Refinishing a dinner table

I just rented a new apartment (yay) and I needed a dinner table. I found this beautiful oak table and four chairs on Craig’s list for $100. The table is in great condition but it had some wear on the top. I had all the things to finish it so Mike and I took a Sunday and made it refinish the table day.

Materials needed.
Foam brush
Damp cloth
Saw horses (or table legs I took mine off)
Extension cord (you may not need this)

Let the games begin:

1. the very first thing I did was remove the legs from the table.  I didn’t want to sand the table and loosen or damage any of the legs so, I popped them off and set the table top on two sawhorses (outside because there was going to be a lot of dust!)

2.  We started off with 180 grit sandpaper, and sanded the top of the table.  We just wanted to take off the old polyurethane, and a thin layer of the wood, but not too deep.  Below is the edge of the table and we didn’t want to have to re-router the edge.


3. Next we moved to 220 girt sandpaper, put it on the power sander, and sanded the top again.  As we sanded (Mike and I switched off) we ran our hands over the table feeling for high spots then smoothed them out.  With the 220 we sanded the top and edges of the table.


4. then we went through and hand sanded the entire table with the 220.  At this point almost all of the scratches were out.  a few were very very deep, and again due to the edge we couldn’t sand them out without creating a whole lot of work for our selves.


5.  We wiped down the table and edges with a damp cloth.  If we were staining the table we could have dusted it off, but because we only were using polyurethane, we wanted all the dust off.

6.  Let the table dry before you start!  While it dried we moved the table inside so debris from the outside would fall and stick on the table.

7. when the wood was dry we took a foam brush and began to poly the table.  We started on a corner and used long strokes down the long end of the table.  We completed  a strip down the long edge before we started at the top again.  One technique we used was keeping a wet edge.  this simply means the the strip of poly we did next to the strip we were working on was still wet.  This helped the poly blend nicely and not be streaky.


8.  We let that dry over night

9.  The next day the pores of the wood soaked up a ton of the polyurethane and made the table feel very bumpy.  This is okay because the table needed sanded again any ways, so we used 400 grit wet/dry sand paper and sanded the top, careful not to take the entire coat off.

10.  Wipe down the table, a dry cloth is fine this time as there is a lot less dust.

11.  Repeat steps 7-10 several times.  I would say 3-5 coats for a table that will not get a ton of use and 5-7 for a kitchen table such as mine.  Each time we sanded we used the 400 grit until the last 3 coats.  then we switch to 800 and the very last coat was 800 wet. (wet/dry sandpaper used wet makes the grit finer and makes for a smoother feel)

12. for the last coat we did not use a foam brush.  Mike made me a sponge/rag to wipe the coat on.  He folded an old thick sock he no longer wore and wrapped that in an old t-shirt.  He made it square-ish and used a side with no creases for the remaining coat.

13.  Let it dry and you’re done!  (once you put the legs back on that is)

The only issue we ran into was the polyurethane didn’t seal properly one night and we had to buy a new can.  We worked with satin at first then accidentally bought a semi gloss then had to go back out and buy a satin again.  Minor issue but it was irritating.  This in total probably took a week.  We dragged it out over about 3 weeks because my apartment needed painted and new carpets.

Here in the light you can see how even it came out.  There are a few imperfections but overall it came out great.  Unless you are looking for them you can’t tell.

This is just an example of a scratch that was so deep it wouldn’t come up unless we routered the edge again.  This is the only one that is obvious, but it’s covered most of the time anyway.

I really had a lot of fun doing this, so did Mike.  We tried to split everything evenly because it was pretty cool to see it from the start until now (first picture).  The table was a great deal and I don’t have to worry about coasters or sweating glasses because of all the layers we put on.  Thanks for reading!