Help: Did I destroy my dining table? Long with pics

nosoccermomFebruary 28, 2012

Please help me rescue this table: I am trying to refinish a dining table I bought on CL. The table top was extremely scratched and had some paint splatters on it. Initially, I was under the assumption that I'm dealing with solid wood; however, now I think it is veneer. So, anyways, I started sanding the table top. It looks to me like the frame around the table is solid oak, the table top walnut (?) veneer. Here's a picture of the table top with what I think is the solid oak frame:

It looks greyer than in real life.

Another picture of the veneer (?) top:

The two extension leaves were a lot darker. For one I used lacquer thinner and then very lightly sanded. For the other I used an orange stripper, which didn't remove any of the stain at all.

Extension leave with table frame and table top (table top, frame, extension; from top to bottom):

Notice the three different colors and the somewhat blotchy table top.

For the table legs, I also used a lacquer thinner, but there really wasn't much lacquer on it.

And, finally, there's a piece (solid) from somewhere under the table. For that I only used lacquer thinner:

Overall, I'm trying to achieve a more rustic look for the table and want all parts pretty much the same darker color, kind of like the table legs.

1. Can I somehow stain the lighter parts the same color as the legs and that piece of extension? or:

2. Do I have to keep on sanding to get everything totally light and then start restaining?

3. What's the best stain to use? Walnut and then let it sit longer on the lighter pieces?

4. Initially, I wanted to finish with Tung oil. Does that work with a veneer? Or can I use a stain with ply varnish? Or:

5. Do I have to throw out the table?

Thank you!

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First of all, stripper removes finish. It might remove some, but not much stain.

Difficult to tell from those pictures, but there looks like some moisture damage to the top.

Some of that grain looks like oak and some does look like walnut. That is a combination I don't recall seeing before. By far not impossible, just odd.

Luckily, it is fairly easy to darken stains. In your case, I don't think I would try oil/water based stains. Mainly because of the extreme color differences already present. The same stain on different woods will look vastly different.

Maybe gel stain. Seems to me paint would be a easier refinish. You could experiment with making a milk paint type mixture. Or research paint techniques that allow the finish to mimic wood grain.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 12:06AM
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Thank you for your answers. In terms of colors, the most true to life is the picture that has all three surfaces, that is, the table top, the oak frame that goes around all four sides, and the extension leaf. The blotch on the top is not water damage but rather residues of the stain that I haven't sanded off.

I really don't want to use any paint. I could sand the remaining extension leaves, so that it looks like the top. Then use a dark gel stain and let it sit longer on the oak pieces. Would that work?

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:12AM
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"First of all, stripper removes finish. It might remove some, but not much stain. "

That would depend on what the "stain" actually is.

If it is pigment stain a stripper will remove it niclely, though it may leave some in pores ot teh wood surface.

Pigment stain is very thing paint.

If the "stain" is actually dye, paint strippers will NOT remove it.
The dye actually soaks into the wood cell structure (cell walls).
Wood bleach can remove the color most of the time, but also removes any color the wood itself had.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 11:31AM
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Right, in my case, the stripper did not remove any of the stain; used on the extension leaf with the three colors (picture above).
So, I really would appreciate any advice on what to do so I get a more or less matched color that resembles the color of the legs and the solid piece (last picture in initial posting).
Do I need to sand the extension leaves first?
Is there a specific stain I could use then?
And also what do I use as a finish that's matte but stands up for use as a dining table?

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 11:49AM
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You have three different colored parts. Sanding to bare wood simply removes any added finish/color.

No matter what single color stain/dye/colorant you use, you will wind up with three different colored parts.

There are also different textures and grains. That also affects final colorant results.

It might be possible to get close to the same final color by using three different colored stains/dyes.

I have never used gel stain, since most of my projects are done with new wood and well tested(by myself) stain/dye application techniques. I hear/see people discussing gel stains as easier for DIYers to use. Because gel stains cover more than alter the wood.

I've seen discussions about why regular folks cannot get the same colored/types of finishes that factories/commercial shops can do. Basically, that is because those finishes are recipes and use more than just stains/dyes.

Example: Did some trim work on a factory made house. Not a mobile home---wall studs were 2x6, roof pitch was 12/12, plywood subfloor, real 1/2" and 5/8" sheetrock---and so on. House built in a factory, put on a trailer and hauled to the foundation.

