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Refinishing oak table - advice for a noob

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Forum topic by MzWhitney posted 07-09-2017 02:29 AM 782 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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MzWhitney

9 posts in 163 days


07-09-2017 02:29 AM

Topic tags/keywords: oak table refinish finishing refurbishing

Hi there,

I’ve just been given a lovely old table with a couple of matching chairs that I want (need) to refinish. I’m told it’s oak, and from what I gather, it’s about 100 years old (made by the Victoriaville Furniture Company in Quebec).

I’m a complete newbie to furniture refinishing. I’m curious about wax and oil finishes, I guess because I’m a bit old-fashioned and plastic-averse. I’m not sure if I need or want to use a stain, but if I do go that way, there’s a shop here in Montreal that sells natural pigments, so if you have experience mixing/using those, I’m all ears.

I’m not afraid of putting a lot of elbow grease into this project, but I am on a budget (aren’t we all!), so that’s a consideration.

Looking for tips, product, and resource recommendations.

I just signed up, so I’ll certainly take some time to browse the forums for existing posts, but thought I might as well throw my question out there!

Appreciate any input you care to give. Thanks!

Here it is:


27 replies so far

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

556 posts in 444 days


#1 posted 07-09-2017 03:32 AM

:-) Welcome Mz. Yes, you should search the forums as the questions you asked could be answered in so many different ways it would boggle your mind. The finishing forums would be a place to start. So so many ways, products, techniques etc. to do what you want I won’t even really respond. You might want to give us some idea of what you have at your disposal for tools and equipment. That way you won’t get directed towards a solution that would cause you to need to spend a bunch of $ to reach your goal.

Maybe a few more close ups of the top and legs. Guaranteed the answers and expertise you want are already here. You just need to come up with a game plan based on your comfort level and tools then go with it.

IMHO, whatever you do, don’t do anything to that top before practicing on scrap. If the top is easily separated from the base you might consider flipping it over and doing the underside as a test piece. You can sand, strip, stain, start over to your hearts delight on the underside. Then and only then work on the top.

Good luck. Looking forward to seeing this posted as your first project.

Again, welcome to lj’s.

-- Andybb - GO HAWKS!

View Rich's profile

Rich

1987 posts in 430 days


#2 posted 07-09-2017 04:08 AM

Yes, lots of photos. The top looks like the wear is uneven. How big is that split that runs horizontally in the photo? At least it looks like a split. Also, what’s up with the chair? Is that torn upholstery? It looks like I’m seeing upholstery, with horsehair peeking out around the tears.

Hard to tell without detailed photos.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

View Rick_M's profile

Rick_M

10648 posts in 2220 days


#3 posted 07-09-2017 04:58 AM

If it’s solid wood and all the same wood species, scrape and sand it down to bare wood and refinish. If it’s veneer or mixed species of wood, my suggestion would be leave it alone. (Or scuff sand and put on a coat of clear waterbase polyurethane)

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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Rich

1987 posts in 430 days


#4 posted 07-09-2017 05:11 AM



If it s solid wood and all the same wood species, scrape and sand it down to bare wood and refinish. If it s veneer or mixed species of wood, my suggestion would be leave it alone. (Or scuff sand and put on a coat of clear waterbase polyurethane)

- Rick M

Waterborne poly? She said she’s plastic-averse. Andy and I asked for more info, which I think makes more sense than firing off a paint-by-numbers solution that doesn’t even comport with the original post.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

View jonah's profile

jonah

1474 posts in 3139 days


#5 posted 07-09-2017 11:20 AM

If we’re being technical, polyurethane is not a plastic.

View CharlesNeil's profile

CharlesNeil

2145 posts in 3711 days


#6 posted 07-09-2017 01:07 PM

i agree more photos are needed ..

View Rich's profile

Rich

1987 posts in 430 days


#7 posted 07-09-2017 01:15 PM


If we re being technical, polyurethane is not a plastic.

- jonah

OK. I wasn’t being technical though. Look at the context it’s used in the original post and you might get a clue.

Besides, since Charles is getting involved, I’m going to just sit back and learn from the expert.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

View MzWhitney's profile

MzWhitney

9 posts in 163 days


#8 posted 07-09-2017 06:36 PM

Hey, thanks for responding!

After spending some hours going down the rabbithole, I’m finding myself less keen on using something like tung or danish oil – I live in an apartment, so this work will either be done in my small kitchen where I’ll have to smell whatever I use, or in the yard, where I won’t be able to leave it out overnight.

While in theory, I don’t mind putting time into the project, lugging this beast of a tabletop in and out of the yard will be a challenge.

I think that I will stain it, because the wood is a little light for my liking. Probably not as dark as the original finish, though. I remain intrigued by rub-on oil or wax finishes, but it just seems like they take forever.

Seeing a lot of differing opinions on Minwax wipe on poly, but that might be what I lean towards. I would like something that doesn’t end up looking “plasticky” for want of a better word.

Thanks again!

Here are some more pictures (sorry, they all get displayed in landscape mode, I’m not sure how to fix that).

