Asked on Jun 20, 2013

Advice on Refinished Inlaid Wood Tables?

Jeanine Wester
by Jeanine Wester
I have two tables I bought at a garage sale. Both have an inlaid veneer. The legs are in good condition, but the tops have lacquer or varnish missing in patches and some staining. Should I strip and then use a tinted varnish over the top? What are the steps I should take?
  22 answers
  • Z Z on Jun 20, 2013
    Wow these are beautiful tables Jeanine. Let's see what Kevin @KMS Woodworks has to say about restoring the tops.
  • Jeanine Wester Jeanine Wester on Jun 20, 2013
    Thanks Becky! I was excited when I found them, but I'm scared to ruin them. I don't think they're valuable but they're still pretty!
  • Z Z on Jun 20, 2013
    You're welcome Jeannine. I hope it's an easy fix. I've used Restore-A-Finish on veneer before, but not inlaid veneer, so I thought I'd pass this to Kevin since he's the expert.
  • Jeanine Wester Jeanine Wester on Jun 20, 2013
    I love that Restore a Finish too, but I also wasn't sure if that would be okay on inlay with all the different colors and there are some spots that have no finish.
  • Z Z on Jun 20, 2013
    They do make one without color that might work, but again I'd be afraid to use it on these. Though you could always contact them. I do believe they have a way to do so on their website.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jun 21, 2013
    My profile pic to the left here is a veneered mirror frame that I restored last year for a client. I used a citirus based chemical stripper. With the stripper applied I covered it with some basic kitchen plastic wrap...this keeps it from drying out too quickly and allows the chemical to have a longer contact time in the "wet" state. After a couple hours the goooy mixture is gently scrapped away with a plastic putty knife. Plastic here will prevent some stray gouges from damaging the delicate veneers. Tough areas may need multiple applications. With the bulk of the material removed some rinsing and clean up work can be done with some mineral spirits and some fine steel wool. Once all of the finish is gone repairs can be made, colors corrected with some light stain application then the surface can be final smoothed with some 220 to 320 grit. (this may affect the recently applied stain). To protect the project I top coat with 4-5 coats of minwax's wiping poly...this may seem like a lot of coats but these go on supper thin.
  • Jeanine Wester Jeanine Wester on Jun 21, 2013
    It sounds like I can actually handle this! So excited to get started, going to get some supplies at Walmart tonight I think. Wiping Poly... that is different than the Minwax finishing wax right?
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jun 22, 2013
    Yes, wiping poly is WAY different from finishing wax. The wiping poly is a thinner version of the brush on kind. I apply it with a small ( about 4" x 4") piece of white t-shirt type of rag. you basically just barely wet the surface with the finish. Dry times are about 3-4 hour for me here in the arid west but I often just do one coat per day. After 3 or 4 coats I do a slight rub down with some 320 grit and then give it another coat or two. I also allow another week before putting it into service, this allows the finish to fully cure a bit more and become much harder. Personally I am a fan of the "satin" finish which comes in the gold colored can. I have seen it in both pint and quarts. I use a lot so I buy by the quart.
  • Z Z on Jun 22, 2013
    Yay, @Kevin to the rescue! Thank you for hearing my "call".
  • Jeanine Wester Jeanine Wester on Jun 22, 2013
    I am going to get some of that tonight hopefully! I already stripped the wood and it is looking better already. What an amazing difference. The wood is so beautiful without all the layers of heavy varnish and stain, thanks so much for all the help!
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jun 23, 2013
    @Jeanine Wester sounds great...are you taking a bunch of pics to share with us when you get it completed?...everybody loves before and afters.
  • Jeanine Wester Jeanine Wester on Jun 23, 2013
    yes I am! I just got done staining and am waiting for it to dry before I do the wipe on poly. I will take some pictures now and hopefully can post tomorrow after a few coats of poly.
  • Z Z on Jun 23, 2013
    Oh good. I was going to ask you to take pictures to share. I'll be looking forward to seeing them.
  • Jeanine Wester Jeanine Wester on Jun 23, 2013
    Working on it right now actually!
  • Z Z on Jun 24, 2013
    You must work when your baby is sleeping.
  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Jun 25, 2013
    I'd recommend stripping old finish and refinishing the inlaid top with a matt Verathane (brand) sealer. This has a medium shine, in my opinion not too shiny. If you are adventuresome and want a very unique piece, you might try painting (in a wash style) the legs. See sample I am posting for ideas. You can find the entire project on my blog
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  • Jeanine Wester Jeanine Wester on Jun 25, 2013 I actually did finish one of these tables, you can see it posted on the site!
  • Z Z on Jun 25, 2013
    Hi @Donna. Your table top is beautiful. The subtle sheen really brings our the wood grain. Very well done. You must not have noticed that KMS was able to help Jeanine and her question was resolved.
  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Jun 25, 2013
    Thank you for your kind comments. Just wanted to share some unusual possibilities for other projects! Thanks for looking at my work!
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jun 26, 2013
    @donna I grew up in MI (Parchment just on the edge of Kalamazoo) and Believe it or not actually have been to Pullman... We would bicycle through there on various trips to the lake.
  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Jun 26, 2013
    Interesting. And I was born and grew up in Kalamazoo and moved to Pullman just 12 years ago. Small world!
  • Joanne Joanne on Mar 05, 2021

    I have a tray from the 1950's with inlaid wood that are all different colors. They are mallard ducks so there is a green, blue, light and dark shades of brown. If I use a gentle stripper on the whole piece will it strip out the colors of the inlaid wood?