Refinishing a Solid Oak Dining Table

I found it in our storage shed last September: a dining table of solid oak. It has been in our family for as long as I can remember.

It served as our dining table when we lived in Anchorage, Alaska; it was where we had our family meals, our birthday celebrations, and our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It was there for our hurried breakfasts before school, our messy lunches on Saturdays and our raucous Sunday dinners. It’s overheard countless family discussions and has made guest appearances in numerous family photographs. It’s such an amazing dining table with so many wonderful memories!

But it looked like crap.

Refinishing Oak Table
What on earth is it?! Wreckage from an old Civil War ship? No! The bowel movements of a mighty Redwood? Nope! It’s the base of the old family dining table.
Look closely and you will see it frown at you. Sleep in the same room with it and you will hear it speak Latin.
Look closely and you will see it frown at you. Sleep in the same room with it and you will hear it speak Latin.

Shortly after unearthing the beast in October, Kim and I started dating seriously. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could refinish the old dining table as a wedding gift.

“How hard could it be?” I asked myself. “Just sand the thing down and paint over it, right?”
Right??

Those are the thoughts of idiots.

Below are some step-by-step photographs of how I refinished the old oak dining table.

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These are the two leaves of the oak table. On the left, you can still see some of the Citristrip, a chemical gel that I used to help remove the varnish and stain (TIP: Never, EVER use Citristrip! It was the bane of my project! It hardly helped and stuck to the wood—and I REFUSE to even CONSIDER the possibility that I maybe, might have, quite possibly, did not read the directions and applied it the wrong way.
This part was the abyss of my heroic journey. The Citristrip clung to the tabletop like a
This part was the abyss of my heroic journey. The Citristrip clung to the tabletop like a particularly needy ex-grilfriend—IF said ex-girlfriend was slathered in superglue and ate sandpaper!
This was when I decided to sand the table in my room…which, incidentally, coincided with the time my room transformed into a Narnian Winter Wonderland! Correlation, maybe?
Don't mind me, I'm just brushin' out ma cracks! They are crusty!
Don’t mind me, I’m just brushin’ out ma cracks! They are crusty!
The table top, fully sanded. Brings a tear to my eye. Is there any way I can nominate this for the Nobel Peace Prize?
The table top, fully sanded. Brings a tear to my eye. Is there any way I can nominate this for the Nobel Peace Prize?
Sanding down the base, [Insert your own funny comment here. I can't think of anything.]
Look, I built a bridge to nowhere! (My comments can’t all be gems, guys. They can’t all be gems.)
These are the disassembled of the base. I touched them up then reassembled them. If the table were a human, you'd think I was a more charming version of Dr. Frankenstein. Think about it.
These are the disassembled of the base. I touched them up then reassembled them. If the table were a human, you’d think I was a more charming version of Dr. Frankenstein. Think about it.
After sanding for several hour straight. It’s hard to tell in this
picture, but  I’m covered in a thick layer of sawdust.
But you CAN tell that I look awesome!
Cleaning off the table with a rag mineral spirits.
Applying the first coat of stain. This part gave me chills! Originally, I had
planned on doing a very light stain (“American Colonial”) but while I
was at the hardware store, I kept coming back to “Red Oak.” In the end,
it was an impulse buy…but one I’m glad I made! It’s beautiful!!
Apply three coats of stain, and then three coats of the high-gloss finish!
This was my favorite part!!
The completely finished dining table (with leaves) at Kim’s
house. We used it during the reception and put the wedding
gifts on it.
The finished table. It’s like my first born-child or something.

And there you have it. A step-by-step photographic journey of me refinishing the dining table for Kim. I loved her reaction when I showed it to her for the first time……it made it worth the work.

Post Script: Ever since finishing the table, I’ve been looking at other pieces of furniture and wondering if I could refinish them…it’s become a hobby that I quite enjoy (provided Citristrip is not involved).