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  • Table refinishing

    I've just been asked if I can refinish a table and 7 chairs. Told him I don't have much experience doing refinishing. He asked if I wanted some experience. I'm not really sure all that's involved in refinishing.

    The table and chairs have lots of round spindles, curves and grooves. Looks like it would be lots if hand sanding, lots..... I'm positive this is already a no for me. Maybe if it was my own.

    Maybe you guys can humor me?

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  • #2

    Re: Table refinishing

    Run Brian
    Ever since real paint stripper were banished it is a job best left to professional shops.
    Don

    Comment


    • #3

      Re: Table refinishing

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIGyIbJS8bI
      Egon
      from
      The South Shore, Nova Scotia

      Comment


      • #4

        Re: Table refinishing

        Originally posted by scroudt View Post
        Looks like it would be lots if hand sanding, lots.....
        Brian, it will be if you do it that way, but that's why there are chemical strippers. These save you a ton of time and hard work and, unless there is veneer that is delaminating, they don't damage the surface like sanding will.
        Having said that, first thing to do is determine the finish that's on there. Put a little denatured alcohol on an inconspicuous spot to test if it's shellac. If it isn't then put a little lacquer thinners on there. My guess, from the style, is it's an old nitrocellulose lacquer. If the thinners dissolve the finish then you will save a ton of time by applying a stripper or washing down the whole thing with lacquer thinners.
        Also looks like a heavy stain too, which is likely oil based so the stripper will take that off too. The thinners will eventually, but a bit more smelly work.

        If you are charging for this work you base your price on the type of finish you are removing, any repairs you have to do and what you are applying as a new finishing regime.

        If you do the work, remove all the casters and felt pads under the chair legs as well as the seats. The job will be much easier if you remove the tabletop too.
        I wash everything with lots of mineral spirits then lightly scuff the surface and apply stripper, keep the surfaces wet and let it do its thing..
        The chairs can be a pita if there are lots of spindles, but a good stiff brush will work the stripper into all the low areas. Let it sit until the finish blisters and looks like an overcooked grilled cheese open sandwich.

        It's a very doable project IMHO, as long as you know what you are dealing with in terms of original finish.

        Hope that "humoured you" enough lol
        Good luck

        Paul



        Comment


        • #5

          Re: Table refinishing

          Before you even think about the finish make sure the chairs and table base are all solid with no wobble. If they are loose there is no point in refinishing them unless it includes repairs. Keep in mind too that water based stripping can affect the glue joints so you may have to repair them anyway if you go down that road.

          When I was a teenager I spent summers in my fathers business stripping furniture with the "real paint stripper" Don mentioned. A lousy summer job and I avoid it like the plague.

          Pete

          Comment


          • #6

            Re: Table refinishing

            that piece is a light colored wood with a heavy toner applied. it might be maple .. its toned to make it look like walnut, to make it look more fancy this was very typical in the early 30's to early 50's or so,,

            I wouldn't touch that original finish , instead carefully use pens to fix the scratches and you can give it a very light coat of lacquer or you can just apply linseed oil and turpentine and rub every bit off and you can do that a few times.

            If you were to chemically strip it then you have a real hard time replicating the heavy toner application. those guys in the factories were experienced at spraying toners and you'll have a job to get the same results without a lot of experience building toners. I do not think it has any wood stain on it, toner is pigments suspended in the lacquer. if you wanted to replicate the toner I'd add some tint to your laquer and make it look like you are spraying coffee , and do that in a bunch of coats. if you look close youll see it's heavier in some places , like on the spindles, that's typical and intentional.
            I dont suggest you go down that road of re spraying it.


            trying to sand every nick and cranny is a waste of time if the results you want are like the original and that's what restoration is , making it look original and like it was cared for. That should be your target and you are almost there already. toners hide the grain , this is the nature of the piece so I wouldn't try to "fix " that. the wood beneath is already filled with a grain filler.. leave that be.

            there is a difference between trying to strip and refinish a piece and to restore the finish. That piece needs some careful restoration of it's original finish to hide a few bumps and marks and not a total refinish.

            I'd just get some alcohol based felt tipped pens that are suitable from a reputable furniture refinishing shop. If there are deep marks like cigarette burns or serious dents then you can use lacquer sticks in those specific areas. be careful that the pens you use are a good match, You can get a lot of different colors and you need the right one. Just apply it where needed , dont go too crazy. take your time. You just want to take the person's eye off the damage and they will enjoy the finish as it is. this wont take the effort you imagine as it looks pretty nice already.