The company did not install flooring so that was done after setting.

The trim was included, but about half was not stained. I could get close to the color by combining two stains, but not close enough.

Contacted the company and they sent me the recipe---FOUR stains with specific amounts and brand. Bought those---Bingo!

I was using only one stain color in that recipe and a different brand.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 2:18PM
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The extension leaves and the table top are the same kind of grain, so if I sand the extension leaves, they should look the same as the top. I'm still not 100% sure that I'm dealing with veneer. The underside of the table looks pretty much the same as the top. Also, if you look closely, you see two kind of similar blotches with three dots, almost like water damage. If it were veneer, wouldn't it be 'perfect'?

So, if I try a stain or a custom mix, should I use oil or water based?
And what should I use as a finish? I want a more rustic, distressed look.
Also, any recommendations as to what kind of brand?

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 7:08PM
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Having never attempted to do what you want to do, I have no idea what products would be applicable.

Wood veneer is made by sawing very thin sections of real wood---so there should be grain flaws. Especially in oak and walnut.

I have never seen an oak veneered piece, oak is inexpensive enough that making the piece veneered would be more expensive.

The only rustic, distressed finish of which I know is paint---thinned or sanded after application. The finishes available to a DIYer for wood are:

shellac-- which alcohol of any kind dissolves and is not a high use/wear finish. Pre mixed shellac also has a finite shelf life and is useless after that time.

Polyurethane-- looks like plastic because it has plastic in it and chips very easily. Poly is also not easily repaired by sanding and reapplying to spots.

Lacquer--- again, not a high use/wear finish and expensive to use without spray equipment.(The rattle cans are very expensive)

Varnish---some polys are called varnish, but real varnish has no poly in it. Real varnish is probably the best choice for DIY application. It is durable, inexpensive, can be found in different types of finish---gloss, satin, matte, and can be spot repaired if damaged.

Good varnish needs to be purchased from real paint/finish companies to get fresh product. The stuff at home improvement stores may have exceeded the shelf life.

But, using any of the above covers that distressed look and it detracts from the effect.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:43PM
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Paint it. You'd have to be beyond an expert finisher and use various tinted topcoats and stains to get the whole thing to blend. Even an experienced woodworker would find it challenging. A novice will just tear their hair out with experiments, never get it right, and then just end up painting it in the end. Skip the frustrating steps and go straight to the end.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 12:01AM
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Looking at the leg of the table - you have what was mid-range stylish furniture in the late 1920s. They went in for those bulbous things on furniture in a big way during that decade.

Mixed woods were common. You will find solid and/or veneer, either left visible as more than one variety, or stained/varnished to look like a single more expensive wood, usually mahogany or walnut because they are dark.

They used multiple stains and colored varnishes, often more like a nearly opaque wood-colored paint. I've removed "mahogany" that was covering up blonde wood (ash or birch)

Your choices are to live with it and enjoy the quirkiness of it or try to hide it because it wasn't what you thought you were getting.

First: wipe it with mineral spirits and you will see approximately what a clear topcoat will give you ... It might be interesting.

To lightly conceal it ... wipe on a medium toned penetrating oil-based stain (NOT a gel stain, not a water-based stain) followed by a clear topcoat. Minwax's oil-based stains can be wiped on and you wipe them off to control depth of color, building it up in layers. You will be able to see the grain differences.

If you want a grainless table, one that is not of any apparent species, General finishes gel stains are easier to use than Minwax's. I wipe them on and then wipe most of it off so the grain shows, again using multiple coats. Painted on wiht a foam brush they are a close cousin of the wood-colored varnishes used in the 20s ... they cover it ALL.

I would paint as the last resort.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 6:18AM
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I'm late here but just a couple of comments.

Factory finishes are not "color in a can." Some factories use as many as 14 different steps that might include bleaching, wash coat, dyes, pigments, toners, glazes, and clear coats of various hues, layered together and with a critical color eye.

I often make furniture of two or more complimentary woods. There is no rule that all wood has to be the same color. Even so, there are four broad classes of woods. Even if they are the same color, they will never look the same because of the grain and pore patterns.