A closer look at the table top. The wear is indeed, very uneven. That split is where it opens up to accommodate up to 3 extra leaves.

Here’s one of the leaves to compare the finish on a less worn piece:

The top is made up of strips about 3” wide, some with quite contrasting grains. Not sure if the dark/light contrast is a result of some stain still clinging to the wood. My mother suggested using paint thinner or mineral spirits after stripping to get rid of those last bits of stain.

A closer view of the legs:

And the chair:

The seat is covered with leather that appears to be padded with actual grass (?)

View chrisstef's profile

chrisstef

17032 posts in 2847 days


#9 posted 07-09-2017 06:48 PM

If odor is a concern i would scrape the old finish off with a card scraper, sand with 180 and 220, apply a coat of waterbased dye then either top coat with water based poly or shellac. Finish off with some paste wax.

But first id listen (intently) to whatever Charles had to say.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View MzWhitney's profile

MzWhitney

9 posts in 163 days


#10 posted 07-09-2017 06:59 PM

As a point of curiosity, if anyone can tell me what style / how old it might be.

It has this sticker on the bottom.

I was able to find out that the Victoriaville Furniture Company was known under that name from 1903 until 1920, when it was changed to the Victoriaville Furniture Company Ltd. Since there’s no “Ltd” on the sticker, I’m gathering it was from the aforementioned time frame. The only good company history I was able to find is in French:

http://www.shgv.ca/archives/Meubles/meuble01.htm

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MzWhitney

9 posts in 163 days


#11 posted 07-09-2017 07:00 PM


If odor is a concern i would scrape the old finish off with a card scraper, sand with 180 and 220, apply a coat of waterbased dye then either top coat with water based poly or shellac. Finish off with some paste wax.

But first id listen (intently) to whatever Charles had to say.

- chrisstef

Thanks. I’m not sure I have the stamina to take of the finish without solvent. :) But if I could do that step outside and the rest inside, I think that could be a reasonable compromise!

View jonah's profile

jonah

1474 posts in 3139 days


#12 posted 07-09-2017 08:02 PM

My go-to finish for most stuff is General Finishes Arm-R-Seal. It is easy to apply and looks fantastic. However, it is not water based and tends to take a while to dry. It certainly won’t let you get 3-4 coats done in a day the way Shellac or some water-based finishes will.

Arm-R-Seal is an oil/varnish blend similar to the wipe-on-poly you mentioned. In my opinion the finish you get out of it is far, far superior to Minwax. Check out Marc Spagnuolo’s recent comparison for a more detailed look.

http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/videos/wiping-varnish-shootout/

View MzWhitney's profile

MzWhitney

9 posts in 163 days


#13 posted 07-09-2017 08:28 PM



i agree more photos are needed ..

- CharlesNeil

Lots more posted now. Seems you’re “the man” around here, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. ;)

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

556 posts in 444 days


#14 posted 07-10-2017 05:41 PM

To restart the conversation,

So, now that we’ve had a better look and a better understanding of your situation….Pizza or porcelain? Do you want this table to sit in a high traffic area where it gets used daily and keys get thrown on it and pizza and beer at night? Or is it going to be away from all that and have a porcelain vase on it and people come in and look at it and wouldn’t dare put anything on it. Two different projects. Sounds like you want to do the first and most practical? To “restore” it would be a months long painstaking process. Especially those chairs. The legs, base and chairs don’t appear to be oak are they?

Here’s my suggestion for option 1 (pizza)...
Plan on using water based finishes. You can do that indoors if you need to. Oil or water outside will get “stuff and bugs” in it.
1. Like someone said you could lightly scuff sand the base and chairs. Then you could use a combination stain and poly on them.
2. Use foam and fabric to replace the grass and leather.
3. If you don’t already have one, go to Harbor Freight and buy the $29 random orbit sander and use the 20% off coupon and a pack each of 80,120&220 grit paper to do the top.
4. Sand the top (if you have the leaves you might as well do then too) from 80-220. Then decide if you want to stain it. Again, a one step stain/poly would work and be quick.

That’s my suggestion for the down and dirty weekend warrior refurbish. As I said, option 2, “restore” is an entirely different animal. And in between you have, again, so many options it will make your head spin.

I’m sure many will disagree with me and offer other suggestions but that’s what the forum is for. :-)

-- Andybb - GO HAWKS!

View JCamp's profile

JCamp

476 posts in 391 days


#15 posted 07-10-2017 09:33 PM

Question… do u want it to look like new or do u want a nice clean antique look?
If u want it to look new then completely strip An sand An probably some sort of gloss finish
If u want it to still look older then lightly sand (leave the dark grain -oak has “deep” grain it’s just a feature of the wood) and take a scrapper (I use a utility knife blade) to take the finish off the legs then lightly sand. Then I’d wipe with something like a butcher block oil (my mom always used baby oil on EVERYTHING) to seal and add a shine
I’d work on one piece at a time verses everything at once. It’s a little less overwhelming that way
For padding on ur chairs I would suggest either taking it somewhere to hav it redone or watch a lot of YouTube vids
Also I found the grass padding really cool. I’ve never seen that before

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

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