            I'd give the customer the choice of letting you restore it's finish , dont even talk about stripping and refinishing it. You can go do that if all goes wrong if you have a suitable place to spray, but with some care it wont need that.

            I'd suggest you mix equal parts of turpentine vinegar and linseed oil, shake it good as you take more and dampen your cloth , apply it liberally all over. dont worry that the vinegar wont mix in it's just there for initial cleaning.
            rub it in good and dry it down with your old tee shirts right after. next day use your pens and try to only darken where the wood is too light, just the light colored marks where the toner is missing not whole areas. try not to double darken it near the marks, use masking tape if you like. favor too light you can always go darker next application. some of the pen might come off but just keep going. set it so you can sit comfortably and brace yourself so you can be accurate.. and take your time on one area and move slowly and methodically until you have colored in all the little bump marks.

            when you are pretty happy do the same with 50 /50 turpentine and boiled linseed oil. You can sub danish oil if you like but I'd stay away from ones with color tints added. that will restore the shine to be a bit brighter but not glossy and fake looking.. don't let the oil sit, dry down after each application wipe it on wipe it all off and leave it til next day or next time you have time. if you have the time you can do many applications and you'll see a gradual improvement in the look of it.. it will slowly fill pores and imperfections but it wont build a shell over the piece. fine scratches will get filled with the linseed oil as it will collect in those areas. You'll feel like you aren't gaining ground but after a few coats you'll start to like it more.

            That's what I'd do. If the piece is sold the next owner wont even think it was "refinished" if that's the case you did it just perfectly. the highest honor is when no one notices your workmanship.

            an inexperienced restorer would sand it all down, goop on some sort of stain , and come up with some other shiny finish but it then will look like a shiny but refinished piece that someone mucked with and that will hurt it's value to anyone that likes and collects old furniture. If you realy want to respray a table that size you should use a booth it is possible to do it with no booth, by rubbing the finish out rather than spraying in a perfectly dust free area.. you can get lacquer in cans and you can buy it ad spray it with a gun for a better job, guns have a better spray pattern. you can get all sorts of toners in spray cans from Mohawk finishing supplies.. but I wouldn't go there. refinish a piece if you need to like something someone left outside or totally messed up with houseplants.. mostly what I see is a few minor bumps, the chairs collide with the legs and such. some natural wear is ok. It is expected due to age so take a light approach, if some corners show natural wear leave it be.

            my wild guess is it's 1929 around the stock market crash with Jacobean style legs. someone more familiar might say not that's wrong and give better advice. I think it falls in an era after craftsman style but its not art deco. so in there somewhere and I may easily be off on the date..
            The value is best if it has its matching chairs, with out those it's not worth a lot. with them it's a set. If you have the hutch etc then even better. this is production furniture it's made in a factory not by a furniture maker that did one off things. that's just my opinion.. the table all on it's own is probably worth 100 to 200 bucks.
            if it's a set, maybe 1000 but that's just a wild guess too.

            some pieces like this had "faux inlay" they used stains sometimes to make it look like it had veneer inlay or sometimes they did faux finishing on top of the wood to make it look like fancy wood.. sometimes they had labels that look like inlay. and if it has any of that , it's hard to replicate. and if you strip you probably loose it. sometimes they did like a pinstripe around the edge of the top or something similar. If you strip it and it has stuff like that you basically erase it. the wheels look goofy but they are serving a purpose so they care about the floor. the chairs match the table and that's good.

            on the skirt I see some scroll patterns that could be an artful stain and not carving or inlay but "faux" work. that's the stuff you want to preserve as it is. it reflects it's era.



            Last edited by stickman; 07-19-2021, 06:41 PM.
            MartyFromKingston likes this.

            Comment

            • Thread Continues Below...

            • #7

              Re: Table refinishing

              Excellent advice!

              Originally posted by stickman View Post
              that piece is a light colored wood with a heavy toner applied. it might be maple .. its toned to make it look like walnut, to make it look more fancy this was very typical in the early 30's to early 50's or so,,

              I wouldn't touch that original finish , instead carefully use pens to fix the scratches and you can give it a very light coat of lacquer or you can just apply linseed oil and turpentine and rub every bit off and you can do that a few times.

