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my first adventure in refinishing

I’m excited to add a new notch to my creative belt – refinishing! Though I’ve done some mini-makeovers on things in the past – think paint, spray paint and such – this was my first full refinishing project, starting with stripping it and finishing with polyurethane. I purchased my little flea market find at a local flea market last Memorial Day weekend. The seller had $15 dollars on it but after I spent a minute or two examining it, he immediately told me he’d take $10 for it. How could I possibly resist such a deal?


I was really drawn to this piece because it has a modern, contemporary style, which is usually hard to find at flea markets. Overall, I have a pretty eclectic taste in styles but I dislike most traditional and country styles, which is much more typical flea market fare.

The table was pretty scratched up when I purchased it and someone had already stripped the finish off the top, but obviously that’s as far as they got. Aside from the scratches and dings though, this was in pretty good shape.


The first step was stripping off the old finish which, though certainly messy, was pretty easy and straightforward. I placed the table on some Kraft paper that we already had, put on some safety goggles and rubber gloves and stripped the finish off  using ZipStrip Paint and Varnish Remover and a putty knife. You have to be really careful with this stuff – obviously if it can strip off old varnish and stain, it can do serious damage to your body parts. I got a bit on my arm and it burned like a mother until I washed it off. Here’s my table after stripping it:




I was quite happy to find such beautiful detail in the wood once it was stripped. That’s when I really knew this was going to be a special piece.

Then I took to sanding it, which I admit was somewhat labor intensive. Because of the curved pieces and such, I had to do most the sanding by hand. The sanding took place over the course of a few weekends since I have a full-time job aside from this that actually pays my bills.

Once sanded to my satisfaction, I began the staining process.


My goal with the stain was to achieve a brownish-tone that wasn’t red but still let the beautiful wood grain show through. The first stain I applied was much too red, so I ended up toning it down with a darker brown stain that I let briefly sit before wiping off. This took a few coats until I was happy with the results.

Then came the process of applying 5 coats of polyurethane to it. I read and heard a lot of conflicting methods of doing this; some say sanding in between coats is absolutely necessary, others say as long as the coats are applied within 24 hours of each other, no sanding is needed.

I went with the “no sanding is needed” method, though I think in the end this just caused more intensive sanding to achieve a smooth result. After much sweat and sanding, I was thrilled with my new table.

Here it is in it’s new spot in my living room.

lola-rugula-how-to-refinish-an-end-tableLooks great, doesn’t it? I’m very proud of myself for completing this project and already have a few more that I’ve picked up since. Okay, maybe more than a few. So far I’ve acquired 2 chests, an occasional chair that swivels, a mid-century modern bookcase and a wood daybed.

Hopefully, I’ll be sharing some more refinishing projects with all of you soon.

Have you ever tried your hand at refinishing something? I’d love to hear about it, whether it was a success or a failure.

Thanks for stopping by.