I took part in the One Room Challenge this year and made over my dining room -you can see the big reveal post here. One of the biggest projects in the makeover was refinishing my dining room table.
I had hopes of replacing my large dark wood veneer dining table with an antique harvest table or something like the beautiful Restoration Hardware ones that I was drooling over. But I couldn’t find a harvest table in the budget that was long enough, and I couldn’t afford the Restoration Hardware one. You might be in the same position as me, so I wanted to share how I refinished my old dark wood veneer table, and turned it into my dream table.
I actually didn’t realize I could refinish my existing veneer table, because I thought you could only refinish solid wood. After a little research though, I realized I could probably achieve that grey, driftwood finish I loved with my existing table.
I am so, so pleased with there results. But, I have to say right up front that if you are considering giving this a try, it’s a really difficult project. I think it took about 22 hours of work, not counting dry times inbetween. It was one of the hardest projects I’ve ever done, but the results are amazing. It’s not for the faint of heart. The reason it’s so difficult is that modern factory furniture has a very hard, baked on finish that is extremely hard to remove. The majority of the hard work was in striping the table.
Our table was about 10 years old, but still in really good condition. It was a fairly expensive piece when we bought it, and had good quality mechanisms for expanding it, it also fit the room and our needs really well, and was a good shape. All this made it worth the effort. It might not be worth it for a lesser quality piece.
The first day, a friend who does a lot of antique furniture refinishing -a real expert with lots of experience, came to help me. Because the table is veneer we knew we had to be careful about how we striped it, since veneer is just a thin sheet of wood glued on top of a less expensive wood product, it would be easy to damage the veneer with sanding…that is if you could get down to the veneer. We couldn’t get past the dark, hard like a rock, nearly impossible to remove finish on the wood. We started out with paint striper, but even after letting it sit for 10, 15, 20 minutes, we saw very little effect. At that point though, there was no going back. I felt a little sick, and talk turned to maybe having to just paint it, since it seemed like we’d never be able to get the dark finish removed. But I kept trying and trying, and scrubbing and scrubbing with coarse steel wool, until finally a little of the light wood underneath was visible.
Through a process of trial and error we came up with a method that worked -but did take a fair bit of elbow grease. We sanded the initial glossy coating off with a palm sander, then applied a generous amount of paint remover and let it sit about 10-15 minutes. We then VERY CAREFULLY used a scraper to scrap off the finish. You have to go with the grain of the wood, and be really, really careful to not make any gouges in the wood. We then applied another coat of paint remover, let it sit again, and went over it with coarse steel wool. We then carefully sanded the wood, with a medium and then fine grade of sand paper on the palm sander. It was a really long process, which we divided over two days of work together. In the end, there were still some dark stain marks in the grooves of the grain, but it worked well with our grey finish.
We used Minwax’s Wood Finish Classic Grey Penetrating Stain on our stripped table. We only needed one coat to get the look we were going for. I love the light grey colour of the stain. After the stain dried over night, it was time to apply the sealer.
I sealed the table with Minwax’s Matte Finish Polycrylic Protective Finish. I worked really carefully, taking care to not over work the product -after so much hard work getting to that point I really didn’t want to mess things up at the last stage of the game. I did two coats over all, and three on the top, very lightly sanding with a fine grit sandpaper in-between, and wiping it down with a clean cloth to remove the fine dust.
After all that hard work, the table came out looking amazing! It was really worth it all in the end.
It was so fun to set my new beautiful table.
Friends who saw it actually thought I’d gone out and bought a new table. I’m really glad I did it, now that it’s all done.
With a newly refinished dining room table that looks like new, life really is a party!
Disclosure: Minwax kindly supplied materials for this project, but the opinions -as always, are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that make Life is a Party possible.