Did I strip my maple table enough?

deedee-2008March 18, 2008

I originally posted on March 7th about a beautiful maple dining table made in the 1930's-1940's that I wanted to refinish. I had to end of removing the sticky, ruined top with a chemical stripper that removed the heavy build-up since mineral spirits and a "varnish dissolver" (can't remember the real name) didn't do anything. What I am now left with is a very smooth top that shows the grain of the boards, but the amount of stain still in/on the wood is uneven, i.e., half of the board has more stain where the grain is "wider". This is my first ever job, so I don't know when to stop applying coats of stripper (two so far). Do I keep stripping the wood until it is "blond" like natural maple? My eventual plans are to restain it, so if the wood is uneven in its color, will that result in a terrible look at the end? I've gone through these posts and have read "Refinishing for a first-timer", but am still not sure. Thank you for your help.

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The cleaner you can get the top the better the final finish will be.
Hang in there!
Linda C

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 10:07PM
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You talked about removing the finish(es) and then referred to the stain remaining. Strippers seldon remove stain, they are designed to remove finishes that are on the top of the wood, not in the fibers of the wood like stains.

If there is still stain present, any further staining will be affected by the existing stains. If the finish is gone---a third application of stripper should make that as sure as possible---and there is still color variations, you might try bleaching. I have never tried that, so can't comment. But there is literature describing how/what to do.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 11:57PM
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Thanks for the input. I've been using "Peel-away" stripper which is probably mild since it's sold in a plastic bucket, so maybe I need to do a few more. The stain was partially removed on the second application, since my wipe-rags were covered with the reddish-brown color. I'm too afraid to try bleaching, since the wood is absoulutely beautiful, and I don't want to goof it up terribly.(Boy, they don't make tables like they used to.)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 6:06AM
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Bleaching shouldn't affect the wood or the grain

Here is a link that might be useful: www.rcfurnture.net

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 9:43AM
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To the OP. It sounds like you've removed the finish , that's what stripping does . It removes whatever the clear product is on top of the stain or natural wood.
The next step is to sand the wood, this will remove the old stain that has been absorbed into the wood.You must sand the entire piece , not just the sections you mentioned.
I would suggest at the very least starting with a 220 grit paper by hand. I do not know if you have a random orbital sander. If you do , start with 120 grit with the machine and then follow it up with 220 grit by hand.
This will provide you with the proper surface to either stain or finish natural.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 10:01PM
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Stocky: I don't have an type of mechanical sander. How do I know "how much" to sand (ie, when to stop)? Just like a novice cook may not know how to precisely time when to stop baking/roasting a piece of food, I'm still unsure about this stuff. Do I keep sanding until the wood is nearly "natural", like a fresh piece of lumber? Thanks

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 4:58PM
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deedee, You said the table is Maple , Without seeing it I'm going to assume that it's made up many 5-6 inch wide boards all joined together. Each board will have similar but diffrent characteristics.
If there is no sheen left to the table and it's uniformly dull, you have removed all of the finish.
How much to sand is kind of difficult to explain.
Try this;
Get a few sheets of 120 grit paper, they come in sheets that are 9"x11". Cut them up into 4's,meaning fold the sheet in half and cut it, then fold the remaining half in half again and cut them. You should now have 4 small stacks of equal size sheets.
Do the same with 220 grit papper.

Now fold the 120 grit into thirds and with a bit of elbow grease sand in the direction of the grain, sand the entire table, then do the same with 220 grit.
Maybe this will take 10-15 minutes total.
Lets assume you did it correctly.
Get some mineral spirits (the same as paint thinner) and wipe the table down with it. Use a rag and wet down the whole table, this will show you what the table will look like if it were finished " natural" with no stain applied.
This will also show you if you've evenly sanded the table.

The mineral spirts will take a few minutes to evaporate after you wipe down the table, so if you need to do any more sanding you're going to have to give it about 30 minutes to be dry enough to sand again.
If you have to sand again, 120 then 220 follow up with mineral spirits to check yourself.

I hope that isn't to confusing.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 5:19PM
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Thanks for your help. I'm pretty sure the table is maple, but with that reddish-brown hue still left in some parts of the wood, maybe it's cherry (but no knots, and a fine grain). The top of the table (without the leaf) is made of 6 planks of the wood about one inch thick. I'm so excited about restoring this table. My father, who passed away a few years ago, refinished all our furniture in our house, so I also try to think back about how he did things.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 7:59PM
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You got the finish off but you have to sand down to get rid off the stain. This is a job for an inexpensive machine. Get a Bosch random orbital sander (the best and a good value) that uses 5" diameter hook and loop sanding disks. Start with 80 or 100 grit which is aggressive and you will relatively quickly even out the color variations. Move thru finer grits 120, 150 then 220 grit. This approach literally saves you 90% the time of hand sanding and produces a better result for the novice. After the wood is even and new looking apply an oil stain and then finish with poly or varnish. Don't brush on the finish, thin it slightly and wipe it on. Best finishing results if you build up lots of thin wipe-on coats rather than use a brush. Who wants brush marks on their table? Take your time on the finishing, build up 10 or 12 thin coats, you will be proud. Test the stain color on the bottom of the table top (sanded area) before you commit!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 11:48PM
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"...sand down to get rid off the stain."

Since maple is normally very pale anyway, bleaching is liable to be a lot better than simply removing further wood.

If you plan on a darker color for the new finish the variation may be covered anyway.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 2:24PM
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