Refinishing fumed oak table

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JHill
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Refinishing fumed oak table

Post by JHill »

I have a craftsman-type table out of quarter-sawn white oak, which was ammonia-fumed, then finished with Behlen's Rock-Hard Table Top Finish. After 20 years of use, the finish on the table top has degraded & become sticky, especially near the edges, where hands & arms touch. The finish on the rest of the table is in great shape, as are the extension leaves. I would like to refinish the top (only, if possible), but would like to keep the fumed color of the QSW oak to match the rest of the table & extension leaves. What is the best way to strip the original finish without damaging the fumed tint? Or else, can I strip the finish and refume the top?

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Bob Boardman
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Re: Refinishing fumed oak table

Post by Bob Boardman »

Unless you have the expertise, background and right materials and equipment I'd advise to not fume the table. It requires concentrated ammonia and the right setup to accomplish this.

What I'd try would be to:
1) Wipe down the sticky edges with a soap or solvent to remove the grease. I'd test on a small area first, but I'd start with the following items. First a water base degreaser such as Simple Green or Spray Nine. I'd then try paint thinner, followed by dishwashing soap. I'd then test using a cotton swab, with lacquer thinner. I'd see if that removes the 'sticky' stuff. If so, decide whether it needs any additional work other than a good coat of auto wax.

Let us know how you make out
Bob "Boardman" Borders
JHill
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Re: Refinishing fumed oak table

Post by JHill »

Thanks for the reply, Bob. The gumminess seems to have absorbed the original finishing the affected areas; when I cleaned with water-based cleaner (simple green) as you suggested, both the gumminess and the original finish are gone from those areas, leaving glossy patches in the middle (where the varnish remains), and dull, unfinished areas around the edges of the table. I'm disappointed that the Behlen's finish I chose originally didn't hold up as well as I'd hoped. The challenge now is to remove the rest of the old finish, to blend & even out the color patina of the worn (former sticky) & unworn areas, and start anew with a fresh coat of finish. If you have recommendations for this, I would be much obliged. In our climate/humidity, auto wax will not last very long at all on furniture before becoming sticky again. Added background: I did the original fuming myself, outdoors & in a purpose-built fuming tent etc.
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Bob Boardman
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Re: Refinishing fumed oak table

Post by Bob Boardman »

What's the finish on the table. If shellac based wipe all surfaces with ammonia. If poly or lacquer, you can try sanding off the old finish. To make sure the old finish is all gone wipe with rag dipped in paint thinner - this will highlight areas that still have finish.

When all old finish gone you can wipe the surface with rag dipped in household bleach. The sanding and the bleach should leave you with a clean new canvas, to which you can then fume.

As to the finish - that's your choice. Poly is the most durable unless you have spray equip.
I'm guessing at what I'm saying next, but if your old finish was gummy, there's a chance you may have had a plastic tablecloth on the table. Plasticizers in tablecloths, plastic coasters or flat bottom bowls that are left on a table react with many finishes, leaving a gummy surface.

Good Luck
Bob "Boardman" Borders
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