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How to Varnish a Dining Table

Updated April 17, 2017

Applying varnish to a dining table is just about as easy as applying paint. However, because of the characteristics of varnish, you must take certain precautions when working with the substance. In addition to cleaning your work environment thoroughly, you must also take into consideration the amount of dust and pollen in the air at the time of application. If you are able to varnish your table in the right conditions while using the correct techniques, you will get a gleaming, high-shine result in the end.

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  1. Clean your work environment thoroughly the night before to remove dust, dirt and other particles that can attach to the varnish. Once the materials hit the varnish they can remain there permanently, which will affect the final outcome of the project. If you intend to work outside, do so on a day in which the pollen count and winds are low.

  2. Apply the varnish to the dining table with a paint brush or foam brush. Dip the brush into the varnish can, and wipe it across the can's ledge to remove the excess. Start at the top of the table and apply the varnish in the direction of the grain using thin, even strokes. Apply the varnish to the tabletop and the legs.

  3. Sand the table lightly with steel wool once the varnish has dried for at least 12 hours to create a smooth surface. Use a razor blade to scrape off any bumps on the surface. Wipe the table down with a slightly damp cloth after doing so to remove any sanding debris and any other materials or particles that may have become attached to the varnish. Apply additional coats of varnish in the same manner once the first coat is dry. Most tabletops require three or four coats for protection, whereas the legs only require two or three.

  4. Tip

    Stand your table on bricks when applying varnish. Doing so prevents the table from becoming stuck to the floor and will make applying the varnish to the legs easier. Although most varnish is applied in the same way, read your particular varnish's label for application instructions, as application might vary slightly according to brand. Use durable varnish to protect your dining table from liquid.

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Things You'll Need

  • Paint or foam brush
  • Varnish
  • Slightly damp cloth

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