Please help me refinish my dining room table!

andrea131August 2, 2011

Background: I would like to refinish my dining room table. I have what I believe may be a walnut table made by Harden Furniture. According to the tag under the chairs, it was originally purchased in the early 1980s. I purchased it used about 10 years ago. It has been well loved, to say the least. I have had reasonable success with restore-a-finish on the china cabinet and chairs, but it is definitely not enough on the table top. I was able to remove the glue from stickers and school projects, along with most of the marker stains, but there is a lot of damage to the wood. I would like to use a chemical stripper to remove the existing finish, and then re-stain and seal it with something very durable, but I am not sure what.

My questions are as follows:

1. What should I use to strip the original finish

2. Once the finish is gone, I am assuming it is okay to sand out all of the nicks in the wood?

3. Do you think this is Walnut? How do I match the finish to the rest of the items? Should I take a chair into Sherwin Williams to have them match the stain?

4. What type of protective finish should I use after staining? I am thinking it may have originally been shellac (finish is very cloudy in some areas)

Thank you so much for your help!

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bobismyuncle

1. What should I use to strip the original finish
> Use a chemical stripper containing Methylene Chloride in a well-ventilated area. Use protective equipment such as gloves, apron, and goggles. An organic cartridge respirator would also be a good idea if you have any doubts about the ventilation.

2. Once the finish is gone, I am assuming it is okay to sand out all of the nicks in the wood?
> It's hard to tell from the photos, but the top may be veneer or solid woods. Harden, I think, uses a lot of solids, but most mfrs' table tops are veneered to retain flatness. If it's solid, you are safe to sand. If it is veneer, then, no, only do a light sanding with 220 grit. Consider the dents character marks or "distressing" that you did not have to pay extra for.

3. Do you think this is Walnut? How do I match the finish to the rest of the items? Should I take a chair into Sherwin Williams to have them match the stain?
> Walnut does just fine without stain. In fact, stains can muddy the figure and make it look less attractive.

4. What type of protective finish should I use after staining? I am thinking it may have originally been shellac (finish is very cloudy in some areas)
> It is most likely lacquer, the most common commercial finish used in the last 60 years. Lacquer can degrade over time and light exposure (like all finishes) and be more prone to blush.

What I would do:
- Apply two light coats orange shellac. This will do two things
1. Bring out a lot of the luster (chatoyance) in the wood.
2. Seal in any potential contamination from silicone oil (Pledge polish any time over its life)

- Apply several coats of a wipe on varnish. A readily available source would be General Finishes' Arm-R-Seal. That is a wiping polyurethane. If you want a more high-brow finish, you could use Waterlox. A non-poly choice would be Sherwin Williams' Fast Dry Varnish. You can brush either of the latter two with 5-10% thinning or wipe with 50% thinning (equal amounts of varnish and mineral spirits).

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 3:01PM
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andrea131

Thank you bobsmyuncle. That is exactly the information I was looking for.

I just called Harden and found out that the wood is actually cherry, not walnut, and it is solid wood, no vaneer. However,she did that the Regency furniture did have a stain so I would need to have it color matched. I guess I will concentrate on removing the original finish and see where that takes me. Do you think I can just refinish the top and leave the legs?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 4:26PM
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bobismyuncle

>Do you think I can just refinish the top and leave the legs?

Yes, I do this a lot. Either mask off the legs with several layers of masking paper or, if possible, just unbolt and remove them.

Cherry also is a beautiful wood that looks wonderful with just a clear finish. But if you are trying to match the rest of the set sometimes you just have to stain it. I'd suggest running a quick trial on the underside, complete with stain and your planned finish coats to check your stain match.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 7:15PM
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someone2010

From your picture, the wood does not look like cherry. Another question that comes up is; why would one stain cherry to look like walnut? I could be wrong but I believe it is, in fact, walnut.
You can tell if it's veneer by opening up the table, and looking where the table connects and seeing if there is a thin strip of wood on the top. Anyway, a look doesn't cost anything.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 12:01AM
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bobismyuncle

The way I look for veneer vs. solid is to look at the edge (where end grain should be.) If the seams in the top line up with the joints in the side and it looks like end-grain, then it's probably solid. Note there is "lumber core plywood" that will be end grain but it will not line up right with the direction and seams on the top veneer.

Solid wood will not be able to have an applied molding that runs around all the edges like a picture frame. (Well, I have seen this, but it was a disaster, you could slip a dime through and it would fall to the floor.)

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 10:08AM
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andrea131

someone2010 - I really thought it was walnut until I called the manufacturer who confirmed that it is in fact cherry and not a veneer. We'll see what happens when I use the chemical stripper this weekend, I'll post pictures of the bare wood.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 1:12PM
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