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Picture of Look at it shine! Table restoration
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I got this solid wood table off of Craigslist a year ago. At the time It had only one scratch in it. Now after a year its worn down and has many scratches and fades but only on the top! So This instructable will just be on how to restore the top of the table to its former yet better beauty! I decided to go with Oak stain because that is what closely matched the current stain. Therefore I'm assuming the table is made of oak but I could be wrong. I know it ain't pine atleast. The nice part about redoing a table is that once its fully sanded down it will be up YOU to customize it to any color or shade of your liking to match your home and lifestyle. Especially with these Craigslist tables you don't know the history of what it has seen so for me anyway redoing the top was more than just a cosmetic issue, Now I know once its refinished what the table has seen a top of it, plus the added feeling to your home with a nice shiny piece of furniture is very rewarding. I decided to use MINWAX for its easy to use ability and color selection as you will see in the following steps.

For this table project you can expect a start to finish time of about 3 days. It will take time for the stain which is 12 hours to fully cure and a good day for the Polyurethane gloss to cure. A quart can of each is more than enough to do this job.

 
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Step 1: Materials Needed:

Picture of Materials Needed:
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So first things first. You gotta decide what you want to do with it and what it needs to match. So you got to consider the following:

-Colors of the room and adjacent furniture
-The tint of the table your restoring, do you want it to stick out or blend in? In my case a more light colored wood
-Do you want it to have a nice shine look or just some small shine?
-How much of it are your restoring? So you know how much stain/Poly you need to buy
-It can't be done in your living area where you eat and sleep, sanding is to messy and the stain is a health hazard inside inclosed areas so you will need to do it outside or in a garage with the front door open.

Also you will need:
-Electric sander
-120 grit sand paper disks, a pack of 5 costs about $4.50
-Electrical drop cord (those long orangle cords) for the sander
-Safety glasses
-Dry cloth to wipe it down as you go
-Dedication (sanding will be the hardest part)
-Paint brushes, about 3 in total. (Foam brushes are best) 0.73 cents each
-A quart can of each,MINWAX Stain and Polyurethane, Stain costs about $7 and the Poly costs $10

With those things considered, lets get to work!

Step 2: It's time to sand!

I took off the top of my table and with the help of my brother, we took it downstairs and did it on the lawn. I live in a apartment for now so I had limited options where to sand it. I ran a drop cord from my kitchen down to the area where I was sanding. Now my sander I used was missing the dust catcher so instead of sanding in a dust storm I installed a sock on the dust catcher mount. It was perfect for the job, Just a clamp, one chopstick, and a old sock cut in half. Simple yet thinking out of the box. So with the table and sander in position its time to sand! Turn on the sander and just run over a small selected area going in back and forth motions until the surface is scorned. Keep going at it until the color had changed and with the cloth in the other hand just quickly wipe the area you just sanded until you see that all the old stain has dissapeared. Take your time with this because you don't want to go to deep into the table. My table although its real wood just had a layer of wood veneer on the top, I went to deep in one place and the grain was no longer visible. Lets just call that a knot hole!

As you can see in the pictures I went at it like a pie. Just did 25% at a time so the job wasn't to big to handle. After one area is done you can progress onto the next pie area. About one sanding disk per area is good but not required. It just makes it faster with a fresh disk. With half of the table done, its time to go back with the cloth and give it a good wipedown and see if there's any darker areas where some stain is still remaining. For this its good to use a sanding disk you previously used because it wont dig down as deep and you can make more passes even under a lot of pressure.

Continue this process with the back and forth motion until the table is completely naked on top. That is what you want is naked wood!  As you can see it turned out pretty good. On my table it has a curved ledge all the way around the circumference. I used an old disk to sand for that because the edge is not wide and the stain wasn't as thick there surprisingly. So Now that your table top is all sanded down you can relax because the hardest part is over. There might be some small edges that might need attention but you can go back and do those by hand with your used disks. Give yourself a pat on the back, the next steps are all fun.

Step 3: Getting things ready to Stain

Picture of Getting things ready to Stain
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After giving it a good wipe down with a damp rag, we moved it to the balcony, and reunited it with the base for support. While over the course of the next two days I will be without a dining table, I will be using this 70's style table I was using as the balcony table. It just doesn't do it for the room but Hey it's worth the wait and its temporary. With it outside in a ventilated area. Its best to go over it again to make sure theres no missed spots with your used sanding disks, or if you want sometimes the darker spots help it out. It's totally up to you how you do it, at this point everything else will give it character, and it will still turn out good. Its really easy from this point. After your missed spot check, hit it up real good with a damp cloth to remove any particulate thats remaining. Now make sure you got all you need to stain.

-I used the foam paint brushes, they don't leave brissles in the finish, one will do the job for the whole top, the wider the brush the easier it is.
-A cloth to get any drips off the edges if you have any
-A screw driver to open the lid on the stain can
-A secure area to put the stain can so it won't get bumped when your up and about, I just put mine in the center between the tabletops

Step 4: Let the fun begin!

