Restoring an old wooden table is time-consuming and requires a good degree of patience, but the end result is always worth it. Even a worn grey table with deep pitted scratches can typically be sanded and sealed into a beautiful piece of furniture. There are a few power tools which are very helpful to have on hand for the project. They aren’t absolutely necessary, but they will make things much faster and easier, so they should be used, if possible. They can be hired out from many hardware and home improvement shops, if necessary.
If the table is small with only small surface defects and no finish, hand sanding should be perfectly suitable. If the table is large and has lots of deep scratches, an electric sander will not only make the job faster and easier, but it can eliminate the need for using a paint remover to get rid of the old finish on the table. In most cases, the sander and coarse paper will power through the old varnish and down to the wood very quickly. If it does not, then a paint remover should be applied using the direction son the packet. Paper for the sander in coarse, medium and fine grades will also be needed.
Start by using the coarse paper first. If an electric sander cannot be used, then coarse sand paper should be rubbed firmly, in a circular motion, starting with the upper left and working to the right and then downward. Start with coarse paper, then move to medium and finish with fine paper. Do this until no visible splinters remain. Sanding should be completed on the entire table, but if the legs are not particularly scratched, only the fine sand paper need be applied. Completely remove any dust before proceeding to staining and finishing.
Whether or not to stain the wood depends on personal preference and the type of wood. Many harder woods look better with stain, but some softer woods like pine can end up looking cheap with stain on. Certain dark stains can streak when applied with a paintbrush. Stain should be applied in a circular motion with a sponge for a more even coat when using darker stains.
There are several options for clear coating a table. The best one for protecting a kitchen table from future damage is probably clear polymer resin. When applied generously, it leaves a nice thick layer of coating on the table top. This shiny clear coat will be both waterproof and resistant to most scratches. Thinner coats applied on the legs will soak right into the wood while still giving it strength and shine. If the work area is prone to flying insects, it is a good idea to have a fan blowing toward the table as it dries to deter the creatures from landing in the resin.
It is not 100% necessary, but an air compressor with a blower attachment will serve two purposes when refinishing a table. For a start, it will help keep sanding dust off the wood much more easily than brushing it off by hand every few minutes. More importantly, when resin begins to dry, it releases bubbles to the surface which can dry and mar the finish if not removed. These bubbles are most easily removed by blowing air across the top of the resin and on a large surface like a kitchen table and an air compressor will make that task much easier. A simple fan is generally not forceful enough for this purpose although it would keep most insects off.
David Morrison has been in the renovation business for almost twenty years.