Last year, I refinished 2 of 6 rush cane chairs I got from a resale shop. I was using them in my breakfast room mixed with 4 chairs of a different style. I loved the finished chairs but keeping them clean was a beast. And that led me to refinishing the remaining 4 chairs and to refinish the dining table.
We bought our solid wood dining table from my sister/buyer and loved the size, shape, & functionality of it. I loved that it was 2 toned with an inlay pattern on top and black turned legs. It was perfect for our mostly traditional home at the time.
The original dining table in our previous home
When we moved, it just didn’t quite fit in. Our style is transitional but in the new home we lean more toward the contemporary side of transitional – dictated partially by the style & layout we have in this home.
It is very open, which we love, but which also presents a few challenges in design and decorating. The breakfast room is open to the kitchen which has black cabinets (soon to be changed perhaps) and stainless appliances. It’s also open to the family room, which is done in grey & cream with a few bursts of color & mixed metals thrown in.
We want to keep a light airy beach-y feel, but not kitschy or “theme-y”. And definitely not farmhouse, cottage, or shabby – my DH would DIE… or kill me. Yah, so (kinda) contemporary beach house maybe?
Whatever we call it, the wood inlay table top just doesn’t “fit” anymore. And that means the 4 wooden chairs don’t either.
At this point only the 2 rush cane chairs are doing us any justice. But everything is in great condition so I was NOT interested in buying anything new, even though I saw plenty that I really liked. And as you know, I don’t like anything matchy matchy so I was definitely not interested in having a dining set in my breakfast room.
So the wheels got to turning and after refinishing an antique table for a client, then building this console table, I decided to refinish our current dining room table and those other 4 rush cane chairs that I left out of the party before.
Our dining table has a leaf so I could start with that first and we could still have part of our table to use like normal. I also wanted to be sure exactly how much sanding, primer, paint, & poly I would need to get the look I want and starting off with the leaf was a great way to test that all out.
After taping off the apron, I sanded the tabletop to a completely dull & smooth finish. Normally I would have to do this int eh direction of the wood grain but since the table has a starburst inlay pattern, that wouldn’t work. And since I’m painting it also doesn’t really matter. 2 coats of primer & 3 coats of paint later I had the exact color and coverage I was going for.
Moving on to the rest of the table, I had a few revelations:
- Round tables are not easy to paint. My natural tendency is to want to follow the pattern (circle) when I really need to paint in straight overlapping lines.
- This table would have be easier to paint if I had painted in straight lines on the short side of each section instead of across the width of it. And if I had thought of that before I got to the poly step – learn from my pain.
- I really prefer spraying furniture – no worries about brush strokes and coverage – but that definitely would not have worked for this. It seems logistically impossible without a workshop dedicated to such things. I wish I had that but… No.
- Oh. My. Goodness. Poly WHAT?! I’ve refinished, painted, and stained a few pieces in my day but I think this is the first time I’ve ever done anything with a color nearly this light. I really love water based poly. Love. But I was thinking to myself “this is your kitchen table. Everything happens on the kitchen table. Almost everything. Sooo you need to be able to scrub it, people will sit hot plates on it, your children will leave glasses of ice on it (I could scream). It needs extra durability. Polyurethane. WITH oil. The real deal (no offense to my beloved Polycrylic).”
Thank goodness another “test” on this smaller round accent table showed me that absolutely would NOT work on this white finish, which I ended up sanding down again to get the finish off and reseal with Polycrylic. Urethane ambers badly on white and, silly me, it says so right on the back of the can. Don’t judge.
So why did I choose white (technically Mystique) again? Oh yah… style. And because I had already sprayed the last 2 chairs Heirloom White on a whim & I love the look.
Also I discovered that I had a few issues with my finishing technique. I’ve mostly used dark stains or color on pieces that would not get too much wear so with polyurethane, I have mainly been concerned with coverage and brushstrokes. This project made it very clear to me that for a smooth, flawless & durable finish I had to:
- Work fast with polycrylic. Really fast – it starts to dry very quickly.
- Use a fully saturated brush. I hear foam brushes & rollers work really well too.
- Keep a wet edge at all times.
- Resist the urge to overbrush (I
‘ve gothad this bad).
- Do NOT skip the sanding step in between coats with super fine grit. Super fine.
- Consider wet sanding.
- Be patient (the worst thing for me… I want it DONE, can’t wait to see and use and…).
The wet sanding was an accidental blessing. After every coat of polycrylic, my finish would be glossy gorgeousness that was almost exactly how I want. That 1 little bubble. Damn it! Sand the whole thing very lightly… Again. Each time you have to wipe it down with a wet rag or cheesecloth to get all the residue off.
Well in this phase of the project I was using sanding sponges that could be rinsed and reused. On the very last sanding, I had 1 or 2 bubbles in each section of the table. I didn’t want to wait for the sponges to dry out so I used 1 of the wet ones. WHYYYY didn’t I try it before?! Wet sanding always scared me, but it works like magic. Bubbles gone, super smooth, almost NO residue. Lesson learned and now I know.
This project is done! The refinished table is smooth and glossy and super hard because of all the poly and the time I let it sit between coats (and because I made sure my family didn’t even LOOK at it for at least a week) But wait… There is 1 more step.
No one seems to mention this and I only knew about because of a random question from an actual woodworker moonlighting at the hardware store. When he asked if I needed help I told him I was frustrated because they didn’t have the super high grit sandpaper I was looking for. The question… “Are you buffing or waxing some furniture?”
What? No! (Insert visions of the 1970’s & 1980’s of folks spending ALL weekend waxing their cars.)
No, I’m just replacing all the sandpaper I used on this project and WHY would you ask me that?
Apparently buffing a piece of painted furniture should be the final step in refinishing. It’s not on the back of any can and you wouldn’t find that out googling “how to refinish furniture” or “how to paint furniture”. The DIY blogs don’t really talk about it much either – just some good (& some not so good) info around about wax and poly.
But woodworking blogs and forums do. So after being told this and researching it a LOT, I waited another week or so – to let the poly “cure” as instructed – and got to buffing with soapy water and super fine 0000 steel wool (which I already had from previous staining projects).
So NOW after 2 coats of primer, 3 coats of paint & 4 coats of poly, waiting a day & sanding between each coat of everything, and a little buffing, here is the finished product…
Our “newly” Refinished Dining Table & Chairs
Now that it’s done, this sort of looks like a dining set – well, this is as close to a “set” as I’ll get.
Even though I’ve refinished furniture many times before – painted & stained – I learned a lot from this project.
I love my “new” table, all that’s missing is food, family, and fun! Thanks for checking it out and let me know what you think!