Please help me 'refinish' my dining room table
I'll try to keep it brief:
Inherited nice cherry dining room table w/3 leaves - goes from 18" wide to a large 10-seater if needed. Very versatile in that respect, however, the finish is a nightmare. Its old, gummy, shows water drips, cup rings turn white, kid left a wet towel on top once, the texture of the towel is still on the table. I want to give this table a finish that will be durable, waterproof, something I can scrub the day off at the end of the day after homework, dinner, backpacks sliding on and off, etc. (We are a family of 5)
I've considered plexiglass top, expensive table pad, assortment of tablecloths (I hate tablecloths!) even thought about buying a whole new table and put this one in storage... but I'd really like to use this inherited family piece.
What is the best way to go about refinishing or restoring this? I've done a fair amount of research, and I am not sure if I need to sand down through ALL the finish to the raw wood and start over. Or, is it possible to sand through just the clear coat that is on top, through the cup rings, textures of former "accidents" and just get down to the original stain and then put a new clear over that.
Should I use varnish, or poly, or both?
Thanks for reading - I can answer more questions if needed.
Also - I am on a budget, so handing it over to a pro is not possible (although tempting!)