Newbie refinisher/need hand-holding/advice/pics!

mjseeJuly 13, 2009

This breakfast table is, according to my mother, red maple. I've stripped it, sanded (by hand) with 120 followed by 220...done the mineral spirits test...and I think I'm ready to finish. From kitchen table to refinish

This table has seen hard use...and I'm not trying to make it look "new"...the remaining stains are part of it's history. But Elder Son needs a table to take to grad school...so I decided to refinish this one. I was thinking of staining with Minwax Colonial Maple oil stain and finishing with satin polyurethane...I figured poly would give it a little more protection against the beer I know will end up on the table...

Here is a picture with one of the legs:

From kitchen table to refinish

And the stains that won't come out:

From kitchen table to refinish

SO...with all that in mind...

1) I've read that I need to use a wood conditioner and THEN stain...is that correct?

2) Do you think Colonial Maple is the appropriate stain for this piece? It's pretty close (at least on samples) to what was on the table before

3) Is satin poly (oil based) the best choice for a kitchen table that's going to get abused? I'd considered something like waterlox...but then read it might not hold up to the abuse I'm pretty certain it will get.

I don't know why I'm anxious about doing this. It's not a precious antique...it's probably circa 1940. Should I just dive in?

thanks for any/all comments/advice/thoughts.

melanie

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bobismyuncle

1) I've read that I need to use a wood conditioner and THEN stain...is that correct?

> Maple tends to "blotch," that is, absorb some stains unevenly. Wood conditioners are supposed to help. The problem is, they don't work very well, particularly when used as directed on the can. The one in the yellow can is simply a highly thinned varnish. It works better if you let it dry overnight instead of following directions on the can. But a much better approach is to use a good gel stain. Minwax oil-based stains are often a blotch problem because most colors have a lot of pigment in them and that is part of the problem.

I would recommend samples to make sure your selected stain works the way you think. You should consider running tests on the underside, stripped and sanded as the top side. Be sure to add finish to get the final effect of the stain + finish.

2) Do you think Colonial Maple is the appropriate stain for this piece? It's pretty close (at least on samples) to what was on the table before
> Colonial Maple is only someone's interpretation of a color suggested by that name. It will definitely vary both by manufacturer and by the wood it is applied to. Generally though, it means medium brown without black, red, or yellow undertones (at least that is what it means to me). This sort of brown is very traditional for maple. Often, "appropriate" is a matter of taste.

3) Is satin poly (oil based) the best choice for a kitchen table that's going to get abused? I'd considered something like waterlox...but then read it might not hold up to the abuse I'm pretty certain it will get.
> This is probably a decent choice for a to-be abused utility grade table. My schedule for brushed varnish is:
1. Thin varnish 50:50 with mineral spirits and apply generously, but not puddling or running. Let dry overnight.
2. Repeat step 1.
3. Sand with 320 or 400 grit sandpaper. Sand as much as you can without removing color or wood. You now have a sealed surface. Wipe off dust with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits. Do not use Steel Wool. Apply varnish thinned about 2/3 varnish and 1/3 mineral spirits with a good brush. Apply the minimum you can and get everything wet. To give you an idea, 1/4 cup should be plenty for the whole table top. Do the edges first, then the top. Wipe off the brush with a clean rag and holding it nearly vertical and with minimum pressure run the brush from 1" from the starting edge, off the opposite edge. Repeat for the whole top while it's still wet. Overlap the strokes slightly. Brush in the same direction as the grain. Leave the area to maintain dust-free condition. Let dry overnight.

4. Sand _lightly_ with P320 or P400 sandpaper. Remove defects and create an evenly dull surface. Wipe off dust as before. Thin varnish 9 parts varnish to one part thinner. Apply as in step 3.

5. Repeat step 4, if needed or desired.

You will, of course, do the legs at the same time as the top. I'd probably use light gray or maroon 3M Scotch-Brite pads instead of sandpaper, as it will conform to the shape a little better. In the beads and coves, run the brush around the feature, not with the grain.

Alternately, you can wipe on a varnish:
Thin a varnish 1:1 with thinner. If using anything other than gloss, stir well before thinning and often during application, as the flattener will fall out of suspension quickly.

Repeat three times
- Wipe on a thin coat. A common analogy is "like a teenager at Denny's wiping down a table between customers."
- Let dry a couple of hours until fingerprints not left, but still a bit tacky.
- Wipe on a second coat as the first coat. Wait same amount of time.
- Wipe on a third coat as the first two.
- Let dry overnight
- Lightly sand to remove defects and create overall dullness.
- Remove dust with a rag dampened in mineral spirits

So you have 9 coats, three per day over three days. This is about equivalent in time and build to 4 coats of brushed on. You don't need to develop good brush technique, clean brushes, and it's generally fool-proof if you can follow instructions.

Just about any mistake except blotching can be recovered from by stripping and starting over.

Love the sawhorses in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 7:03PM
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mjsee

That's our "second kitchen"....used to be the kitchen for the basement apartment we rented out...now is DH's office. (He works from home when he's home...he travels frequently.) I moved the table in there when it started pouring. The tarp I had tossed over it wasn't holding up to the wind and rain. It's supposed to be really dry for the next couple of days...I'm planning on moving everything back out to the lower deck...at least for the staining stage. Might do the poly inside...we shall see. It's a really well ventilated room...but a little small.

Thank you for the step by step...I'll read through it carefully and evaluate. I have good "brush technique" ...I am a pretty accomplished brushwoman...at least with paint. I don't know why I'm so freaked out by this project...I've painted the entire interior of all the houses we've lived in. AND repaired the plaster. Just never done bare wood with stain/varnish before.

I promise to post pics of the finished table. I have the chairs that went with the table...if I'm feeling REALLY ambitious I may try to re-glue THEM. (They are in several pieces.) Have to have the table finished before we head to the beach for two weeks on 7/25...Elder Son is moving to Blacksburg shortly after we return.

Thanks again for the support!

melanie

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 8:36PM
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bobismyuncle

The biggest difference between varnish and paint is "don't put it on too thick." I see this in every finishing class I teach -- there is always one student that we have to wipe off the varnish and start over.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 10:12PM
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mjsee

Oh...I don't like to put the paint on too thick either...two thin coats is always better than one thick one. I'm going to seal the piece today...and then stain either LATE today or tomorrow...with finish over the next few days, weather permitting. I may have to bring the piece inside for the finish stages...the humidity and heat are supposed to come roaring back tomorrow or the next day. Wish I had a garage...and not just a lower back deck with a leaky roof.

Ah well, life is good. Thanks again for your advice.

melanie

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 8:45AM
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mjsee

Well, here is the finished product. I'm not 100% satisfied...there are a few brush marks...but it is certainly "good enough." From kitchen table to refinish

Thank you for all your help!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 7:34PM
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karinl

Mel, it's gawjus :-)
Lucky Elder Son.

KarinL

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 12:17AM
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bobismyuncle

Glad it worked out well for you. If you really object to the brush marks, sand lightly with P400 grit sandpaper on a sanding block, wipe off the dust and apply a VERY THIN coat of finish lightly thinned with mineral spirits (assuming an oil-based finish) and it should level out fine.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 8:28PM
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mjsee

thanks for the kudos, karin! Elder Son was pleased. Sorry so late checking back in...I'm at the beach and not logging in regularly.

I asked elder son if he wanted me to smooth out the finish...HE thought it looked "great" so I'll probably leave it. If it were living in MY house I'd for certain do another lightly thinned coat. Hazards of perfectionism...

Luckily the table is headed to Blacksburg in ten days.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 8:29PM
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