the last several months. Inherited some items (that nobody wanted) from family that has passed on. An antique upright chest that somebody identified as Chinese Kitchen Cabinet from my late aunt. Dropped at least a hundred hours into sanding it down completely, using wood fill to patch up some of the rough patches, and then tung oil to finish it. It turned out okay, but it was in such bad shape to begin with, that it is a major improvement. Still....that piece needs a lot more than what I put into it in order to really restore it. Maybe someday.

Anyways....I also received a set of end tables (two ends and a square table) from my late grandmother. Probably dating back to the 60's according to my father. Really love the style of these, and considering how old they are, they're in pretty good condition. But since I am mostly finished for now with my previous project, and because these do have quite a few blemishes from years and years and years of use, I have decided to refinish these as well.

Now this is all pretty new to me, so any tips while I'm still early on in the process would be appreciated. I've also got a couple of questions as well.

So....I've already dismantled all three pieces. But I set the pieces back together for one of the ends so you have an idea of what I'm working with:






I'd like to consider myself fairly resourceful. Most of what I learn about this stuff is read online and then put into action in a hands on approach. I started with the square table due to simplicity. Approximately three inches taller than the main surface of the end table. No second deck.

Top, bottom, inside and out....completely hand sanded beginning with a 100 grit sandpaper to remove everything and get it down to the bare wood. Next....another go over with 400 to smooth it out. After using a wood soap to clean up all the surfaces, I moved onto the stain. Basically I picked one out without really thinking too much about it. Golden mahogany. Three coats allowing for drying time in between. After that, a Minwax clear satin polyurethane to finish it up. I bought both a quart of the oil-based stuff....as well as canister of the diluted wipe-on kind. I figured for the bones, the wipe-on would be easier to apply and less messy. The coat might not be as durable, but it shouldn't see as much wear either.

I think the results here were pretty nice. I'm happy. Un-refinished end on the left...completed on the right:



So here's where I'm at now. The table top portion has now had three coats (with light sanding in between) of the oil-based poly. The finish is not turning out as smooth as I would hope. Anyone have any ideas here? I am wondering if now that I have a few protective coats on, could it be worth sanding it down lightly, and instead of another coat of the oil based poly, maybe trying the wipe-on as it is lighter? Just a thought. Would a really fine steel wool be able to smooth out the finish without clouding it up possibly?

The other thing that I could use some guidance on is the cane weave. The color I chose to stain with isn't entirely different, but it is obviously more red than the original yellowish golden (mustard?) color (which could have gotten that way due to age). I'm resigned to the idea that there isn't much I can do here. Honestly....I'm not sure if it would look really noticable if I left it as is. But what I've read thus far is that the glossy top side won't absorb the stain...however...if left on the back side...it might absorb that way. Unless someone has any strong feelings one way, I probably won't attempt it. Because I've also read that stain can leave the cane dried and brittle. And I'd rather it be a little worn and slightly off color than in physical and functional disrepair. For how old these are, there are no rips or snaps to be found in any of the cane.

Picture of the yet untouched bottom for the square table below:



I still need to sand, stain, and finish the border of this. Bound to be a little trickier than the first two pieces. Assuming that the cane is to be untouched....I'll have to be careful to avoid the spline as well.


Anywho. That's what I've got. Again....any tips or ideas are welcome and appreciated. Thanks!
 

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Looks good to me. I have stained cane and it came out fine, apply it and let it sit until dry. Since it is pressed cane it isn't difficult to replace either.
 

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Looks good to me. I have stained cane and it came out fine, apply it and let it sit until dry. Since it is pressed cane it isn't difficult to replace either.
Thanks for the reply. Do you do anything in terms of prep with the cane? I imagine that you can't really sand it? How about the finish? Would you stain and poly it lightly too?
 

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No prep, if they asked me stain it if your talking new cane I would stain it and let it sit until dry and then use an aerosol shellac to seal in the color, if not new you can play around with stains to get the color you want as long as it darker than the original color. If the caning is that old it probably is very brittle so messing around with it can cause problems but then again it is not like a seat that I normally see so it maybe fine. I have read where caning should be moistened periodically but I have chairs 30+ years old that never had that done so I don't mind sealing in the stain.
 

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Sanded down the entire square piece with the cane weave, minus the cane. Sanded the spline too. Plan to put the first coat of stain on later today. Hoping for the best as far as the cane goes.

I went over the table top piece with some really fine steel wool...and this time instead of putting on another coat in the workroom where I had been....I took it out to the basement family room. Upon first glance....it looks like that was probably my issue. Most likely there is dust floating around in there which continued to settle on it....because it sure looks like it is drying better now.
 

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When I sand I wait overnight before applying a finish to let the dust settle and no cutting or sanding until it has set. There still will be some dust coming from the rafters due to foot traffic upstairs. I found a tool like this is very handy removing nibs, not exactly the one I use but similar. I does take practice to get the feel for it, it is a light touch, very often you can feel for the nibs better than you can see them. I feel for nibs with my left hand fingers and hold the tool in my right hand so I know exactly where they are.


They do have them at HD
 

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When I sand I wait overnight before applying a finish to let the dust settle and no cutting or sanding until it has set. There still will be some dust coming from the rafters due to foot traffic upstairs. I found a tool like this is very handy removing nibs, not exactly the one I use but similar. I does take practice to get the feel for it, it is a light touch, very often you can feel for the nibs better than you can see them. I feel for nibs with my left hand fingers and hold the tool in my right hand so I know exactly where they are.


They do have them at HD
Ever use a very fine steel wool after the final coat?
 

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Yes of course, but just to remove a few nibs this is much easier. Even using 0000 steel wool if you only have to do a few spots you will have to do the whole surface for it to blend in.
 
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