              If you were to chemically strip it then you have a real hard time replicating the heavy toner application. those guys in the factories were experienced at spraying toners and you'll have a job to get the same results without a lot of experience building toners. I do not think it has any wood stain on it, toner is pigments suspended in the lacquer. if you wanted to replicate the toner I'd add some tint to your laquer and make it look like you are spraying coffee , and do that in a bunch of coats. if you look close youll see it's heavier in some places , like on the spindles, that's typical and intentional.
              I dont suggest you go down that road of re spraying it.


              trying to sand every nick and cranny is a waste of time if the results you want are like the original and that's what restoration is , making it look original and like it was cared for. That should be your target and you are almost there already. toners hide the grain , this is the nature of the piece so I wouldn't try to "fix " that. the wood beneath is already filled with a grain filler.. leave that be.

              there is a difference between trying to strip and refinish a piece and to restore the finish. That piece needs some careful restoration of it's original finish to hide a few bumps and marks and not a total refinish.

              I'd just get some alcohol based felt tipped pens that are suitable from a reputable furniture refinishing shop. If there are deep marks like cigarette burns or serious dents then you can use lacquer sticks in those specific areas. be careful that the pens you use are a good match, You can get a lot of different colors and you need the right one. Just apply it where needed , dont go too crazy. take your time. You just want to take the person's eye off the damage and they will enjoy the finish as it is. this wont take the effort you imagine as it looks pretty nice already.

              I'd give the customer the choice of letting you restore it's finish , dont even talk about stripping and refinishing it. You can go do that if all goes wrong if you have a suitable place to spray, but with some care it wont need that.

              I'd suggest you mix equal parts of turpentine vinegar and linseed oil, shake it good as you take more and dampen your cloth , apply it liberally all over. dont worry that the vinegar wont mix in it's just there for initial cleaning.
              rub it in good and dry it down with your old tee shirts right after. next day use your pens and try to only darken where the wood is too light, just the light colored marks where the toner is missing not whole areas. try not to double darken it near the marks, use masking tape if you like. favor too light you can always go darker next application. some of the pen might come off but just keep going. set it so you can sit comfortably and brace yourself so you can be accurate.. and take your time on one area and move slowly and methodically until you have colored in all the little bump marks.

              when you are pretty happy do the same with 50 /50 turpentine and boiled linseed oil. You can sub danish oil if you like but I'd stay away from ones with color tints added. that will restore the shine to be a bit brighter but not glossy and fake looking.. don't let the oil sit, dry down after each application wipe it on wipe it all off and leave it til next day or next time you have time. if you have the time you can do many applications and you'll see a gradual improvement in the look of it.. it will slowly fill pores and imperfections but it wont build a shell over the piece. fine scratches will get filled with the linseed oil as it will collect in those areas. You'll feel like you aren't gaining ground but after a few coats you'll start to like it more.

              That's what I'd do. If the piece is sold the next owner wont even think it was "refinished" if that's the case you did it just perfectly. the highest honor is when no one notices your workmanship.

              an inexperienced restorer would sand it all down, goop on some sort of stain , and come up with some other shiny finish but it then will look like a shiny but refinished piece that someone mucked with and that will hurt it's value to anyone that likes and collects old furniture. If you realy want to respray a table that size you should use a booth it is possible to do it with no booth, by rubbing the finish out rather than spraying in a perfectly dust free area.. you can get lacquer in cans and you can buy it ad spray it with a gun for a better job, guns have a better spray pattern. you can get all sorts of toners in spray cans from Mohawk finishing supplies.. but I wouldn't go there. refinish a piece if you need to like something someone left outside or totally messed up with houseplants.. mostly what I see is a few minor bumps, the chairs collide with the legs and such. some natural wear is ok. It is expected due to age so take a light approach, if some corners show natural wear leave it be.

              my wild guess is it's 1929 around the stock market crash with Jacobean style legs. someone more familiar might say not that's wrong and give better advice. I think it falls in an era after craftsman style but its not art deco. so in there somewhere and I may easily be off on the date..
              The value is best if it has its matching chairs, with out those it's not worth a lot. with them it's a set. If you have the hutch etc then even better. this is production furniture it's made in a factory not by a furniture maker that did one off things. that's just my opinion.. the table all on it's own is probably worth 100 to 200 bucks.
              if it's a set, maybe 1000 but that's just a wild guess too.

              some pieces like this had "faux inlay" they used stains sometimes to make it look like it had veneer inlay or sometimes they did faux finishing on top of the wood to make it look like fancy wood.. sometimes they had labels that look like inlay. and if it has any of that , it's hard to replicate. and if you strip you probably loose it. sometimes they did like a pinstripe around the edge of the top or something similar. If you strip it and it has stuff like that you basically erase it. the wheels look goofy but they are serving a purpose so they care about the floor. the chairs match the table and that's good.

              on the skirt I see some scroll patterns that could be an artful stain and not carving or inlay but "faux" work. that's the stuff you want to preserve as it is. it reflects it's era.


