Suggestions on how to refinish a damaged drop leaf coffee table

A blog reader asked for suggestions on how she could refinish this drop leaf coffee table. The top is damaged and she stripped it but can't get it to look any better than this. She's also open to a potential paint treatment ... but would like to keep some integrity of the wood. Also, keep in mind that her home's decor skews a bit more traditional. Any suggestions (and links) would be greatly appreciated!
q suggestions on how to refinish a damaged drop leaf coffee table, painted furniture, drop leaf coffee table
drop leaf coffee table
q suggestions on how to refinish a damaged drop leaf coffee table, painted furniture, drop leaf coffee table
drop leaf coffee table
q suggestions on how to refinish a damaged drop leaf coffee table, painted furniture, drop leaf coffee table
drop leaf coffee table
  13 answers
  • Carmen G Carmen G on Aug 07, 2012
    I can't help because I would probably spray paint it. Traditional would be black.

  • Z Z on Aug 07, 2012
    Did she use a stripper or a furniture refinisher? It doesn't look stripped to me.

  • @Becky, I'm not sure ... I'll check.

  • Sharron W Sharron W on Aug 07, 2012
    It doesn't look fully stripped to me either...I think I'd take a sander to it to get off the rest of the old varnish...

  • Unexpected Elegance Unexpected Elegance on Aug 07, 2012
    I would suggest taking a sander to it too. Get a heavier grit to get the remaining finish off and then a finer one to finish it.

  • Z Z on Aug 07, 2012
    Thanks Linda. That would make a difference in how one goes about finishing it. Too bad she didn't ask before she started. She probably could have used a product called Restore A Finish. A little or more rubbing and it would have looked like new. Not sure it would work now because of the other chemicals used already. I'd suggest that the owner email Howard Products at the following link and tell them what they've already used on the table and ask if RAF will still work. It's an awesome product.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Aug 08, 2012
    There are basically two schools of thought when it come to refinishing work. The least aggressive "strip" and recoat is done to preserve any unique "character" elements on the wood. Old dings and gouges are preserved and the piece will still look like an antique...but have a fresh preserved top coat. With this route the piece will not look "new" but refreshed. For this type of work I like to use a citrus based stripper and some medium grade steel wool, I also use a hand full of plastic "putty knives" to remove some of the stripper / finish goo without adding any new dings or scratches to the wood. This process take some time for the stripper to work and may require a few applications. The second method is the sand and a lot of the character will be lost and you may also loose some of the edge details and crispness of the moldings etc. Depending on how deep some of the character marks are you may still have a few shine trough with this method. For me I try to go the strip route first. I the last few months I have done a few of each of these. Mahogany table that also needed some restoration work...the other was a antique teak "sailors chest" that got a face lift.

  • Karen Whaley Karen Whaley on Dec 15, 2014
    Can you tell me what year this piece comes from, and maybe the manufacture? What is this piece called. I have one just like it. I got at a yard sale..

  • JMBecker JMBecker on Jul 25, 2015
    I love the table and can't wait to see what you do with it...

  • Chip Miller Chip Miller on Jul 25, 2015
    Use General Finishes gel-stain. Simple and does a great job.

  • Toni Hembree Toni Hembree on Jul 26, 2015
    Did she use a power sander? I finally broke down and got a circular power sander, and it has made all the world of difference when tackling big refinishing jobs. Start with a low number grit sand paper and work up to a high grit paper. You'll be amazed how well they work.

  • Debellen Debellen on Aug 23, 2015
    Don't ever strip a nice piece of wood by sanding. That will ruin the patina. 3M makes a nice stripper called Safest stripper which has no harsh chemicals and you don't even need gloves. It goes on like lotion /gel then comes off with a green scrubber like you would use in the kitchen on pans, with water. Follow the directions on the can. When clean and dry, smooth any rough surfaces with dry steel wool. Stain, wiping off with a rag after several seconds for a more natural look and finish with polyurethane for a water proof finish. You will need to give the top several coats, sanding lightly with a fine grit paper between coats. It will look so good, you will be motivated to find more old pieces to refinish.

  • Liz Liz on Mar 20, 2016
    The "patina" is already ruined. She said the surface was gouged and damaged. Toni Hembree is absolutely correct. After 40 plus years of furniture refinishing, we know there are some pieces that must be sanded. With sanding, as Toni described, and staining and polyurethane this could be a beautiful piece restored to its former beauty. Another trick we've used is to use very fine grade steel wool between coats of polyurethane, except not after the final coat. Finish off with a good furniture wax. In Colonial Williamsburg, they use a product made of bee's wax and lemon oil, to wax and protect all their antiques. You can order the same product, "Old Craftsman's" by googling online. It builds up to a velvet finish.