Refinishing Hard Rock Maple

rjingaOctober 10, 2010

I am contemplating a purchase of 2 pieces of furniture (for resale in my booth at the antique mall). One is a butler chest of drawers and the other is a vanity with mirror.

The vanity has some "bleached out" spots on top. the lady I'm buying them from said she was told that hard rock maple was very hard to refinish, that the color doesn't stick well (paraphrased).

It appears that these will require some light sanding to get rid of superficial surface scratches and maybe that will be enough as well for the bleached out areas..

Any suggestions? I would not attempt to darken these to any major degree, just simply to restore them back to their original color. She tried RAF on them but it didn't do anything. I think they look pretty good in these pics, but she sent me some close ups of the vanity top and it's pretty noticeable, and the tops of both are pretty scratched up/dinged up, but no major damage structurally.

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I still have a housefull of 1950's "Ethan Allen by Baumritter" in hard rock maple. When I was a kid my dad had me refinish the entire dining room suite. IIRC, I used a minwax stain (maybe Early American?). They had been sent from the factory in the nutmeg finish with a lacquer topcoat.
As an ignorant kid I did not notice any problems applying the stain. In fact, the stripping probably prepped the maple better than anything (wood conditioner) to avoid blotching.
I can't recall (it was back in 1979) but it's unlikely that I gave them more than a little sanding with 120 grit.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 10:38AM
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so maybe that's the step she missed, actually stripping the wood and of course giving it a good sanding...I think both of these pieces will sell easily especially if freshened up.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 11:54AM
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just to clarify, I used some kind of stripper chemical; maybe Formby's, maybe "1851", but it was fully stripped, then sanded, a little, before staining. The ultimate finish was wax. Still holds up nicely. Except the table top; that's been re-re-re-refinished many times. Presently is french polished, but I put a huge deep scratch in it, and has to be redone yet again. I have a couple quarts of Behlens "Rock-Hard Tabletop Varnish" on the shelf; seems like a good match for the hard rock maple.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 4:09PM
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I am sanding with 120gt then with 150 on a orbital and it's leaving lots of swirls in the wood which really shows up when you go to stain what to do???????????

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 7:42PM
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Vac after each grit; you have to remove any grains of the coarser abrasive that could still be on the surface or the sander. One errant granule of coarse abrasive will do a number. Probably keep going with finer grits until the swirls disappear.
Or hand sand with the grain.
Or use a cabinet scraper.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 8:34PM
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Or get a straight line vibratory sander.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 1:48PM
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As a beginner, I had many problems with orbital sanders and the swirls. The first thing I learned is: cheap orbital sanders leave swirls no matter how hard you try. A quality orbital sander spins in a circular motion AND does the random orbit simultaneously. Cheap ones do not really spin at all. They only make swirls. A good quality one must go up to 12,000 OPM. Less than that is worthless.

My personal favorite is the Festool, but you don't have to spend that much. I've owned 2 good Bosch ones. The Bad ones I've owned are DeWalt, Black and decker, and Porter Cable. The Porter Cable was a bit of a surprise, because I had a decent one at one time, but then a newer one did the swirl thing, I think Porter Cable is slipping in quality these days.

The second thing I learned is: operator error or inexperience, trying to make the sander work faster, will damage the finish. Many times I see a person using an orbital sander, they don't keep the pad flat on the work piece. They tend to tilt the sander on one edge and start working it like it's a sanding block. It's just human nature to want to speed up the process.

Let the machine do the work. Leave the pad completely flat against the work piece. Move slowly back and forth over the entire surface, listen to the sound it's making; do not bog down the motor with excess force. If the disc spins freely, no swirls will appear. If it can't spin, it makes swirls.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 6:08PM
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I have Festools, so I'm spoiled; I didn't even think that the sander was the problem. :)
Makita makes an excellent cheap ($99) 5" ROS, but it takes 8-hole discs, which are harder to come by. It's not a Rotex 150, but then it's 1/4 of the price and still a worthwhile investment.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 7:02PM
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