How I Sanded Down and Refinished My Side Table

It only took me forever and a deadline to re-finish the top of this side table.

I forget how it all started, but it did start with a trip to Habitat for Humanity one Saturday morning. Sometimes- just sometimes- my family likes my opinion on decorating related topics. They also know I dig these types of thing, so they will occasionally invite me along. So this time, it was my middle sister. She was looking for a small dining room table.

As soon as I saw this amazing side table, I sent a picture to my husband to make sure he wasn’t going to hate it. I always make sure that whatever I bring home, he doesn’t hate it- unless I just can’t live without it! Which doesn’t happen all that often. Anyway, he lives here, too, so he deserves to love our home without something he despises in it. Luckily for me, he didn’t have a problem with it, so I snagged it for $60! What a steal! This looks like a Tommy Bahama piece, doesn’t it? There’s no signature mark on it to say what brand this is, so my guess is as good as yours.

Then it sat in my garage for a couple of months.

To be honest, I can be a slight procrastinator, but I really WAS using the time to do research on how to do something like this. There are so many ways to do it that I didn’t know where to start. I asked my dad for his help. Thank god he agreed. I loved this side table enough that I didn’t want to mess it up as my first time at it.

With the looming deadline of our small housewarming party with immediate family members, I decided it was finally time to get a move on. Ultimately, my goal was to have it finished in time for my youngest sister to stay overnight in our guest room. AKA a week later. **Cue the Mission Impossible song**

My first step was to buy sandpaper and a can of stain. Dad had suggested taking the table in to get someone at Lowes to match the stain that was on it, but the guy said they didn’t really do that and he pointed me in the direction of stains. There went that idea. (Thanks a lot, Mr. Lowes guy!) Naturally, I agonized over which one matched the best and chose Miniwax, Polyshades in Bombay Mahogany, Gloss. (This is not a sponsored post.) I also noticed in my search that 120 grit kept coming up, so I grabbed that. I didn’t buy an actual sander because dad said it would be light sanding. I figured I could handle that by hand, right?

Check out these before pictures:

Those stains on top had to go. Not to mention the little bit of chipped scratch. Wiping it down with Pledge wasn’t enough to get rid of it.

Otherwise, this was a good looking piece of furniture. I love the woven rattan shelves and the details in the legs, which was also a little scratched up but too advanced for me to work on right now. Maybe one day I’ll go back over it. Just not now when I was already intimated by a flat surface.

My next step was wiping off all the dust so we started out clean.

Dad actually had me start with a 60 grit sheet. And can I say how glad I am that he brought over his sander? He had me strip the whole thing down since my stain wasn’t going to be an exact match. The 60 grit sheet is about as coarse as it gets, which is what you need for getting off the layers upon layers of stain.

He told me to sand it down until I got to the raw wood. I thought I was at it in the above photo. He told me to keep going. Then I thought I was there in the below photo, but he told me again to keep going. It was then that I knew this was not going to be a super quick process.

I finally got to the raw wood, which you can see in the above photo. I’m not really sure why I didn’t think it’d be this light, but it sure is good looking. I almost hated that I was going to be covering it back up.

The next step was sanding with 120 grit, which is used to start smoothing the wood out, particularly after the rough use of 60 grit. I tried to take pictures, but it wasn’t showing up. The 60 grit is rough enough to leave some rough lines in it and the 120 helps to get rid of it.

You can see the close up of my hard work (Yes! It was hard work in the heat despite not doing this by hand!) below after using the 120.

Finally, the last sanding step was using the 220 grit sheet, which is very refined and the most gentlest sanding option. This is used to really, really smooth out all the details of the surface, cleaning up after the last two steps. There’s no visible difference, but above was after a few minute’s work and below is when I decided I was done.

Another close up below. It’s not perfect, which is fine because it’s about to be covered with new stain. I ran my hand over it and it was sooo much smoother than before I started stripping off the original stain.

After carefully wiping off all the dust from the sanding, I left it alone for a few minutes to make sure all the dust had settled. It’s absolutely important to make sure there is nothing on the surface you’re about to stain. When I was ready to go, I gave it one quick wipe off the top and got started.

The above and below photo shows you how gorgeous that one coat of stain is. Now starts the long, long process. The unfortunate part is that with this stain, I have to wait at least 6 hours before applying another coat, especially if the humidity is high, which you better believe it was that day. I had to do this in the shade of my garage. It was so hot that I might have had a heat stroke if I stayed out in that unforgiving sun!

When you applying the stain, you have to do it with the grain of the wood. There are different ways to apply it. I used an old cloth. I dipped it in the stain just slightly. You really don’t need a lot as it spread pretty good. The hardest part is making sure evenness is maintained. I struggled pretty good with it on the second and third coat but got it worked out by the time I did the last one.

And….here’s the final reveal!

This is after using 6 coats. I might have done a few more if I had time. You can see it doesn’t quite match the edges, but it’s not immediately noticeable in person, which is the best I was going for.

After I had applied those 6 coats of stain, I did a light spray of 2 coats of polyurethane for added protection as recommended, even though the stain already had it built in.

It was just as well that my sister ended up having to change her overnight plan because the side table needed more time to dry so it took up resident in my office. I’ll have to do a styled photo shoot of this table when I get the guest room up and going.

Overall, the process wasn’t too bad. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it. I’m starting to look forward to doing my next one, though that will probably be painting. It probably took me about 2 to 3 hours to get to the point of applying the first coat of stain and then about a week after to the point of applying the two coats of polyurethane.

**Thanks, Dad!!!**

Have you ever refinished a piece of furniture? If so, let me know how that went!

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