Refinishing a wood table can breathe new life into an old, tired piece of furniture, transforming it into a stunning focal point for your home. Whether you’re looking to refinish a wood table or restore a family heirloom, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the process.

Step 1: Clean the Surface

The first step in the wood table refinishing process is to clean the table’s surface thoroughly. Use a mild soap-and-water solution to remove dirt, oils, and grime. Cleaning the table prepares the surface for the subsequent steps, such as sanding or stripping, depending on the table’s condition.

Step 2: Fill Holes with Wood Filler

Inspect the table for any visible damage, such as holes or dents. If you find any, use a stainable wood filler to fill these imperfections. Squeeze the filler into the hole and use a flat-head screwdriver to ensure it’s evenly distributed. Allow the filler to mound slightly above the hole to account for shrinkage as it dries.

Step 3: Apply Paint Stripper (If Needed)

If the wood table has a previous finish, like paint or varnish, you’ll need to apply a paint stripper. Choose a chemical stripping agent available at your local home improvement store. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, and always use proper protective equipment, including chemical-resistant gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and eye protection. Ensure you work in a well-ventilated area.

Step 4: Use a Plastic Scraper to Remove the Finish

After the specified amount of time, use a plastic scraper or putty knife to begin removing the finish. A plastic tool is recommended because a metal one could potentially scratch the wood surface.

Step 5: Sand the Grain

After the finish is removed, dab a pad of Grade #000 fine steel wool in the paint stripper and rub the wood in the direction of the grain. This will remove any residual finish.

Next, using fine-grade sandpaper, lightly sand the surface in the direction of the grain. This will help even out any surface discolorations or irregularities.

Step 6: Apply the Stain

The goal in applying stain is to produce an even coat and, depending on how dark you want the table, remove any excess stain in a timely fashion. The wood has been stripped and sanded and will absorb stains easily. After brushing on the stain, use a piece of cheesecloth to remove the excess—and do so quickly or you’ll have dark, blotchy spots on your table.

Step 7: Apply a Protective Clear-Coat Finish

Once the table has been completely stained, it’s time to protect the wood with either polyurethane, wax, or tung oil.

Although polyurethane is a popular modern-day finish for almost everything and protects wood very well, there is something wonderful and traditional about a paste wax finish. Wax will add warmth to the finish and protect the wood from most water damage, especially if it is reapplied on a regular basis.

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