Re-polishing an oak side table

Whilst I endeavour to retain as much of the original finish, colour and patina as possible there are sometimes when this is just not possible.  In extreme situations I may receive a piece of furniture that has been stripped by a previous owner, as has this one in the photograph:


Oak side table with drawer

The table as received from the owner.

 In this case nearly all of the old finish and colour has been stripped from the table.  This was probably because it was in a rather distressed state and a previous owner had attempted to improve matters.  Sometimes changes in taste and fashion come in to play and the current taste for lighter coloured furniture has seemingly resulted in many DIY projects.  Regardless of the reason, whoever embarked upon this project would have soon realised how difficult and time consuming it is to remove old polished finishes and colour.  A table such as this clearly has a lot of decorative features such as the baluster and ring turning on the legs and the carved flower present in the centre side stretchers which make the task  more difficult.  Removal of colour and polish from all the ‘nooks and crannies’ and grooves is a very difficult task indeed and the remains of the original dark colouration that is trapped and the brown ‘base’ colour which is still present can be seen in the photographs.

oak side table stripped of finish

End view showing 'flower' carved decoration

It is not always feasible to completely lighten a piece of furniture if that is the intention of the owner.  To do so requires an awful lot of time and effort.  There would be no option but to resort to the use of ‘two- pack’ bleaches and abrasives in a situation such as this.  Even with this, once it has been coloured, timber is often reluctant to give it up!

My recommendation to the present owner was to return the piece to a dark colouration of ‘brown’ or ‘tudor’ oak as it would originally have been finished.  This course of action avoids the cost of further stripping and bleaching and is in keeping with the general period style of a piece such as this.

As with any colouring task it is necessary to re-build the colour in layers sealing each layer with a coat of polish each time.  Once the polish is hard it is ‘cut-back’ with a mild abrasive before the next layer of colour is added.  A mixture of spirit based and water based stains are used.  This layering approach allows mild abrasives to be used to wear through the layers of colour to create an ‘aged’ appearance taking care not to create an overly distressed appearance.  Of course the owner’s wishes on the final appearance were also taken into account.


re-coloured and polished oak side table

Now looking quite respectable and to the owner's liking.

Comments are closed.