How to Refinish an Oak Table

Written by william jackson
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Whether your oak table has seen better days or you're simply itching to give it a new look, you can refinish it yourself. As long as your table is structurally sound and you like the overall design, a refinishing job is all it may need. For first-timers, this may be a challenge, but no matter how much experience you may have, this process takes time and technique.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Chemical stripper
  • Sanding gear
  • Putty knife
  • Rags
  • Brushes
  • Grain filler
  • Sanding sealer
  • Wood stainer
  • Wood finish

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  1. 1

    Wash of your tabletop to ensure it is as clean as can be.

  2. 2

    Buy a chemical stripper. While some strippers come in liquid form, others can be found as gels or pastes. Since you will be working largely on horizontal surface, the liquid forms should work fine. Follow the instructions that come from the manufacturer of the chemical stripper.

  3. 3

    Spread a coat of stripper over a small area of your tabletop. Wait for the time advised in the manufacturer's instructions while the stripper does its work. Then, using a putty knife, remove the old finish. In places where the finish refuses to come off, use steel wool soaked in the stripper. In certain areas, multiple applications of stripper may be required. Repeat this process until you have covered the entire surface of your tabletop, as well as sides if desired.

  4. 4

    Clean the remaining stripper from the surfaces of your table with water or turpentine, according to your manufacturer's directions, and wait for the wood to dry.

  5. 5

    Sand the table's surfaces as needed. The appearance of your new finish depends on how well you sand. Do not leave any rough patches or defects, and sand in the direction of the wood grain.

  6. 6

    Work grain filler into the grain since your table is made of oak. Grain filler is a pigmented paste, so choose a colour that goes along with your planned design. This will depend on the colour of the wood, the colour you want to stain it and the degree to which you'd like the wood grain emphasised. Apply the paste filler and press it into the grain along the surface of your table. Allow the filler to dry before using a putty knife to remove excess, then sand lightly once again along the grain line.

  7. 7

    Apply a sanding sealer to all surfaces and allow it to dry before lightly sanding once again. This acts as a primer for the wood, preventing it from absorbing too much of your stain.

  8. 8

    Apply your chosen stain evenly to the wood with a brush or rag, and allow it to penetrate the wood as long as desired: the longer you leave it, the darker the colour. Wipe off excess stain with a rag and leave the wood to dry. Repeat this step if you want your wood darker.

  9. 9

    Using either polyurethane, water-based polyurethane or lacquer, apply your finish. According to manufacturer instructions, you may need to apply several coats and even lightly sand between applications. Allow your oak table to dry.

Tips and warnings

  • When using chemical strippers, have good ventilation, wear rubber gloves and protect your eyes.

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