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I had never refinished a piece of furniture in my life. What I learned was that refinishing an old oak table, though not exactly easy, was well worth the time and effort.
A Thoughtful Gift
This solid, round oak table was where my husband and I sat and ate many meals, some great, others not so much, during our first few years of marriage. It was a hand-me-down table from my parents. They had it sitting around in a garage and knew we needed a place to sit and eat. We didn’t have too many pieces of furniture starting out. My husband was still taking college classes while working full-time and I had just graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and was looking for my first teaching job. Even though it didn’t look the best; the finish was peeling in places and it was stained that orange-ish color that made it look straight from the 90’s, we welcomed this table with thankful hearts.
Time for a Change
We bought our first house together in the spring of 2018. We had just welcomed our little girl into the world and we were ready to stop renting and buy a place of our own. I knew before we even found our home that I wanted something that I could decorate farmhouse-style. I’ve always loved seeing the transformations that Joanna Gaines does to the houses on Fixer Upper and I couldn’t wait to bring that farmhouse feel into our future home. When our offer was accepted on a home with two dining spaces, an eat-in kitchen and a formal dining area, I knew that it wouldn’t be in the budget to buy two new dining tables. I was going to have to update our current dining table in order to get the look I was hoping for. I had never refinished a piece of furniture in my life. What I learned was that refinishing an old oak table, though not exactly easy, was well worth the time and effort.
Doing Some Research
First off, I started doing my research into how to refinish a table. I knew that I wanted a white base with a dark walnut stained top. I found another blog tutorial online that proved to be very helpful from @makingitinthemountains. Her tutorial online about how she refinished her kitchen table was exactly what I was looking for! I also found a few other tutorials and googled the basics on sanding and staining. With it being a free, secondhand table, I decided to take a shot and refinish it.
Gathering the Supplies
I knew I wanted to stain my tabletop a dark, deep color. After researching different stain colors and brands, I went with Miniwax Dark Walnut stain. What’s great is most of my supplies for this table are available on Amazon, so I didn’t even have to go out for too many supplies. Click on the images featured to purchase on Amazon.
After reading something about how belt sanders can leave marks, but palm sanders may not leave as many, I went out and bought a palm sander that proved to be very handy (pun intended).
I definitely didn’t have the time to sand the entire table, and I knew that chalk paint allows the paint to stick on finished surfaces without sanding. I purchased a can of Rustoleum’s Chalked Paint in Linen White. I love how easy it is to use!
I used a cheap foam paintbrush that I had lying around so it wouldn’t show too many brushstrokes, but a good, high-quality paintbrush is all you really need.
To seal the top, I bought a can of Miniwax polyurethane. This is the one I used:
The key to sanding is starting with the most abrasive (lowest number) of grits first and then moving onto the finer (higher number) grits. You’ll want to make sure you get off ALL of the original finish. It needs to get down to bare wood in order for the stain not to look blotchy. It took me at least an hour and a half to completely sand the finish off of the top. I probably should have continued to sand a bit longer to smooth out any scratches, but with a young baby and busy evenings, I didn’t have that much time. I’ve read where you can use stripper and scrape the finish off first but I didn’t have the tools and I chose to just try to sand it down. Overall, it worked pretty well!
After completely sanding the top down to bare wood, I applied the liquid stain using a staining sponge to the top in even strokes going with the grain. Make sure you don’t leave too much excess stain piled up and just sitting there. You can also apply the stain with a clean t-shirt or clean cloths. I used the sponge and wiped the excess up with a cloth. I let it dry overnight. I applied a second coat of stain the next day and waited for it to dry overnight as well.
After the stain had dried, I used the polyurethane to seal the top. I was advised to go with polyurethane vs. polycrylic by the salesman at Menards, so I went with it! It has held up so far. Be sure to apply a thin coat and not too thick, otherwise you’ll end up with bubbles like I did. I had to sand down a couple spots where it bubbled up before doing a second coat of polycrylic, which was frustrating. After fixing my mistake, I did two more coats of polyurethane. Overall, I did three coats and it still looks great! Because I was teaching at the time and only getting to work during the evening hours while dealing with dinner, bath time, and bedtime, I waited about a week before I painted the base. This allowed time for the polyurethane to really set and seal properly.
Painting the base white was the easiest part. I purposefully chose to refinish the top before painting the bottom because I knew that I would drip stain. I didn’t want to paint the bottom white until all of the staining was finished. I painted the base with three coats of chalk paint one evening and it only took me about an hour total. The paint was completely dry the next morning!
It is (re)Finished!
I am so happy that I decided to take a leap of faith and refinish a piece of furniture, staining and everything, all by myself. It looks so much better and has more of a farmhouse feel to it now! I see similar orange oak tables all of the time for dirt cheap at Goodwill, garage sales, secondhand shops, etc. If you’re thinking about refinishing a piece of furniture, I say do it! I now have a beautiful, solid wood farmhouse table that didn’t cost much at all! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think or if I can help answer any questions you may have!