Many people have encountered old, battered or overpainted wooden tables. Whether the table was inherited or a diamond-in-the-rough yard sale find, they all have problems like scratches, gouges and chipped or unwanted paint. Professional refinishing is one solution, but it can be expensive. Refinishing the table yourself is inexpensive and relatively simple. It requires few supplies and little experience.
Spread out the drop cloth and place the table on top of it. Make sure to work in a well-ventilated area. Put on rubber gloves and apply the paint, varnish or stain remover with a soft cloth. Use firm, even strokes. Begin with the table top and end with the legs.
Leave the remover on for the time specified on the container. The paint, varnish or stain should crack and bubble on the table's surfaces.
Put on facemask and scrape the paint, varnish or stain away with the 3-inch putty knife. Put the flat edge of the knife against the tabletop and scrape firmly with the grain. Use the 1-inch putty knife for the edges and legs of the table. Scrape in short strokes around curves in the legs.
Sand away any remaining paint, varnish or stain with the dish-scrubbing pads. If this does not work, use new, medium-grade steel wool without the blue coating. Rinse away remover residue according to package instructions.
Put on goggles and facemask. Sand the tabletop and legs with 120-grit sandpaper and wipe down with a soft, clean cloth. Apply stain with the 2-inch brush on the tabletop and the 1-inch brush on the legs.
Allow stain to dry and rinse out brushes with water. As the stain dries, it may cause the wood to become slightly rough. If this happens, sand the table lightly with the 220-grit sandpaper.
Wipe it down and apply varnish as you did the stain. Allow to dry and sand lightly with 220-grit sandpaper. Wipe down the table and sand with 400- and 600-grit sandpaper in that order. The coarser grit of the 220-sandpaper will smooth away prominent rough spots. Sanding lightly with 400-grit sandpaper will make the wood very smooth and 600-grit sandpaper will give it a satiny gloss.