We bought our current dining table back in 2008. Supposedly an old Duncan Phyfe, but there’s no proof of that anyplace (no labels or anything). All I know is that it’s OLD and the previous owners told us it had been in their family for nearly 50 years! When we looked at it, it was in storage unit with boxes on top of it, so we couldn’t see the whole table clearly, but we bought it based on what was visible. Upon getting it out of the storage unit, however, we could see some serious damage. Something had severely scratched the corner, there were lots of dings and nicks, several burn marks and water rings and a huge water damaged area near the center.
It didn’t change our mind because we didn’t want a perfect table. We wanted one that would look nice and clean up well, but could withstand the abuse of 6 toddlers eating snacks and lunches at it five days a week, in addition to our own kids!
When we first brought it home, I took one of the leaves to a woodworking shop and asked the guy how to refinish it without “refinishing” it. He sold me a couple wipe-on/wipe-off products and gave me directions to follow. A three step process. And this is how it turned out:
Waaaaay better. Not as dark as the leaves (which apparently were hardly ever used) but at least it looked nice again.
Fast forward over the past 6 years…..about once a year I’d do a light refinishing, nothing as hardcore as that first time. But this past week I decided it was time to get out the elbow grease and have at it. This time I’m blogging the how-to because I’m running out of product (and will want to know what to buy for next time around) and also because my original hand-written instructions are stain soaked and oiled and fading.
For serious discolorations or scratches:
Use “Restor-a-Finish” in Mahogany. Apply to a “0000” Steel Wool pad and first do light circular motions over any scratches or damaged areas that need serious attention. If the “0000” isn’t doing the trick, go ahead and use “o0” or “0” steel wool but do smooth strokes with the grain, not circular strokes. Apply more pressure on the damaged areas and less pressure on the good areas. Finish by using the “0000” steel wool using long smooth strokes going with the grain to eliminate any shallow scratches or any of the circular motion scratches.
Wipe the table dry before proceeding to the next step.
For touch-ups and color enhancement:
Use “Trade Secret Scratch Remover” in Dark Wood covers nicks and scratches pretty well. Same concept, using “0000” steel wool, apply this product using long smooth strokes with the grain. Let it set for 30 minutes to really soak into the wood and deepen the color. After the time is up, wipe with a dry cloth. Check it again after 20 minutes and wipe off any excess. This step may need to be repeated a few times as the oil will seem to seep back out of the wood a bit.
For finishing and maintenance:
Use “Howard Feed-N-Wax Beeswax & Orange Oil Wood Preserver”. Squirt some across the table and use an old sock to rub the oil around. Let it set for 20 minutes then wipe up. Buff the table with another clean sock or cloth.
See how shiny my table is now?
Here’s the before (notice the circular fine scratches? A couple years ago I did a quick refinish and didn’t follow up with the long smooth strokes like I should have.)
Here’s another angle of the “after”:
All the super fine scratches are gone, but oh boy….this table has taken some serious abuse over the past few years. There’s a lot of gouges and deep scratches and irreparable damage from the banging of dishes and silverware…even though I only let the kiddos use plastic silverware and we have a strict no-toys rule at the table.
We also had to ban pens/pencils from the table after someone was writing her name too hard on her homework!
Maybe some day, after I’m done with daycare, I’ll do a serious stripping and sanding of this table. It’s a mahogany veneer top, and it’s not very thick veneer, so I’m afraid it will be a one-time, one-shot deal with a lot of risk of burning through it….which is why we aren’t even considering it at this point in our lives- this table has a lot more abuse coming to it!
Thank you for this posting. I have a lovely Duncan Phyfe style table that needs a large amount of TLC. I’m not sure what the 3 steps are intended to do. For example, in the text below, you mentiond one type of steel wool not doing the trick. What is one looking for in that step? How might I know that I need to use another level of steel wool? Thanks very much.
Thank you for the question! The purpose of the steel wool is to remove all the fine surface scratches. It’s like sandpaper but not nearly as abrasive.
“0000” is more fine than “00” so if you are rubbing away with the “0000” grade and it’s not removing the fine scratches, then go in with the more coarse “00” and it will remove more of the surface. Just be sure to do long smooth strokes because it WILL etch the surface. Then go over it with the “0000” to smooth it all out.