Restaurant Table Refinishing

      A beginner gets advice on stripping and refinishing some restaurant table tops. July 29, 2007

I have a friend who owns a small Italian restaurant and has 15 red oak, butcher block style tables that are in dire need of refinishing (currently have a mahogany-colored finish with some kind of poly topcoat).

I have agreed to help him out, even though it's a little out of my realm. I started sanding the bottom of one this morning (with a random orbit and 60 grit), and I obviously need to be using a stripping agent, and/or belt sander/planer?

Getting them stripped down is one issue, but I'm more concerned with applying a durable finish. One idea was to use the same General Finishes Salad Bowl finish that I use on my cutting boards... only more coats to give it a sheen. I wipe this on, thinned 50% with mineral spirits.

I have had great success on my porch swings with 3 coats of Sikkens Cetol 1, but that takes weeks to cure and I need to be able to turn these around once a week if possible. Would I be better off with re-staining and then building the finish with a high quality (if there is such a thing) waterborne poly, or a wipe-on varnish? Of course, the finish needs to be very durable.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor K:
Strip or preferably plane the tops. Apply two coats Waterlox sealer, then lightly sand (400g). Spray two coats Waterlox satin. Very lightly get rid of nubs with white scotchbrite or 800g paper

From contributor B:
Sounds like a disaster in the making. Hire someone who knows what they are doing.

From the original questioner:
Thanks - I contacted Waterlox and they were quite informative. They recommended 4 coats of Waterlox Original Sealer/Finish. If staining is required, to either stain before hand, or mix the stain with their product. I'm not set up to spray, but they said the preferred application method with the Sealer/Finish is to brush it on.

As for stripping the tops, would a portable, electric planer, or 4" belt sander work better?

As for contributor B's response, no offense, but if we don't explore new territories,
we will never grow.

From contributor T:
Go for it.

Sanding off finishes is death on sanding belts and a 4" belt is going to leave you with more divots than an amateur barber. If they're table tops, stripper is a messy but probably effective method to remove the old finish. Apply the stripper, cover it with saran wrap and let it soak. Otherwise I'd try a sharp cabinette scraper.

The easiest way I've found to apply Waterlox is to thin it with naphtha and wipe it on. Takes more coats to get a build, but you don't have nearly the trouble with bubbles.

As for tinting Waterlox: I read a recent post that said it can't be tinted. It can be tinted with Japan Colors, dry pigment powders, Artist's oil pigment thinned with MS, or a UTC. You can also tint it with dyes - either an NGR or oil based dye will do the job.

From contributor D:
Are you sure that the finish isn't a poured resin? How thick is it? If it is resin, you could lightly sand with fine and re-pour. Shiny glossy all over again.

From the original questioner:
Thank you! I tested the bottom of one table (since it's solid oak). Took about an hour to sand off what must have been a poured resin finish. Sanded with 80/150 grits on a random orbit sander. Will use stripper on the rest!

Applied 3 stain color samples and wiped on 3 coats of General Finishes urethane. The sample area looked great! The customer loved the walnut and quality of the finish (although would do the actual table tops with the Waterlox Sealer/Finish as suggested).

Hopefully, the poured resin will strip well with chemical. $185 per table (30x48) x 15 tables... Hey, it pays for another piece of equipment!

From contributor K:
Do not sand past 120; you want to leave the grain open. Apply the Waterlox with a foam brush or a paint roller cover wrapped in tee-shirt cotton (eliminates bubbles). Apply first coat at the rate of .7 oz per square foot and subsequent coats at .4 oz. You want to get good penetration with the first sealer coat and then build.

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing

  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing: Refinishing

    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.

    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2019 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB

  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers

      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article