How to refinish a rubberwood and veneer coffee table top?

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For a simple table that I built I reused the slab of wood that originally was the top of a 1970s wooden government desk. The slab is incredibly heavy, with a nice hardwood veneer on the top and bottom. The core of the slab is just particle board though.

I started by scraping the varnish off with a 1.25" wide chisel. This takes lots of force and elbow grease. I'm holding the chisel vertically against the surface, and pushing down hard on it as I drag it across. The chisel needs to be quite sharp for it to take off the varnish, and it dulls quickly. It's good for a patch about twice the size I'm doing in the photo before it needs a light resharpening to continue.

I prefer scraping the varnish to sanding it. Varnish tends to gum up sanding belts. I'm don't like the idea of turning whatever is in the varnish into fine dust in my work area either. So elbow grease is the way to go.

I was lucky that the stain didn't penetrate too far into the wood, and scraping the...

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Actually, rubberwood is not considered “good quality” in the Western markets - ironically so, because , in fact, it really is!

Let me explain.

If you plan using rubberwood - or better say, Hevea - in Europe, you wouldn’t sell anything. This happens because of its name and its perceived qualities. “Rubber” suggests flexibility. And this is not something that people associate with furniture, which must be felt as durable. So, the big buying groups of Central Europe - like Germany - have always shunned the buying of rubberwood furniture, preferring instead other wood essences.

This has represented a huge problem, especially in South East Asia, which furniture exports towards the Western world have suffered greatly from this fact. One of the things they have done has been to rebrand Rubberwood into Hevea. The other is to use veneer - thin sheets of other more noble wood species applied on the visible parts of furniture, while using a rubberwood core.

As...

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Do you have a piece of furniture that needs some refinishing love, but you’ve neglected it for years thinking of sanding, stripping, coats of this and that and more coats of this and that…..labor intensiveness!

Well, I’m going to teach you how I refinish my wood furniture in about an hour!

Let’s start out with the dirty stuff …(these two tables!)

I will call this first one #1

I found her at a yard sale for $30 about 4 yrs ago, and (embarrassingly) have been using her in my bedroom ever since. Now that I’m onto master bedroom renovations, I’m going to give her some TLC!

We’ll call this next table, table #2

I found her, and her twin sister, along side the road for free

Yes, both obviously have lots of dirt. If you look at #1, she also has some deep circular cup stains that I will have to sand out. #2 just needs a good cleaning before we get started.

See how dull the legs look?!

OK, I know I said a table in 1 hour, but...

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I need advice on refinishing a dining room table with a veneer top. The top has diamond patterns so there are changes in direction that could make sanding difficult. The veneer seems solid and tight with no lifting or warping. The only problem seems to be the finish wearing off. What would work best, sand or strip, and what would I use? The base and drop edges of the top seem to be hardwood. The base is pretty chewed up from my wheelchair but I think I can sand it out. My shop is small and in the basement (but well-equipped), so I prefer to work with water-based finishes but will carefully work with what you recommend. The table is often used as a game table so we would like a good hard finish. Would really appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks in advance. – Paul Nyberg

Chris Marshall: Since that tabletop is veneer, and you’re set on switching to a harder finish, I’d probably use a chemical stripper to remove the old finish instead of sanding it off. It would be a shame...

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OK, folks. We've got another how-to post...on a photography blog. I get it. It's weird. But hey - it's my life right now until it consistently warms up and I can photograph outdoors! So bear with me or just sign off for now. I am posting this just in case someone might learn something from me. 'Cause you never know, right? Right.

I'm sure you all remember the dead-mouse-table from craigslist. I've showed you the after pictures. (She's a beauty, right?) Anyway, I thought I'd tell you how we did it! Just know that we are NOT pros here. This is just how we did it - right or wrong...

1. We sanded the CRAP out of the table. Seriously. Here we are after only the first round.

As you can see, we did it inside. I would not recommend doing this part inside! When we were all said and done, I had to vacuum the entire first floor and I had dust in the strangest of places. Not good. And I sneezed. A lot.

However, this is just how we did it. First we focused on...

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Coffee + Side Tables

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