How to Refinish a Dining Table (without Stripping & Sanding)

January 9, 2018

Shortly before Thanksgiving I found a dining table at a thrift store for $25. I was so excited! It is solid wood, has 2 leaves, and can seat up to 10 people. Plus it has has a fairly simple design (4 straight legs with a bit of detail) – which was one of our musts for a dining table, we wanted it to be traditional, but simple. I couldn’t ask for much more, especially with a $25 price tag. Thrifting does pay off if you are patient. I had been looking for a table that met our criteria (for under $100) for 3-4 months.

The only concern with the table was that the finish was fairly worn and there were two sections of deep gouges in the top. We are guessing this is from another table being stacked on top of it at the thrift store so I knew this table was going to need a bit of love before we put it into use.

I love a good DIY project, but I like for projects to be done quick. Honestly, if a (non-renovation related) project is going to take me more than a few hours the likelihood of it actually getting finished is slim to none.

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I knew the table I bought had to be refinished, but at all costs I did not want to have to completely strip and sand the finish off the table. I did some research and found that Minwax Polyshades could be a good option for our new table. With Polyshades you don’t have to strip or sand the existing finish before applying. This sounded like a project I would actually finish. I have one (or three) too many Craigslist dresser finds in the basement that are half sanded waiting for me to repair them.

A quick note about Polyshades – the color of the finish looks like a stain, but it does not act like a stain, rather it is more like paint. So if you want to be able to see all of the wood grain in the final finish this might not be the product for you. You can see some wood grain on the top of our refinished table, but mostly what you see is actually brushstrokes, it just tricks your eye and does kind of look wood grain. I only applied one coat of Polyshades so if you were to do more than one coat you might not be able to see any wood grain, depending on the color of the stain you chose.

Here is what I used to refinish our table:

Before applying the Polyshades you need to repair any scratches or dents. I used the stain pen to color in the deep grooves to hide the light, unfinished wood showing from the scratches. Then I applied the wood filler to all of the scratches using a putty knife to create a smooth finish. After the wood filler dried I used the stain pen on top of the wood filler to try and darken the color a bit more. Use a sanding sponge block to *lightly* sand the entire table. You absolutely do not need to sand the finish off the table, just lightly sand enough to rough up the existing finish to give the Polyshades something to grip to. No need to break a sweat for this step. After the sanding is done, wipe the table down with a damp cloth to remove any dust. I am a bad blogger and forgot to take pictures of these parts of the process, but it is pretty straightforward.

Then add a drop cloth under the table (or piece you are refinishing) to catch any potential drips – take my advice because I only used small pieces of cardboard under each table leg and had a few drips on the wood floor!! Luckily they came off, but I would definitely use a drop cloth in the future. Using a synthetic bristle paint brush apply the Polyshades in light, even strokes in the direction of the natural wood grain. Be sure to keep a wet edge as you are working and if you notice bubbles in an area you just applied try to use your paint brush to very lightly smooth out the bubbles. I applied the finish on the top of the table first, then moved to the edge, and finally the legs. Working from the top down worked best for me, but this could vary depending on the piece you are refinishing.

The whole refnishing process took me 2.5 hours start to finish. Not bad for a completely new table!

Once you are finished with your entire piece I would suggest turning a fan on to help speed the drying time. I found our table to be mostly dry after a few hours, but I let it cure for 2 days before setting anything on it. After It was dried I realized you can still somewhat see the deep gouges through the new finish. Hard to tell in a picture due to the shine, but you can sort of see it in the image above. This was something I decided did not bother me enough to try and fix it. I am learning to embrace imperfection.

Now it’s time to enjoy the finished product! Our table was finished just in time to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at our house with our families. It is just perfect for us! The finish has held up well so far and I am hopeful it will last us years to come. For a $25 table, plus the cost of supplies I am more than thrilled with the outcome.

I’d love to hear if you try a project using this method! This is a great way to change the color of finish on wood furniture without painting!! Even though I love painting things it is nice to be able to leave some wood furniture stained.


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