this is my second instructable. I will try to continue to update it with finer details as needed
have an old coffee table I constructed with a friend a long time ago. Intended for watching movies and resting your heels on, I figured it could be rough on top so I just did a simple application of used clear stain and fast drying polyurethane. Looking back I can understand I was 14yrs old (not reading a ton of books) and when offered some left over Kya (type of African mahogany) I did not turn it down along with some maple. So I set out to tidy up the top as that is what the naked eye of most folks see first. (and hope they do not notice the crumby finish on the Poplar below)
Step 1: Removing Old Varnish Outside
took this puppy outside to do the initial sanding which consisted of removing the old tacky poly and crumby water based wood stain.
Step 2: Hand Sanding
took me the better part of half a day to remove two thirds of the top layer. Used an empty spray gun to blow old dust off as I sanded.
use really coarse sandpaper to get rid of the old finish. 60grit or so. sand wit the grain
use a damp rag to figure out if you have removed all of the old finish. the (natural wood) unfinished material will pop out at you.
the edges were coved and I did my best to keep them that way
watch out for corners as you will run into end grain. for the removal part I did not pay too close attention sanding across the grain at the tables ends. fuss about that later
Step 3: Sleeping
I figured I would finish the removal process the next day as I was beat after five hours of sanding by hand.
be sure to get some sleep. that is important
Step 4: Crap Removed
get back up to it and take your time. once the all the old stuff is off it is time to pull out the finer sandpaper
Step 5: Smoothing Out
continue to sand the bare wood from 120, 220, and 320. (400 if you have the time and intend on applying a marine grade varnish as I did) any more than 400 is not really worth it and can lead to other problems with the new stain and varnish. It should feel quite fine after you take a clean damp rag, remove the sanding dust and wait a few minutes for the damp surface to evaporate
Step 6: Explosive Pieces of the Puzzle
if you are using a solvent based finish.......don't light a match around your varnish, brush etc. breathing it in is also not he best idea snuck the table into the basement for the application process when it started to rain Granted I did my best to ventilate the area and did whatever possible to keep the temperature and humidity levels at a constant. Stain I used stank like all hell. Spar Varnish did not smell merely as bad.
-open the stain if you are using. carefully so you don't spill. wear some gloves to protect your skin. apply using a rag (the more you add, the darker it becomes). wipe off any excess as not to glop it up where you end up with spots here and there, keep it even.
-after that dries, lightly sand the surface with the some fine, but not superfine sandpaper. I used 320grit, taking a few passes to remove excess globs and sanding down all the grain that has risen in the process
- stir the can of varnish slowly being sure to mix in the resin that has built up at the bottom. pour a quarter of varnish into a glass jar and then put the lid back on the original can, stir in a fingernails worth of the drier. if it still feels very thick after stirring, add a tiny bit of mineral spirits until you accomplish whatever thickness you will feel most comfortable brushing on (or you can wipe it all on if you want)
-add the varnish evenly with a brush and let dry overnight or until a few hours past dry to the touch. I was going for durability so applied two coats with a brush and then wiped on the last, laying the first coat on thick. sanding with 400 in between
Step 7: Rub Out
to completly finish this top I used wax. regular paste wax. Miniwax makes a decent wax. this is the last phase where you will burn some calories if done correctly.
-BE sure that your varnish has dried completely !
-use one rag to apply a little wax. if it is a large area like this table top, I suggest applying it in small spaces at a time. use another rag, this is your clean rag, to polish the surface, rubbing it in circles helps, but make sure you finish the job rubbing in back and forth with the grain.
-yes, this can also be referred to as buffing
-rub it on the dry surface applying more as needed using that one rag for getting from the can to the surface and the other to buff out the top.