Sprucing up a junky old wood table
June 14, 2012 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Ideas for refinishing an old dining table without stripping it?

This is just a for-fun project for an old (not vintage, not antique, just old) wooden table that will serve as our dining table for a year or two, and then go to the flea market. I'd like to update it, but I don't want to go through the effort of stripping it. (I know my crafting attention-span limits.)

I like this look of bright, semi-glossy paint on traditional-silhouette wood furniture. So that's one option.

But: if I wanted to keep it wood-colored, could I just apply a darker stain over the existing stain? It currently the color of iced tea, but a nice chocolate finish would look great.

Any other ideas?
posted by elizeh to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You may not have to strip it but you'll definitely have to prepare the surface. If it's a hard smooth topcoat, you'll need to scuff it up with sandpaper to prevent the new finish from peeling. If it's old furniture like my old furniture, there's all sorts of gunk accumulated in the crevices, and you can remove some slightly sticky material with your fingernail (presumably some amalgamation of dust, varnish, humidity, and a tangible form of time) and that's definitely got to come off before you can topcoat. The trick is, that layer of gunk is more on some surfaces than others, so it's a kind of non-uniform look once you've scrubbed it up. If the chocolatey-brown stain is dark enough, though, (and if your end goal is slightly rustic rather than new-furniture-perfection) that shouldn't make a difference.
posted by aimedwander at 12:22 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had good luck once using a steel wool pad to apply dark wood stain to a wooden coffee table.
posted by Paquda at 12:43 PM on June 14, 2012

But: if I wanted to keep it wood-colored, could I just apply a darker stain over the existing stain?

Not really. Read here. If you stain wood that's already been stained without stripping it first, you're likely to wind up with a really uneven, blotchy look. Paint may work--though you'd still have to prepare the surface--but stain, not so much.
posted by valkyryn at 12:58 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are semi-transparent stains that can go over finished or painted surfaces. The brand I've used a lot is ZAR oil-based stain. You can apply it with a brush or a cloth... or cloth followed by brush, or vice-versa. You'd want to sand the surface first. It's better to do 2 or 3 thin coats to prevent a long dry time and stickiness. Apply it evenly, or leave the brush marks, rag impressions, or whatever. Once you get the look you want, you can use the piece as is or apply a clear coat on top.

There are other products that can be used this way, but I don't have experience with them. By the way, ZAR can also be used on bare wood.
posted by wryly at 1:18 PM on June 14, 2012

You can do a tinted glaze rather than another stain.
You'd still need to lightly sand the table to give the glaze something to stick to, though.
posted by mdrew at 1:51 PM on June 14, 2012

Try chalk paint. It can be expensive to buy quarts of it, but I've seen some recipes for making your own. Very little prep is involved in using it, and results can be pretty striking.
posted by ersatzkat at 6:31 PM on June 14, 2012

You haven't said what is currently on your table.

Zinsser brand primer is a reliable way to cover a chipped, stained or oil painted surface so that it can take new paint.

If you're going for a painted surface, you'll likely want to add a sealant layer over top so your food stays paint chip free.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 7:16 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Came in to second chalk paint - it's been all over the craft/home blogs lately.
posted by Coffeemate at 9:34 AM on June 15, 2012

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