How to Restain A Wood Table Top

August 29, 2011

I’ve mentioned before, we have a little guest studio above our garage that we’ve rented out in the past, but mostly use for guests, especially this time of year.  A few months ago I refinished the kitchen cabinets, and last weekend I thought it time to refinish the old Pottery Barn pedestal table that sits in that space.  It used to be our breakfast table, and over the course of ten years it has had its share of damage done to it.   

I’ve got to give PB credit, they make a a high quality solid wood table, but over the years it had suffered the typical wear and tear that comes with daily living.  Scratches, dents, paint residue, kid crud, you name it, that table had it.  After all the damage, I decided the time had come to refinish the surface. 

So often, when there’s damage to wood, the first inclination is simply to paint it and I confess I do that all the time.  For this table, I thought it would be better to take the time to restore the beauty of the cherry wood and I’m so glad I did.  With all the light and bright in this studio, I loved the idea of a classic wood pedestal table grounding the space.  Besides, let’s face it.  Dark wood pedestal table?  Totally timeless. 

centsational girl restained pedestal table


Here’s a glimpse of some of the damage before . . .

table before


. . . and today !

table after restained


Here’s the skinny on how I restored the surface of this pedestal table in a weekend:

restained table top how to




First, arm yourself with your DIY supplies. 

supplies for refinishing table

You’ll need 1. stain   2.  metal container (especially if you’re mixing stain)  2. sponges or high quality brushes  3.  both medium and fine grit sandpaper 4.  latex gloves  5.  orbital sander   6.  sanding wedge or hand sanding tool and 7.  protective respirator or mask (not shown)  8. tack cloth (not shown), 8. wood conditioner (optional). 

Note, in my original pic of the supplies, I planned on using Minwax Wipe On Poly which I absolutely love for stained furniture, and also used with great success on my staircase makeover.  At the last minute (and since this was a tabletop) I substituted non yellowing Deft Clear Wood Finish which my friend Layla also used for her whitewashed dining room table.  Deft also states the protectant is “baby safe”  but not sure what that means and also “alcohol, fruit juice, and water resistant”.  Okay, so I gave it a try. 

I decided since the pedestal was in perfect condition, I didn’t want to restain that part, only the feet and the top.  It’s always best to start with a less conspicuous spot to try to match stain and for me, the scratched up set of feet was the place to begin.  I turned the table upside down and popped off the feet to start this adventure. 

remove legs


I drove on down to my local True Value with my big ol’ table foot to go hunting for some matching stain.   With all the Minwax choices it seemed the ‘Cherry’ was a bit light (despite the pic), and the ‘English Chestnut’ too dark, so I determined a mix of the two would likely give me just what I wanted and grabbed both.

color match stain


After I found my stain, I started the sanding process using my orbital and 80 medium grit (80) sandpaper to remove the stain and the scratches. 

Make sure you use all the necessary safety precautions when sanding including gloves, a mask, and goggles.  One of those cheapo respirators you buy in multipacks at home improvement stores should do just fine.

sand off stain


Once all the stain was removed, I wiped the sawdust off with a tack cloth.  Next, I mixed two parts ‘Cherry’ to one part ‘English Chestnut’ to arrive at the perfect color stain for the table.  I used a new cheapo sponge brushes for each application of stain and always with the grain. 

apply mixed stain

Stain with the grain, stain with the grain, repeat after me, stain with the grain! 


I got lucky and matched the color pretty closely.  The feet turned out just a hint darker, but a close enough match to that pedestal, I’m mighty pleased.

stain color match


The feet, before and after!

foot before and after


I noticed after the staining, some of the legs had a slightly darker tones in different spots, so I decided to purchase some wood conditioner for the tabletop for more even stain application. 

First I sanded the top just like the feet, with medium grit sanding discs attached to my handy orbital.   It took about thirty minutes to remove most of the dents and scratches from years of wear and tear.  I should state that the table also has a leaf insert which I refinished at the same time.

sand off stain from table top


Then I applied the wood conditioner with the grain of the wood to help prevent blotchiness and with another cheapo sponge.

wood conditioner with grain


Next came time to stain which I applied and let it sit for five minutes, then wiped away any excess.  Raw wood is thirsty wood and loves oil based products like this, so most of the stain was absorbed.  After the first coat was dry, I applied a second coat, both with the grain of the wood. 

stain with the grain


Another important safety precaution:  As it indicates on the directions for these products, they are combustible, meaning you cannot leave them out in the heat where they could self ignite, so take every precaution  and follow all safety instructions that are clearly marked on these products, and dispose of them properly!  

danger highly combutible


The final step was adding the top protective coat.  In between coats I used fine 220 grit sanding discs and also by hand to smooth the surface.  I used two coats for my table, but three or four may be a good idea for a surface with a lot of daily use.  Make sure you allow sufficient time to dry between coats and before you use the table. 

deft wood finish


Two coats of protectant later . . .

I have a gorgeous table top, good as new!

restained dark table top


dark pedestal table


So there it is, the full step by step on how I restored the surface of my old Pottery Barn cherry wood pedestal table! 

centsational girl refinished wood table


The paisley print panels are from Pier One, the scramble citrus pillows from Pine Cone Hill, and those are my spring green cottage chairs I painted last year. 

I so love the look of painted chairs with a classic wood table to break up the matchy matchy feel, don’t you? 


True Value Blog Squad legalese: “I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.”




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