Refinishing a table for the first time

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Forum topic by ammccorm posted 05-19-2015 05:45 PM 788 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1343 days

05-19-2015 05:45 PM

I’m in a predicament and I’ve only got one shot to fix it. I also have very little experience with woodworking so I thought I’d reach out to you guys for a little advice.

I got this awesome table used, and the previous owner’s kids got spots of glue caked on the top. I used a little “goo gone super glue remover” to clean it off, but it left these light spots on the table. The spots are rougher to the touch than the surrounding area.

I called the company that made it (room and board) and they said that it stripped away the lacquer and that I needed to refinish the whole tabletop. She also said that the wood (cherry) isn’t stained, and that all I needed to do was sand away the top and relacquer the new surface. She said that a feature of cherry wood is that it gets darker with time, so don’t worry if it looks lighter when I am done.

I sanded with a coarse power sander for about 15-20 minutes and then medium and fine by hand for about an hour. The light spots have gotten bigger, and the areas that were ok look beautiful. From here, I tried a fine paper (220 grit) power sander for another 15 minutes and that didn’t make a difference.

My goal is to even out the color and get it back to being naturally beautiful without using a stain.

It has been recommended that I switch to using a chemical stripper to get the remaining finish off, sand the spots out to an even color, and then apply a water-based matt lacquer. One person has also said that I should clean it off with lacquer thinner afterward.

Do you all agree with this plan? If so, can you recommend a brand? If not, what would you do?

I have included a picture of the table before as well as a picture of where I’m at now.

I’m posting this to a few forums to get the benefit of several experts, so thank you if you have already responded. I live in a small city apartment, and the little furniture I have is important to me. I just want to be sure of what I’m doing before I risk it. People’s advice has been similar, but has had variations that may or may not be important. Thank you all for helping me learn.


3 replies so far

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3558 days

#1 posted 05-19-2015 07:05 PM

OK, here’s what to do IMHO (and I used to do this for a living…)

Go get some orange peel stripper from one of the box box stores. Also pick up a couple of those green scrub pads, and a 4” scrapper from the paint aisle. Follow the instruction on which ever stripper you buy. Get a cardboard box and put some sawdust in it. After the 20 or so minutes you’ve let teh stripper sit on it, use the scrapper to scrape off the finish and orange peel into the cardboard box. Use the scrubbing pad and some water to go over the tabletop and remove any remaining finish. Don’t be afraid to use plenty of elbow grease and the scrapper to get it all off.

Get the water based finish of choise AND a can of clear shellac.

After you’ve finished completely removing the finish, lightly sand the tabletop smooth. Clean it, and when it’s dry, put on a coat of shellace. If you feel really confident, you can spray it on. Let this sit for 24 hrs (again, this is my opinion. Other’s will laugh at that).

The next day, LIGHTLY sand the surface. Take your water based finish and cut it, 80% to 20% distilled water. NOT TAP. Brush on your finish and let it sit. When it’s competley dry, lightly sand again, repeate the finish application again. Do this until you are satisfied with the results.

OH YEAH. Water based finishs are NOTORIOUSLY bubbly. You can use a fan or hair dryer to LIGHTLY blow out the bubble on the surface. Don’t panic.

I’m available if you have any other questions. Use lots of papers or drop cloths.

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

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6 posts in 1343 days

#2 posted 05-19-2015 07:22 PM

one quick question. As far as diluting the finish goes, what is the reason for that? I have heard that lacquer finishes always show brush strokes. Does it help with that? Also, when you say finish, you mean the lacquer, right?

Thanks for the thorough response!


View ammccorm's profile


6 posts in 1343 days

#3 posted 05-20-2015 08:44 PM

Thanks for the help, guys! My table is beautiful!


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