How to Refinish a Table Top and Why I Didn't Just Paint It


Refinished Gateleg Table

Recently, I came across this table at a garage sale. It was visible from the street, so I decided to stop and take a look at it. It was not in good shape, but I love the Barley Twist legs, and for $20 I could hardly pass it up. I loaded it into my car with the thought that I would give it a good sanding and just paint it.


When I unloaded the table and unfolded the legs, I noticed that the base of the table was in great condition, it was just the top that needed work. So I toyed with the idea of leaving the base as is and painting the top. Decisions, decisions. While I hated the idea of stripping the top, I knew that's what had to be done. Some classic pieces are just worth the extra effort.

Supplies Needed:

  • Citristrip

  • Metal Pan (stripping agents burn a whole in plastic)

  • Multiple Paint Brushes (nothing fancy)

  • Wood Finish Penetrating Stain

  • Some sort of Sander

  • 100 Grit Sand Paper

  • Tack Cloth or Cleaning Cloth of Some Sort

  • Tung Oil

  • Orange Glo or other wood cleaner

  • Paint Scraper

All of these products can be found at your local hardware store.


It was a pretty day, so I brought out the Citristrip and began the process of painting a generous portion to the top of the table. I waited about 6 hours before I started scraping

the old finish away. Different stripping agents take different amounts of time. Citristrip instructions say 30 minutes up to 24 hours.


During the Less Than Fun Stripping Process

I used a regular paint scraper to remove most of the old varnish, however there were still some stubborn spots that needed to be addressed.



I broke out my orbital sander fitted with 100 grit sandpaper. With a little muscle, I was able to remove all the old varnish and smooth out the table top. After removing all the dust with a tack cloth, the table was ready to be stained.



For this piece, I used the Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain in Golden Oak 210B. This is not a gel stain, so it is thin, dries quickly and works well when multiple coats are needed. I painted on the stain in the direction of the wood grain (always). I applied two coats allowing for two hours between each coat.


While the stain was penetrating the table top, I cleaned the legs with Orange Glo Wood Furniture 2 in 1 Clean & Polish. There are several great wood cleaners on the market, this is just the one I happened to have on hand.


The next day, I finished the table with two coats of Minwax Tung Oil. If you haven't ever used Tung Oil, I encourage you to try it sometime. It provides a protective finish for furniture that has been refinished as it penetrates the wood and restores vitality. Think of it as a nice drink of water for your dry and thirsty wood furniture.


Every time I look at this table, I am so glad I didn't take the easy way out with paint. This Antique Barley Twist Gateleg Drop Leaf Table, a staple in English Interiors was worth every bit of effort.


As always, thank you for stopping by. I hope I have inspired you to be creative and tackle a refinishing project and I hope you will visit again soon!!

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