Picture of Let the fun begin!
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With Everything ready all thats left to do is dip and stain.This will take about 2 coats. Just like the sanding process, we will want to do one area at a time. The first step to staining the naked wood is to dip the foam brush about a quarter of the way into the quart sized stain can. You don't need to slid it on the edge of the can to get any runs out because it is foam and the rest of the brush that is dry will absord it. Staining is as easy as painting water onto the table. Its really very hard to go wrong with this. Just start at a flat edge and swipe back and forth. You will see that you can get pretty far with just one quarter dip of the brush. It will go fast, even when you take your time. Just go at the table in the pie formation until you got one half the the table covered completely. Then without dipping the brush go back over the entire area you previously stained to ensure even coverage of the stain. There should be enough on the brush after this to hit the edges of the table, in doing the edges last you will not have any drips or runs and there should be plenty of stain with in the brush to do this. 

Now that you have done one full coat. Put the lid back on the stain and put the brush inside a plastic bag to keep any dust and particulate out of it until the 3 hours have passed until its time for the final stain coat. 

Step 5: Applying the second coat

Picture of Applying the second coat
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Now that some time has passed its time for the second coat. And this is like unto the first. Only this one takes longer to dry but faster to apply. This is because the second coat takes longer to dry due to it not being absorbed into the wood as the first coat was. The second coat basically sits on top of the first and it is what gives it its rich color and some depth. It's faster to apply because of this and will be as if your painting with water being it goes on super easy, and in no time you will have done it all withing 5 minutes. Seriously its that fast.

The pictures show that one side is done first and the second picture is of the other side done, the table is still wet in these pics and that is why they have shine. When it dries, it will be a flat finish with no shine. And that is why I need to use Gloss. On the bottom of the picture there is a large scratch in the wood, its not noticeable before the stain is applied but only after. It was so deep I was unable to sand it out, I would have filled it in with wood filler, but the fact of the matter is that it would still show because its against the grain and would likely be darker. When the gloss is applied this scratch will still be visible but you will not be able to feel it, it will be as smooth as the rest of the table due to the gloss is more thick. Thus far this is the only flaw but it gives a nice story to talk about.

It's up to you if you would like to add more coats, for me this is fine because its evenly covered and matches the rest of the base and chairs, The more coats you add the tint of the stain is likely to get darker little by little. So for your need maybe this can be done but for me this is a perfect amount.

Step 6: Poly coat time

As you can see from the pictures that the finish has dried and gone flat. Take a damp cloth and go over the table to remove any dust that has settled over the night, especially since I left my table out on the balcony. Now its time to add the final touches to make this project shine. I will be using Polyurethane by MINWAX. It takes up to 3 to 4 hours to dry per coat, depending on how thick you apply it. It works the same way as the stain.To be honest this will take about a day or so to fully do due to dry times. So for this you will use a new fresh foam brush. Dip it a quarter of the way into the Poly and start at a small area and progress to the rest of the half table. You will see this goes on very easily and you will have a first coat on like that! I will be doing 3 full coats on this table. Each will have more shine than the last. And yes the first coat of Poly will slightly fade as to its being absorbed into the stain.

So after 4 hours have gone by, run your hand over the table and see if its tacky (sticky). If it is then its to early to apply coat #2... I know this because I did mine anyway and it was tacky, the poly will just go over it and you will have a not so shiny spot on your table. As hard as it will be you must wait. But once its time, it will go on super smooth and the shine will be as if x2.

While I did this, I decided to take a scrap peice of pine I had and used a soldering iron to write my last name on it. I took some left over stain and the old brush I stored in a bag and colored it to match my new table. I did 3ish coats on it with no Poly, It should be a nice accessory to the dining area.

Step 7: Apply coat #3

Picture of Apply coat #3
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After what seemed like forever, the 2nd coat of poly fully dried. The time to apply the final coat of Polyurethane finally came. This is what your third foam brush is for. Unlike the stain, the poly turns the foam brush into a brick over night. So its good to be prepared. This is the easiest yet most important step. It is what the final product will look like. Take the fresh brush and repeat the same process as the first two coats. And with the final coat make sure its evenly distributed and without any streaks. The easiest way to not streak is to not run on a dry brush, just keep it real wet and you wont have a problem. The finished product will shine so strong it will impress anyone. Give it another day to cure and maybe longer depending on the smell, like I said before It will be strong.

Step 8: The finished Product!

Picture of The finished Product!
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After It cured I cleaned up the base and put it back inside. It still has some smell but it isn't enough to be concerned about, its more like new furniture smell. It looks great and was definetly worth the time and effort put into it. Now my dining room wont be as a embarrassment as it was before with a table that looked like it had been pushed out of a moving truck onto its top. It should be good for years to come. So before you throw out a peice of furniture keep in mind that YOU can give it a new life with this easy step by step Instructable!
dlacroix1 year ago
Great job. Looks wonderful. I've seen so many similarly damaged tables being thrown away. I'm going trash pick the next one I see.
Beautiful job! I just picked up a mission style oak table off craigslist today, and will be going through this process when i find the time. I used pretty much these exact steps and products to create oak window sills recently, with one small additional step, as recommended by a professional carpenter friend: After the first coat of poly, lightly sand with a 220 or higher grit sandpaper, to remove small rough spots created by first coat of poly. This will result in a smoother finished product. Just my two-cents;-) Thanks for a great Instructable!
iOskr3 years ago
Excellent work man!. Congrats and thanks for sharing
Sparker94 (author)  iOskr3 years ago
Thanks! It took a lot of work to get this far.