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Dining Room Table Makeover

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

I have a master plan for dining/living room makeover, but it all starts with this table:

I purchased this table online when we first moved into our home. When it arrived, it didn't exactly look like the pictures posted on the website. To avoid a hassle and fight, we ended up keeping it, and I hoped it would grow on me.

Spoiler Alert: It didn't.

Fast forward seven years, and it was time to see what this bad boy looked like under all that strange distressing. Days and days of sanding, and look at what I uncovered:

Look at how beautiful that wood is!! Why would they ruin it with all that nasty distressing?! Unfortunately, my friends, this is where things went REAL south. We were now in quarantine, which meant the only people that could move this table were me and my husband. He had an injured back, and this table is large and hundreds of pounds, so when rain was forecast for the next week, we opted to cover it well and hope for the best.

I know, I know.... what was I thinking? I clearly wasn't thinking at all. We uncovered the table to find a mess.

It slowly dried, and as it did, more and more damage became apparent. Warping, peeling, cracking. It was borderline destroyed.

It took a lot of sanding, but I got through the majority of staining, and minimized the peeling/warping.

Now, here's where I think I became a bit of a patching expert. I went through many of them, but found the best option was Goodfilla Water Based Wood Filler (I used the color walnut). It sands well, accepts stain and oil, and comes in a far better range of colors than the other lines out there.

I had lots and lots of patching to do. LOTS of patching.

After patching, I had some decisions to make on how to best protect my table going forward. Ultimately, I decided to go with a combination of two: Danish Oil (in medium walnut) and Wipe-On Poly (in satin).

Most people say there is no reason to use Danish Oil and poly together, but for this project, I needed the properties of both. If you're not familiar with the pros and cons of each, here's a little breakdown:

Danish Oil

A combination of stain and oil

It will slightly stain your wood, turning it a darker tone, based on the shade you choose

It seeps into the pores and strengthens the wood from the inside out

It will not provide heavy waterproofing or stain resistance

It is not scratch proof

It is easy to apply

Wipe-On Poly

Oil-based polyurethane

Will not seep into the wood and provide strength from the inside out

Provides scratch protection

Provides waterproofing and stain resistance

It is fairly easy to apply

This project needed both because several areas on my table had been compromised due to water damage. The oil would provide greater strength from the inside out and the poly would provide strength on the outside. If you are refinishing something that won't get heavy everyday use, you can skip the poly altogether, but this is a table, and I have kids, so.....

The oil applies very easily. You can use a rag or brush to apply it and let it seep in

over 15-20 minutes. If any areas start to absorb all the oil and become dry looking, pile some more oil on (your piece should look like the picture on the left at this point). At the end of the 15-20 minutes, rub the whole thing down, getting rid of any residual oil sitting on the surface. It's very important you get rid of all the oil, because anything left on your piece will dry stick. If you come back

and notice you left some oil sitting, don't panic. Take a clean rag with firm pressure and rub the area with oil. It will knock out any of the stickiness and should look like the picture to the right.

I did three coats of the danish oil. The first coat I applied regularly, the second one was a slurry coat, and then the third was applied regularly. The slurry coat made all the difference, and sounds intimidating, but once you get the hang of it, is very easy to apply. It makes a huge difference in your finish as it gives it a very professional and smooth look/feel. To apply a slurry coat, take 600 grit sandpaper, dunk it into the danish oil, and apply to your table, going with the grain in a circular motion. After you complete a section, take a cloth, and rub the oil out against the grain. The circular motions with the grain will loosen up some sawdust, and wiping against the grain will force that sawdust into the open pores in your wood. The end result is a smooth and glossy finished. You can see the before and after of a slurry coat here:

After I was done with the third coat, I let my table fully dry over a week and a half. There is no way to know if the oil is dry inside the wood, but giving it that long ensured there was a very good chance it was. You do not want to apply poly directly on wood that has an oil finish that hasn't fully dried or hardened because it will not cure properly.

Next up, wipe on poly. While it's true that wipe-on poly is far easier to apply than it's non-wipe-on brother, it is still hard work to get it perfect and streak-less. The key with wipe-on poly is make one complete stroke from one end of your project, to the other, without picking up your applicator (whether that be a rag, brush, pad, etc.). When you're dealing with a large piece, like a dining room table, that presents challenges.

I had read that applying poly on large projects with Shur-Line Edger Pro is helpful because it allows you to cover a large amount of space with one stroke, however,

what ultimately ended up happening was the fibers from the pad started to shed all over my poly coat, embedding it in the poly as it dried. I was able to knock out the fibers with sanding, but you shouldn't use an item that will shed all over your project, especially on the final coat, when you want it as pristine as possible. After a few trips to the store, I ended up purchasing and using the Shur-Line Deck Stain Applicator. It worked

perfectly - no shedding, held a large amount of oil so I could cover the table from end to end and significantly minimized streaking.

If you are tackling a project with any type of oil (danish oil, poly, etc.), remember to lay your rags, towels, brushes, etc. out to dry complete before you do anything else with them. Even if your plan is to simply throw them away, you should follow this step. The chemicals in these items heat up as they dry, so crumpled up towels, stuffed inside a trash can, could easily self-combust. You can read more about here. I don't know about you, but I strongly prefer my house intact.

After the last coat of poly, I allowed the table to dry for 48 hours and then we finally (3.5 months later) brought the table back to its home. It sat, untouched for weeks, before I would allow anyone to use it. Now, it's the center of action in our home.

Do you have a piece of furniture you refinished or are planning to refinish? I would love to hear about it!

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