Restoring an Antique Dining Table

Large table with drawers
  • 5-25 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 100-500
What You'll Need
Old rag
Containers
Clean cotton cloths
Terrycloth rag
Tack cloth
Lint free cloth
Fine grade steel wool
Paintbrush
220 grit sandpaper
Mineral spirit/paint thinner
Denatured alcohol
Furniture touch-up pen
Wood stain
Oil based topcoat finish
What You'll Need
Old rag
Containers
Clean cotton cloths
Terrycloth rag
Tack cloth
Lint free cloth
Fine grade steel wool
Paintbrush
220 grit sandpaper
Mineral spirit/paint thinner
Denatured alcohol
Furniture touch-up pen
Wood stain
Oil based topcoat finish

An antique dining table is among the toughest types of furniture to restore simply because it may have more stains and damages due to constant use. Furthermore, its finish is very demanding because it has to be smooth, free from cracks or splits, and be level. However, with a little bit of patience, the job can be easily done.

Step 1 - Prepare

First of all you need to find a well ventilated area because you will be using solvents. Such a location should also be dust free because later on, you will be laying down a fresh finish. You also need to lay down an old rag beneath the antique table to protect the floor from any drippings. Remember to always wear safety glasses and rubber gloves to protect yourself.

Step 2 - Clean the Table

dining table with bench and chairs

Pour some mineral spirits into a suitable container. Dip the cotton cloth in the liquid and wipe down the table. Remember to always move in the direction of the wood grain to better remove any oils, waxes, and dirt which may have accumulated. Remember to frequently change the cloth area you are using so you constantly use a clean cloth. You may need to use several cotton cloths if you have a big table.

Once the table top is finished, you can move on to the table legs. However, this time you should rub downwards in a circular motion, especially if the legs are round.

Step 3 - Remove Traces of Paint

After cleaning the table, you may still have some paint residues, so get your steel wool, dip it in the mineral spirit, and gently rub the paint residues from the table.

Step 4 - Remove Mineral Spirit

sanding antique furniture

Once the table is cleaned, you need to remove the mineral spirit from the table, so get the denatured alcohol, pour it in a container, saturate a clean cloth with it, and wipe the entire surface. Apply it in long, strong movements in the same direction of the wood grain. Then allow the alcohol to dry and wipe your fingers along the surface to check if it is clean. Your fingers should squeak.

Step 5 - Fill in Scratches

Perforations and larger scratches should be filled in with a touch-up pen. The touch-up pen should be in the same finish as the one you will be applying later on. Wipe any excess material with a cloth.

If, on the other hand, the table has too many scratches, you should apply wood stain on the whole table. Therefore, pour the wood stain in a container and make sure it is properly mixed because color pigments may settle at the bottom of the can. Then, use a paintbrush to apply the stain with long strokes and in the direction of the grain.

Wipe off any excess stain with a clean terry cloth rag while it is still wet. You have to go through the same process with the table’s apron and legs. Remember, it is better to apply several thin layers rather than a thick one and to also leave the stain to dry between each consecutive application.

Step 6 - Apply Topcoat

Once the stain has dried, dust the entire table with a tack cloth to prepare it for the final topcoat. Make sure the topcoat is properly mixed before application. Now, get a lint-free cloth and use it to apply the topcoat over the table in the direction of the grain.

Let the coat dry for at least two hours and get your sandpaper. Keep the sandpaper flat while applying light pressure with the palm of your hand as you work in back and forth strokes always in relation to the grain. Again, use the tack cloth to remove any dust, apply a second layer of topcoat and re-sand it to get a smooth finish.

This is the easiest way to restore your antique table to pristine conditions. However, heavily damaged tables may need the intervention of professionals.