              All the best,

              Marty

              - Instagram: @apexwoodworks
              - facebook page
              - YouTube Channel

              Secretary of Kingston Wood Artisans Inc.

              My goal is not to be better than anyone else. My goal is to be better than I used to be.

              Comment


              • #8

                Re: Table refinishing

                Thanks Marty..

                I think the seats on the chairs would have likely been either leather or a fake sort of leather , it might be referred to as stag? It's not too far off from the stuff they used to use to cover suitcases. some of that fabric looks like leather but it isn't leather..it was likely brown or black. If you take the seats apart you can easily remove the cushions. try to keep each with the chair it's from. on the underside they should have fabric webbing and then some horsehair stuffing and maybe a bit of cotton overtop. over time they sag and need a bit more stuffing or maybe to have the webbing replaced. someone has put woven covers over the chairs and didn't do such a bad job of that. If I worked on the chairs I'd remove the seats to keep them clean. if you wanted to do them in leather I'd look for old brown or black couches that are worn out and need recovering.. you can try to cut the backs out. often this is split leather and not the best top leather, but it's probably a way to do it on a budget. you can buy hides but they are expensive. sometimes if I see a piece that is destined for the dump and with permission I'll whip out my box cutter and take the back , roll it up and use it for things like that. If you dont like the color you can usually die it black or a darker color. if the seats all look like the one in the pic I wouldn't do any recovering , at most slip in a tiny bit more stuffing. they can et a bit uncomfortable when the stuffing sags so reviving that is worthwhile.

                I recently got a set of 4 nice chairs with barley twist legs. I really liked them and did a few wood repairs. I've always liked barley twist stuff so I have a few other pieces that tie in. those have the original covers and it's leather. uade I guess or maybe the gloss just was worn off.. the problem I have is my cat seems to want to hop up and shred them and she's done a good job of that already so now I need to recover them to make them nice again. I used to have a great big stump made from balsa wood in the kitchen for her to do her thing to and that worked but it leaves little bits of balsa wood all over. my girlfriend took it out of there and so kitty started on the chairs. I should build a cat tree . she goes outside it's not like she doesn't have trees to go after. as soon as I open the door shes on the tree outside sharpening her tools.



                Comment


                • #9

                  Re: Table refinishing

                  Originally posted by MartyFromKingston View Post
                  Excellent advice!
                  For the theorist and those doing this for themselves, with a lot of spare time on their hands, maybe, but definitely not as a business proposition due to the hours involved in the proposed process for furniture that the proponent wildly guesses as worth $1000. Also I have never met a prospective customer yet that would accept material obtained from "dumpster diving".
                  Given that the prospective customer (and I am assuming Brian is charging for this work) asked "if he wanted the experience" I would suggest he is looking for a cheap option rather than pay an established refinisher or restorer the going rate. He certainly wouldn't want to pay for the considerable amount of labour involved in the proposed method. As you know, running a successful business is about making money and one has to carefully choose one's customers to make that happen.
                  When I ran my refinishing business I was very fortunate in having an excellent relationship with a gentleman who was a certified conservator (he had taken a course in the UK that gave him that qualification). If I came across a piece that I thought might be of value I would consult him and as he was also involved in evaluations for estate sales, I got a very fair appraisal of worth. He mixed all his own colours and did everything by hand (except spraying shellac or nitro) and told me that I should never, ever, use the "magic marker" or putty style fillers on anything of potential value, as they don't age in the same way the wood/finish combination does. This was a guy who dealt with furniture worth thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars. His prices for restoration work were stratospheric, but his clientele knew the value of what they had and cherished it. I definitely don't think Brian's potential customer falls into this category, hence my original post.

                  Regards
                  Paul
                  Last edited by Paul O in Paris; 07-21-2021, 07:54 PM.
                  Wally in Calgary likes this.

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