How to Easily Refinish a Wood Tabletop

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We’ve had this oak table and chair set many years. It’s extremely sturdy, and still very functional, but there are two problems. One is that I no longer love the golden oak look, and two, the top of the table is in rough shape. So I thought, how hard would it be to refinish a wood tabletop? It turns out, not hard at all.

How To Refinish a Wood Tabletop


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I had my husband help me move the top to the garage and placed it on an old metal table. Then I picked up some stain with polyurethane already in the mix and basically just followed the directions.



Minwax Polyshades Satin in Bombay Mahogany – 1/2 pint
Palm Sander 
220 sandpaper
Extra Fine Steel Wool
Tack Cloth
Bristle Paint Brush



Here’s a close up of how bad the tabletop looked before. Lots of scratches, and many areas where the finish had worn off.


Using a palm sander, sand with the grain from one side to the other. If you don’t have a palm sander you can use sandpaper over a piece of wood and manually sand the top. I sanded the edge and the wood underneath piece by hand.


Wipe off the dust with any soft cloth, then go over it with a tack cloth which will pick up any remaining particles.


Stir your can of satin. Then using a bristle brush, I recommend one that is not expensive as you may want to throw it out when you are done, start at one end and brush the stain on with long strokes, in the same direction as the grain. Make sure you do not leave a wet edge, which means keep going until you get to the edge of a section, for a seamless look. If you start to notice brush marks go over the area lightly back and forth with your brush to smooth it out.


This picture has one coat of stain. Since you will probably need 2-3 coats, you will have plenty of time to perfect your technique.

According to the folks at Minwax, you need to allow the stain to dry for at least 6 hours before applying a second coat. Once dry, lightly sand by hand with the steel wool. Use the tack cloth again to thoroughly remove any dust, then apply another thin coat of stain.


I ended up applying three coats and waiting over night in between coats, as this was done in my garage during the humid summer weather.


You can still see some of the dents and marks, but I kind of like the way that looks.


We are certainly pleased with the way it turned out, and though it did take me three days, this was a pretty easy project. I may just have to stain the base, or maybe just the chairs in the future.

For now I think just having the top refinished has given this old set a new life. 

Learn how easy it is to refinish a wood tabletop with just a few materials, transforming it from drab to fab in no time.

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About Patti Estep

Patti is the creator of Garden Matter, a home and garden blog filled with projects to inspire your creative side. She loves crafting, gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and thrift stores with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends, at a restaurant, or home party enjoying new and different food adventures.

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  1. I love how easy the Minwax Polyshades work. I recently purchased a small buffet at a garage sale cheap to use in our guest bedroom. The top was destroyed and I used Polyshades gloss and turned it into a beautiful piece for blanket storage. The finish is very sturdy and prevents nasty water marks from glasses too.

    The table looks great. I’m sorry I sold mine at a garage sale.

    • Hi Emalea,

      Thank you for letting me know I can count on it to last. Love your buffet turned bathroom story. Now you have me thinking about garage sales and flea markets.
      Thanks for stopping by,

  2. What a beautiful job – love the step-by-step instructions. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Absolutley beautiful and professional job! Its just better than new

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