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Refinishing a coffee table

November 8, 2009

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Finished Table shown above

Found this little coffee table by the side of the road. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture until i had already sanded the daylights out of it, but it started out rough and weathered, with a green and pink checkerboard painted on the top and then distressed. Interesting, but I was curious about the wood underneath, and have been wanting to experiment with natural wood finishes for awhile now.

There are many ways to do this, but here’s the process, more or less, that I undertook.


*take table apart (to make sanding easier)

*sand table with electric sander (this alone took several hours. Hand sanding would have been a never ending nightmare.)

*Get table wet (this makes visible any remaining lacquer you missed.)

Time to Stain!


Coffee stain: Brew up some very strong coffee and let it cool. Coat table with stain and let dry.

Walnut hull stain: I tried this next, to get a bit of a darker stain. Collect walnut hulls and soak in water for 24 hours. Boil them for 2 minutes or so, then let them sit another couple days. Strain mixture and coat table with stain.

Time to Oil!

Recipe: Linseed oil and Beeswax, 1:1 ratio

Boil the linseed oil, and melt beeswax in a double boiler. Mix together and use immediately. The beeswax cools and hardens quickly; especially in cool weather. Rub into the table well with a rag.


I learned later that it is difficult to acheive a dark stain on oak without the use of strong chemicals to open up the grain. Although it isn’t as dark as I as hoping for, I do still like the rich medium finish I ended up with.

After sanding

After sanding

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Applying coffee stain

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Applying walnut stain over coffee stain (notice coffee stain once dried did very little to the wood)

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Walnut stain once dry (spots are just areas that were not yet dry)

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