I need to strip my kitchen table, can someone recommend a brand?

cantgetmynailscleanAugust 16, 2010

I bought a kitchen table off ebay and want to refinish it. The label on the chairs says pine so I assume the table is as well. The previous owner had some rambunctious kids, and there is a gouge and a couple scrapes in the table top. She decided to "refinish" it, but she did a horrible job. All she did was put a coat of something over the damage, she didn't attempt to repair it by sanding or anything. Actually, she should have started the whole project by washing the table! The detail around the sides of the table top had dirt and grime in them when she sealed it (poly or varnish or something) so it's trapped under there for eternity. Also, the top is a more yellow color than the legs and chairs. I'm thinking she used poly on it. There is also a couple small spots where the sealer bubbled up and has started to chip off. There is a yellow tint to the clear coat when it comes off.

So, here's my plan of attack, I'd love it if someone could tell me if this is right! I was going to put a stripper on it, and scrape off the gunk, after that part of the job is done, I was thinking I'd very lightly sand it by hand, and then put some sort of coating on the top. I believe the top of the table is a veneer, so I don't think I should try any power tools on this, is that right? My next question is what brand of stripper is recommended? I only need to refinish the top of the table, the legs are in perfect shape. Then when that's done, what should I use as the final coat on top? This is a kitchen table, so it gets use and heat from dishes. Is there some coat that will level out the wood at all? It's a soft wood so there are pen grooves, etc in it.

So, any help/hints/recommendations would be greatly appreciated! I'd post a pic but my camera is still packed from a trip.

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What stripper to use? Most of the strippers have methylene chloride in them. The rule of thumb is that the heavier the can, the higher percent of MC. Gel / Paste / semi-paste works well for flat surfaces. A less viscous liquid works well for things with lots of detail like turnings. How to strip

There is no magic eraser for dents and pen impressions. You can try to swell it out with steam, but you will only get about 90% of it out. Pine is notorious for denting and having impressions. I tell people if they have pine, it will dent. It's a matter of when, not if. A distressed finish will effectively blend new and old damage.

My choice for a top coat would be Waterlox Original. All finishes have advantages and disadvantages.

Also be aware that pine can stain particularly poorly. Most of the DIY stains will blotch badly. Solutions are:
- Natural finish
- Gel stain
- Wash coat prior to staining

Here is a link that might be useful: Strippers

    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 9:52PM
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Thanks so much, Bobsmyuncle, I appreciate your help. I will follow the recommendations you've given.

As for the dents, they don't bother me, I'm not going to bother to try to get them out. I just was curious if there was something that would level it out a little and prevent future damage.

Again, thanks a million for your time and expertise!!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 1:01PM
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You really think the table top is pine veneer?? I don't think I've ever seen anything but solid pine. And if it were solid pine, I wouldn't hesitate to pull out my power sander and sand off the bad coat and however much of the scratches and dents you want.

Stripper performance is greatly affected by temperature and humidity. When it is warm and/or dry, the solvent evaporates too quickly to get the finish removed, so it re-hardens. If it's cool and damp, you can probably remove a poorly applied clear finish with anything. If it's warm and/or dry, as it probably is almost anywhere right now, I've had the best luck with a brand called Dad's. Or cover the stripper with a sheet of plastic. Also, tackle the stripping as early in the morning as possible.

It sounds like you want to match the color of the top to the legs. Waterlox is a nice product, but it is quite dark amber. Minwax Wipe-On Poly is quite a bit lighter, performs just as well, and is easy to apply. It's also much cheaper. Minwax Fast-Drying Poly is a little lighter still, and can be made into an easy-to-apply wiping varnish by adding thinner.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 3:46PM
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You know, Andersons, I don't even remember what reason I was given for why it was thought to be a veneer. I didn't come up with that, a friend told me that, but I don't remember why he thought that!! I have taken some pics and will attempt to attach them so you can see. I remember it was something to do with the big gouge that made him say it was a veneer. You can possibly see the dirt trapped under the top coat, and might be able to see the color difference from the top to the legs. If there's anything there that will give you any hints as to weather it's veneer or not, please let me know (I would love to use a power sander on it!)

Thanks for the hints about the stripper. Are those polys good for a kitchen table top? I know a friend who used the wrong kind on his table and it ended up with whitish water stains on it. (Interestingly enough, its the same gentleman who said my table was a veneer..... maybe I should take his info with a grain of salt!)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 7:03PM
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I see it posted one of the pics, there was an album of 3, I'll try to get that posted

Here is a link that might be useful: album with table shots

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 7:06PM
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Hmm. I can see why your friend thought it looked like veneer. It does look like a top layer is chipped away in those areas. Pine gouges something fierce, but those don't look like the compressed fibers of a gouge. It also looks like there is a mitered frame shape on the table top. Very strange.

And those chairs look like oak to me.

I learned the hard way that a poor finish can hide an ugly wood underneath. You never know till you strip it off. The safest thing would be to strip. If those are chips in a veneer, that'll take some patience and finesse to fix. So I would strip off the finish, then assess what you've got and see if a clear finish will even work.

The Minwax products I mentioned are going to be as durable as any other easy-to-apply finish you can buy. More durable than most. Any finish can get white water rings from a glass left on it for a long time. That's why coasters are so popular. Lacquer is more vulnerable than poly; maybe your friend used lacquer? Or maybe he just used an oil finish, or a varnish/oil mixture with a lot of oil. They don't provide much protection.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 2:24AM
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That was another reason it was thought to be a veneer, that mitered shape.

The chairs do look like oak, they match my oak cabinets, but the sticker is still underneath, saying lyre back chair, pine.

I still haven't started the project yet... I decided to open a kitchen wall up and got knee deep in that project, but I'll get to it!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 6:48AM
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Does look like either a veneer, or a solid frame around a plywood/veneer centre, looking at the grain change at the top right of the third photo. Maybe you can tell from underneath? Might look quite cool once you get it stripped, gouges and all.

There is a great deal of discussion about strippers on the old house forum... my personal favourite is EZ Way as it doesn't need water or solvent clean-up, doesn't raise the grain. Stinks though, so for use outdoors; also, you may need to mail order it. It doesn't contain methylene chloride.

What you can also use instead of a sander is a cabinet scraper. It might even scrape off the finish without stripping, actually (though that would be hard on the scraper), or certainly any residue after stripping. Check them out on the Lee Valley site if you don't have a nearby woodworking shop.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 11:27PM
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Jasco paint and varnish stripper, I just used some to remove paint from a oak veneer door, says to wait 15 minutes but I only needed to wait 5 before removing. It all depends on your temp. and humidity.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 1:53PM
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