Sunday, February 10, 2013

Refinishing help

Hey everyone, we could use a little advice here. We have this coffee table that we really love, but the finish on it is pretty bad.

Almost anything you set on it leaves a hazy looking mark. The clear coat must not have totally cured because it dents easily with a fingernail, and if you leave a book on it for a few days it kind of sticks when you try to pick it up.

So my question is, what is the best way to refinish this thing myself? It's solid wood, walnut I think, not a veneer.  I would like to keep the original color of the table if possible. Any advice you have would be great.


  1. I just came across this on Design Sponge - Haven't tried it myself though. Good luck!

  2. I would clean it first, then sand it lightly to take off the sticky stuff, then oil it with teak oil.

  3. I've done a lot of restoration. It probably needs stripping. The Design Sponge method probably won't work on something with a sticky finish, which is likely degraded varnish or polyurethane. You could try it, but you'll probably just be putting new finish on top of old soft finish, which will cause cracks in the new finish over time (and not a lot of time).

    I use a citrus based chemical stripper (wear gloves and safety glasses). The instructions will depend on the brand, but it's usually a variant of pour on (or apply with paper towels), let sit for a few minutes, then wipe off with more paper towels and/or a large scraper. Once the finish is off, use mineral spirits to clean off any lingering stripper. Then use stain in the color you like, then tung oil. Don't do your tung oil finishing on a day that's too cold, too hot or too humid though.

    Hope that helps! Good luck!

  4. do the least harmful first and then make decisions.
    so, clean it with mineral spirits and lots of clean rags and 0000 steel wool. 0000 steel wool is amazing stuff, you can even use it on finely finished furniture to smooth, buff, etc, even after applying varnishes, etc.
    the mineral spirits will take off waxes and oils and then you can decide what to do.

    Clean that baby up really well, enjoy any knicks or dents as evidence of a life well lived. Hopefully that is all you will have to do.

    In the end, whether or not you have to do more, such as strip and sand, use clear and/or natural Danish finish oil. Watko's is a great brand.
    This oil pentrates into the wood. put it on daily for 3 days, letting is soak in. It will depend on how dry the wood is. Wipe off excess in between coats. Buff it well with 0000 steel wool and old wool socks. If you have a rotating buffer, see if you can attach cut pieces of an old wool sweater and use that. Also, shrink an old wool sweater in the washer/dryer, then you can cut it into pieces to use. Danish finish oil doesn't seal it, but protects it, and can be reapplied every year or so.

    My guess is it was not polyurethaned, only because that didn't come aroudn till the 60's and it isn't often used on furniture. That's a good thing, since it is basically liquid plastic.

    Good luck, it's a beautiful table. I really think getting all the old waxes off will do wonders, and its the best place to start. and, it won't damage it to do so

    1. Thanks for tips! I'll try mineral spirits this weekend.

  5. post a pic when you've cleaned it up. would love to see it.