Refinishing Project

 This project is the first time I’ve worked on someone else’s furniture for them. It was pretty straightforward, I needed to remove the original finish, sand down to the bare wood and refinish. Well I wasn’t certain what was under the original finish and it turned to be a surprise that it was poplar and walnut veneer. That discovery led to the idea of a two tone refinish. The stripping process included using Citristrip, a stripping product based on citrus, so it was MUCH safer to use than other products with harmful chemicals, I didn’t even need to wear a face mask. It’s messy, un-fun work that makes sanding seem like play time (if that’s actually possible). But this project gave me the means to get my new Makita LS1013 Sliding compound Miter Saw!


Here’s a shot of the first culprit in its prestripped condition. The flat desk on the bottom is veneered particle board and the frame is solid poplar.


Here’s the same piece after stripping, the matching coffee table is just to the left. It’s a pretty big difference with the finish removed. I will say that the Citristrip product leaves a great orange scent in its wake for days afterward. Beats the smell of sawdust and garbage (from the garbage cans, not from me) that usually lingers around in my shop!


Here we can see the bare poplar against the walnut veneer after I’ve sanded everything down. The poplar is unfortunately not grain matched so a darker stain is definitely in order for the final product. My sanding table got quite a work out with this project! I’m thankful I put the time into building it awhile back.


Here’s a shot midway through the staining process. These are all of the parts for one complete end table. The desk with walnut veneer (front, center) has the first of three coats of Bartley’s Gel Stain, walnut. Successive coats will only be applied to the front and rear poplar pieces as to match their color to the natural walnut. The two top horizontal supports (rear, center) have three coats of stain, and the two end pieces (rear, far left and right) have been treated with Minwax prestain.


A view of the finished product on one of the end tables. there are three coats of Walnut Stain and four coats of Varnish.


Here’s the same table from the side. once stripped and stained there were some very nice grain patterns on some of the pieces.


Here’s a better shot of the walnut veneer. I thought the piece looked better with the poplar pieces a little lighter than the walnut.


Here’s the coffee table in its finished state. The long rails on top had some severe scratches and gouges in them but I was able to get them all out through sanding except one small gouge on the rail to the right. This shot gives you a descent view of the walnut veneer. The two vertical end pieces were filled with heartwood, it was very difficult to match the walnut stain with the black streaks, I used a technique from the recent issue of a woodworking magazine (I can’t remember which one since I read it in the book store). I used a small paint brush to apply the stain in the areas around the streaks. This allowed me to be very precise and ‘blend’ the darker layers of stain into the predominant shade of stain. I’m glad it’s all done.