Stripping Polyurethane and Stain from Tabletop

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Forum topic by Saucerito posted 03-04-2016 04:35 PM 532 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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16 posts in 868 days

03-04-2016 04:35 PM

Hi everyone

I’m back with my 4th topic regarding the red oak trestle table I’m building. I received a great amount of help on this site and hope this will be my last question for this project.

Last Sunday I stained the tabletop the exact color I was going for. I wiped off all the excess (or so I thought), waited 24 hours and applied two coats of wipe-on poly. This poly ended up making streaks and swirls in the stain. This could have been due to stain left on top, stain bleeding in the oak, or maybe the MS in the wipe-on poly picking up any undried stain. Anyways, now I have to take off all the coating and try again.

I plan on staining the same way, but making sure I continue wiping off any potential bleed spots. Then I will use aerosol zinsser clear dewaxed shellac after letting the stain sit for 48 hours. I’m hoping this will prevent any stain left on top from getting pushed around. Then I will coat with the poly.

Does anyone see anything wrong with this approach? Also, what is the best way to get rid of the poly that is on there right now? Should I sand until I get to bare wood or do I need to use some sort of chemical stripper? I’ve already sanded most of it off but don’t want any poly in the pores to prevent the wood from taking stain.

Thanks, Will

3 replies so far

View conifur's profile


955 posts in 1145 days

#1 posted 03-04-2016 04:40 PM

I always use a wash coat of dewaxed Shellac over stain b4 putting on poly. I woud go over it with a cabinet scraper then sand.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

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16 posts in 868 days

#2 posted 03-05-2016 12:31 AM

I don’t have a cabinet scraper but don’t mind sanding as much as is necessary. It’s easy enough to sand off most of the poly but I’m afraid I’ll end up leaving some in the deeper pores. I tried some citristrip on a sample as I’d prefer not to mess with some of the harsher chemicals if I don’t have to. This ended up staining the sample piece light pink so I won’t be using that.

View OSU55's profile


1663 posts in 1983 days

#3 posted 03-05-2016 01:56 PM

Oak is fun when something like this happens. It does need to be completely stripped. I’ve not had great luck leaving some in deep grain and restaining – just didn’t look right. I agree this is a perfect situation for a cabinet scraper, but lots of sanding will do it. Even the harsh strippers will require sanding down through the deep pores – The strippers are for the stuff on top that you have already sanded off.

You probably left a dried film thickness of stain in some areas. I’ve done it on purpose but let it dry 3-4 days and didn’t have the stain re-wet and smear. The shellac will prevent it from occurring.

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