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Refinishing Old Cherry Dining Room Set, Any Suggestions?

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Forum topic by jksmith69 posted 1057 days ago 2543 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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jksmith69

89 posts in 1162 days


1057 days ago

My In-laws just asked if I could restore and refinish an old cherry table and chair set, and I’m not sure the best way to finish it so that it looks nice but is durable. The only way I’ve really finished wood is with a Minwax poly, but I don’t know that it’s the best way. Any suggestions and/or pointers would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

-- "Give me wood..... And I will play with it!"


12 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15684 posts in 2844 days


#1 posted 1057 days ago

What finish is on it now? Are you going to take it down to bare wood? Are they looking for a particular color?

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Sawkerf's profile

Sawkerf

1730 posts in 1694 days


#2 posted 1057 days ago

Before you do anything, you need to know if the table top is veneered plywood. If the table expands, you should be able to see if the edges have veneers. If they do, its plywood and your job just got more difficult.

Depending on the age of the set, the surface veneer of the plywood might have a decent thickness which can be sanded somewhat without sanding thru it into the substrate. Sand throughs are difficult – if not impossible – to hide.

If it isn’t plywood, you should be fine as long as you don’t mind a messy and time consuming job.

-- Adversity doesn't build character...................it reveals it.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3404 posts in 2586 days


#3 posted 1057 days ago

Use a wiping varnish, and you might even want to “tone” the varnish with a dye. I’m gonna give up on my blasts about ploycrapithane. Just ‘cause I don’t like the plastic look doesn’t mean that everyone shares my view.
You didn’t give us a lot of info that will allow best advice.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

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jksmith69

89 posts in 1162 days


#4 posted 1057 days ago

I have all the parts except for the table top. I believe the table top is laminated and then veneered, but I haven’t gotten a good look yet. Because I have to repair some of the pieces, I’m taking it down to bare wood. They haven’t told me anything about color, we haven’t talked about that yet, I was kind of assuming I was gonna color it similar to what it alread is, which is a dark red.

-- "Give me wood..... And I will play with it!"

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Sawkerf

1730 posts in 1694 days


#5 posted 1057 days ago

I wouldn’t commit to a bare wood stripdown until I knew for sure about the top. If it’s a veneer, you really want to think this thru. You could ruin the top in a heartbeat. (I’ve been there.)

-- Adversity doesn't build character...................it reveals it.

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jksmith69

89 posts in 1162 days


#6 posted 1057 days ago

Unfurtunately there’s already bare wood exposed on pieces and again unfortunately the table top was kinda close to a kitchen fire in the house it was in some years back and the plastic from the table cloth has melted/marked parts of the top. I might end up looking for totally different ideas for the top once I get it.

-- "Give me wood..... And I will play with it!"

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

136 posts in 1647 days


#7 posted 1054 days ago

I’m wondering if it’s really cherry or cherry, and maple, and birch and who knows what? A lot of manufactured stuff was made of a variety of woods and sprayed to look like cherry or whatever.

-- Gary Roberts, http://toolemera.com

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jksmith69

89 posts in 1162 days


#8 posted 1054 days ago

Alright, this is what I know so far and it will answer some questions. The whole thing is laminated cherry, at least all the ‘seen’ parts. Some of the braces up inder the table that can’t be see might be laminated with other woods. The tabletop is veneered and the veneer is basically destroyed, so it looks like I’m going to get my first lesson it veneers. The plastic tablecloth that was on it during the fire is completely melt/burnt onto the veneer. Sanding just re-melted the plastic and just gunks up the sandpaper. So I took a plane to it, which is actually working but it’s taking veneer with it. The rest of the top is in good shape and solid though.

-- "Give me wood..... And I will play with it!"

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

136 posts in 1647 days


#9 posted 1054 days ago

I guess the question is, is this set really worth the work? If someone, even family, brought it to me, I would recommend junking it and buying a new set. There is a point at which, unless there are special memories or value, that a piece of furniture is no more than a piece of furniture.

-- Gary Roberts, http://toolemera.com

View Sawkerf's profile

Sawkerf

1730 posts in 1694 days


#10 posted 1053 days ago

I second Gary’s comment. There’s literally tons of old furniture around that is well made, in good condition, and old. It’s sorta sad, but very little of it is worth anything – and even Goodwill will turn it down if they’re already carrying quie a bit similar stuff.

If it’s a family heirloom, or you just want the experience of restoring it, go for it. Otherwise, a trip to the dump is probably the best plan.

-- Adversity doesn't build character...................it reveals it.

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

136 posts in 1647 days


#11 posted 1053 days ago

I’ll just add this. I worked my way through undergrad in the 70’s refinishing and restoring furniture and have continued to do so for my own pleasure since. On rare occasions I do it for other people. If it was made after 1940 and it’s veneered, I don’t touch it unless it’s something like Eames. Once the veneer comes loose, you have to check all the veneers to make sure they are solid. All too often the glue has been altered and is about to give way. Why go to a lot of work replacing the surface veneer only to discover that when you apply the adhesive, the other layers start to bubble and buckle and let go?

You’re also looking at trying to veneer a very wide panel by hand, something I would never try to do. This was originally done by a commercial veneer press, which I have used and would not attempt to do with anything less. If you really want to replace the top, just ditch the entire top, get a new piece of furniture grade cherry ply, edge it and make a new top.

But I wouldn’t do it. really, I wouldn’t. Let me put it this way, around ten years ago I bought a sold cherry, antique roll top desk. I’ve been working on it ever since. Maybe in another ten years I’ll finish restoring it. Never again will enagage myself in a project as massive as this one.

-- Gary Roberts, http://toolemera.com

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jksmith69

89 posts in 1162 days


#12 posted 1053 days ago

Wow, everyone’s given me so much to think about. That’s why I posed the question, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself in to. After I figure out what I’m gonna do, I’ll make sure I post pictures afterward and explain why I did what I decided… Thanks Eveyone!

-- "Give me wood..... And I will play with it!"

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