You can preview what the wood is going to look like with just a clear coat by ragging on some mineral spirits. This will be close to what a clear coat finish will look like. Your photos are hard to tell the actual state of the various woods.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 10:35AM
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Thank you for all the great advice.
I just ragged on some mineral spirit and actually like the way the table top looks. It looks reddish brown, kind of like the legs and the solid piece (last picture of the first post). The oak (?) frame around it, however, is lighter, so maybe I'll try to darken (and redden?) that a little. I also looked underneath the table, and whatever wood it is certainly looks quite reddish, on which they slapped a fairly dark, almost opaque stain. (The apron shows almost no grain.)
Are there differences between a dye stain or a gel stain with how durable they are?
So whatever I end up with in terms of stain, what should I use as a top coat? I've seen mentioned somewhere Minwax antique oil? Someone recommended Tung oil, but can I use this on veneer? Or should I use varnish?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 7:39PM
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Fori is not pleased

I'm thinking like Bob--embrace the differences and go with different stains for the different woods. It'll still be classier than the trendy painted legs and a stained top (okay I'm running for cover now!).

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 6:51PM
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I went and bought an oil-based stain, antique walnut, and even though I'm itching to use it, I'll first try it on the underside of the table. That means that I need to sand there first to get to the comparable starting point. So, let's hope the rain stops soon...

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 7:00PM
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It's not that hard to stain lighter wood darker IMO. I have a shelf full of WD Lockwood water aniline dyes...I mix some up, sponge it on, let dry, wipe w/ mineral spirits to judge the color with a finish. If it's too dark, I can wipe down with water (or even bleach) to lighten; too light, mix a more concentrated stain and go over it again. It is harder to adjust binder stains as you go along. To match the legs, or get close enough, the key IMO is to get the amount of red right. In one pic, it looks like there is a fair amount of red, like a mahogany stain, but in another, it looks more neutral brown. Stains called "walnut" will usually get you that more neutral brown. I have green stains to cut the red in my various finishes.

Could be that the antique walnut oil stain will work just fine. For a topcoat, when you say "tung oil," there are a ton of products with that label, most of which are wiping varnishes with colors and properties that vary depending on the types and amounts of unmodified oils and resins in them. They are easy to apply and pretty durable, so I think a good choice for home refinishing.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 5:28PM
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Lazygardens is pretty well spot's a Jacobean revival table dating about '25 to '35. The top is a fairly thick walnut veneer and the legs "something else"...a dense, easily turned light wood, poplar probably.
They will take stain differently.
As someone said embrace the difference.
I would use a Minwax Special walnut stain on has pigments which sink....stir just a little for the top as it will absorb stain very readily.....then stir more pf the pigment and use that for the legs. You can always wipe with mineral spirits if you decide you don't like it in the first few minutes.
BUT....please do NOT paint it! Too nice of a table to look like something you found in a garage sale and slapped a coat of paint on......even if you did!
Linda C

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 7:47PM
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OK, I've finally stained my table -- with a couple of mishaps --- but am now figuring out what coat to use. I put Minwax Tung Oil finish (a wipe-on varnish) on, two coats so far. It's a little too shiny for my taste. Is there a durable finish that I can use that's not shiny and a little 'natural' feeling. The top is veneer, so I'm not sure if I'm asking for the impossible.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:23PM
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Good luck.

It is a real job to get different type of wood (and veneer does not act like solid wood in many cases) to have an even match.

It may be accomplished by bleaching out all the coloring in the wood, then using aniline dye (varying concentrations to even out the absorption) to leave a more uniform color.

After a sealing coat (thin shellac is common) colored lacquer (AKA 'toning lacquer') of varying shades can be used to even up the color more.

If you want to spend enough time you can make almost white sapwood match colored heartwood.
The heartwood is not bleached, but a higher concentration of aniline dye, and possibly a slightly different color are applied to the sapwood.
The boundary between heartwood and sapwood may require the die be air brushed on carefully to blend the line out.
Toning lacquer can be feathered out the same way.

It requires a lot of skill and practice,so it is not done often anymore.
Cutting out the sapwood and using more heartwood is preferred over all the skilled manual labor associated with blending in sapwood.

Much of the imported furniture with dark finishes uses different types of wood that have been bleached and then colored with toning lacquer.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 4:23PM
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