Refinishing My Kitchen Table

One of the Busy Beaver projects

I’m only posting this to brag.

No really. I’m only posting this because I found it extremely frustrating that I could not find information to help me on the internet. I googled “how many coats of polyurethane…” and “should I sand until smooth…” and umpteen different combinations of similar search strings to get my answer. I found many good websites with very detailed instructions on how to get the perfect polyurethane finish. But none to answer my specific question.

Admittedly, I’m not an expert google-er, but I can usually find what I want. Not this time. I was left to fend for myself, which was actually pretty scary, given the time I had already invested in the project.

Here’s the deal. (I didn’t take any ‘before’ pictures of the table):

We have an antique square oak table that I love. I can put five leaves in it and fit twelve people around it. The table came to me beautifully finished and the top surface has lasted 14 years of use and abuse. But starting about a year ago, I realized that I should refinish the top and get a new coat of polyurethane on it because it had chipped in several places.

I chose to do it this past week, because Dave was going to be out of town and I knew that due to the kids’ schedules, we wouldn’t be sitting down to eat during that time. The table wouldn’t be needed.

Perfect, right?

It would have been, if the crazy Minnesota weather hadn’t decided to shoot to new records in temperature and humidity. That set me back a couple days, but I did turn the air on in the house (a rare event) and was able to soldier on.

I used some ancient wood stripper I had. I think I bought it before we moved into this house 14 years ago.

Amazingly, it worked great. I hate refinishing things, but since it was just the flat top surface of the table and nothing else, it really wasn’t all that hard.

After I scraped the stripper off, I used a stripping pad to get down into the grain of the wood.

After it was all off, the wood was quite rough and uneven and I set about sanding.

I also hate sanding.

I didn’t want to use the electric sander because of the dust and mess. I was really worried about sanding too much of the top layer off because I didn’t want the top to be a whole bunch lighter than the rest of the table, which I was going to leave as is. This was the crux of my issue and I couldn’t find an easy answer.

In my head, I assumed the polyurethane would fill the grain and create an even, mirror-like finish.


After about 5 coats (while the instructions on the container and the internet all conclude that 2-3 coats is sufficient), I realized I was going to have to sand again. I set about researching online to find out if this is advisable, etc., etc. I never found an answer.

But given that I didn’t like how it looked in reflected light, I figured ‘what the hell’. Worst case, I’ve got to start over.

(Admittedly, that was a pretty bad worst case, though.)

I used 220 grit sandpaper and went to town. I’m here to tell you that it worked great. Obviously, the five previous coats provided enough build-up/thickness to bring it all to an even level without completely sanding away the finish on the flat parts. I was so happy! I figured two more coats would be all I needed.

On what was to be the last day, the humidity had finally broken and I had opened the house up. Aaahhhh. I love that.

I went up to bed and decided at the last minute to put the final coat on so that it would be dry in the morning. It was to be a fateful decision.

It’s hard to see the brush strokes at night because there isn’t light coming in through the window to reflect the surface. In my final check using the overhead light I was perplexed to see weird bumps and imperfections. I got on my knees to get a better look as saw…


The entire surface was peppered with minuscule  bugs that had come in when I opened the doors to the screen porch.

That was two nights ago. I’m still working on it. At least I now know you can aggresively sand polyurethane!

I hate sanding.


  1. says

    This may be off-topic, but how about changing the layout every now and then? Maybe not if it won’t look right, but I just get tired of seeing the same thing all the time. My own computer has about 1000 wallpapers that randomly rotate every 15 minutes, lol. Adult ADD I guess. Good post though, thanks.

    F. Wilson
    Exfoliating gloves

  2. says

    Dude, you can’t be serious? I’m a WordPress RETARD! If you only knew how LONG IT TOOK for me to get the site to look like this, you’d FREEK, 181! heh heh. Little play on username, there. Clever, aren’t I?

    Listen, I’m suffering from a wicked migraine this morning and your comment has made it worse. Are you happy? Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE comments. But maybe next time try something along these lines:

    “Hey! I noticed you changed the 1 pixel rule around your posts from dark grey to light grey and rounded the corners. LOOKS AWESOME! Keep those stimulating graphic enhancements coming!”

    You see?

    I will take your suggestion under serious consideration, because you are right. It just may be time for a change… So you’ll have to come back and see if I am true to my word. If I only change the banner photos, would that be good enough for now???

  3. Nat Alea from OK says

    OK I have to comment on your site. It looks FINE, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. Unless you want to add your dogs to the banner then go for it!!!!!!! i’m a huge dog person.

    On the table. You did a fantastic job. Can anyone REALLY see the bugs? The table looks beautiful and big enough to sit 12 people, that’s what I’ve always wanted. Thow a stinking table cloth over it and call it a day. Sorry, I’m so lazy! Have a great weekend.


  4. says

    Jennie – I have been MIA @ your blog for sometime. Nice to back. Love the refinish of your table, it’s gorgeous. I have several refinishing projects in limbo. Not sure when I’ll get the time to get back in the swing with them.
    About the commenter above….Sheeeeshhhh!! Good reply back at him or maybe her.
    Don’t you just love the “Atahualpa” theme. It’s so so versatile. And your design of it is just fine. I’m messing around with mine some again. Plans to change my sidebar layout and move the posting to side instead of the middle.

  5. says

    yes. too funny on the commenter. I really wish I COULD change it up, but it takes me HOURS to figure anything out on changing the theme’s look. It’s fun to learn though…

    I still need to put one more coat on the table, but it’s good for now. Fun to wipe it off after dinner and have it be smooooth!

  6. Jami says

    I clicked home and this came up. Weird.

    Well, I have to do that to my grandmother’s segunda table too, so I enjoyed reading your post. It was on my list of possible projects this week during stay-cation but I think it’ll have to be one of those “company is coming, I’d better fix up some stuff” occasions. After I finish caulking and painting the trim in the bathrooms and my kid’s rooms.

    I like your blog. I don’t need it to be different. I’m more into content. And have you seen the scrapbooker’s blogs – now that gives Me a migrane. Just plain too busy. I’m a simple woman (haha, fooled ya!), and I like simple, unchanged, blog formats. If you want to add some fancy during the holidays I’m ok with that too. :-)

  7. Karen says

    I am working on my oak kitchen table at this time. I made a few errors and found some good advice from Ron Hazelton on the internet. This is spam, I got some really good adivce. :)

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