How to Refinish a Dark Wood Table
One thing that happened to me after we remodeled is I wanted to replace all of our dark wood tables. I think remodels just give you the itch to update everything. But rem
odels are expensive, so it is not always feasible to have an additional budget for new furniture, too. However, if you have all wood pieces, all you really need are a few tools and a vision and you can refinish any dark wood table or any other furniture piece to look the way you want! Our living room tables were all solid wood but were stained sort of rich mahogany color. Our newly remodeled home had a more coastal feel, with driftwood color hardwood floors. So, our mahogany-stained furniture just didn’t fit the way I preferred. So, one at a time, I decided to refinish the dark wood tables. I used a slightly different technique for each one. In this post, I will let you guys in on how I tackled our console table. I love the way this turned out and it gives our entry a simple, coastal vibe.
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Materials Used to Refinish a Dark Wood Table
The beauty of these projects is how inexpensive they are, even if you don’t already have the tools. I purchased a new orbital sander for under $100. I did go through quite a bit of sandpaper, but all in all, this project cost me less than $150. If you already have the tools, it will probably be less than $50!
- Orbital Sander (I used DeWalt)
- Sandpaper – 60 grit & 120 grit
- Minwax Stain in Gray Elm
- Lint-free cloth
You can begin this project by prepping the table. In this case, I just removed the old drawer hardware and emptied the drawers. Then, I prepped my orbital sander by putting it on sandpaper. I started with 60-grit sandpaper. Sometimes, people will choose to strip the dark stain using Citristrip or a similar stripping agent first. This table was a rough-type distressed natural wood (I am not sure of the type). Therefore, I decided to just begin to refinish this dark wood table by sanding to remove the stain. If this had been a slicker finish type furniture piece, I would have likely stripped it first.
I recommend starting in an area that isn’t as noticeable to test it out. Begin sanding by gently placing the sander on the table and moving the sander in the same direction as the grain of the wood. I have refinished 3 dark wood tables by sanding, and what I have found is the first passes (second photo) don’t look good. So, don’t panic. Continue this process in small sections until you get the desired look.
After the first pass, you will notice the wood looks kind of milky. This will disappear the more times you go over an area with the sander. I prefer to work in small sections and continue to go over the areas with multiple passes to get the desired results for each section.
Continue with each section until you have gone over the entire area enough that you have revealed the natural finish. I did switch to 120 grit sandpaper after the 2nd pass. This part is pretty time-consuming. I usually do a little bit each day until I get through everything.
You may not be able to get all the old stains off, and that’s ok. Feel free to be flexible with how much stain you take off. In this case, I wanted to keep some of the darker colors in the natural crevices of this piece. This is truly what creates a custom-type feel for these furniture pieces.
With this particular piece, there was quite a bit of a reddish undertone that was left even after sanding several passes on the entire table. Really, I wanted to try and tone this down. I tried bleaching a section by rubbing a paper towel soaked with household bleach on it. Still, the table kept the reddish undertones. You can see this somewhat below. This photo is even a little misleading and in person, the reddish tones were even more extreme.
So, I ended up using a gray-toned light stain to mask some of the red undertones. I used the Gray Elm color by Minwax available at Sherwin Williams. For this step, I worked in small sections again, and applied the stain with a lint-free cloth. Then, I would wipe the stain off. I did this all over the table. This stain is really light in color, and I ended up applying 2-3 coats in order to get my desired color.
After getting all the stains on, this piece really came to life. The gray color really helped to remove the reddish hues that were left behind from the dark mahogany stain, and the nice thing about this product is, that it acts as a seal as well. I let it dry overnight before bringing this beauty in for styling in our foyer area. I actually decided that I liked it better with no hardware. We don’t use these drawers too much, so I ended up leaving the hardware off. I could have used putty to fill the holes but they were small and barely noticeable so I just ended up leaving it.
All in all, this piece wasn’t hard. It was, however, time-consuming. I was challenged in that I kind of panicked with all the red undertones, but eventually, I was able to find a great fix in the gray stain! This piece really turned out nicely, and it adds the coastal feel that I was hoping for in our home.
I would highly encourage you to give this a try if you love the look of natural woods. It takes some time, but it is so worth the work!