The table went with us from North Carolina to Florida and back to North Carolina over the past 30-odd years. At first, we didn't eat our family meals on it. We feared the kids would spill things, drop things, or worse. The table eventually became the center of our family life. Birthdays, holidays, and 'just sittin' around the table happened. Homework, lots of homework, negotiating with teen-agers, and sipping warm cups of coffee all have a place in the table's history.
We took pretty good care of it for years. But somehow after one of kids learned how to use a drawing compass, poking the sharp point into the table to stabilize her work, we got more and more lax. The drink glasses left rings. Something large and heavy was dragged from one side to the other at a time that NO one saw it or knew anything about it. Imagine that?
Like other members of the family, it began to show its age.
With fear and trepidation, I took on the responsibility of refinishing it. I did a bit of refinishing years ago. I used furniture from thrift shops which meant it would have been ok if I ruined 'em. In the back of my mind, I was learning how to refinish furniture in order to one day fix the Bell Family Walnut Table.
This was the year to fix the table. It was Time. I began. I wanted to simply take off the years of wax using the Formby's refinish product. It worked like a dream. The gunk came off and left the reddish stain that was originally put on. The rings and scratches were gone. So far, so good.
My husband told me about this great poly, tung oil and mineral oil mixture that works well for wood turned bowls. I thought if it worked for bowls, it would be great for the table. Wrong! It was a mess. It was uneven, shiny in some spots, dull in others. So I did what any self respecting hobbyist does - let it sit there for a week or two. I hoped it would miraculously fix itself sitting on the porch. No luck or miracles were to be.
The biggest problem was the poly was not going to come off with Formby's refinish product. I have an orbital sander, and I knew I was going to have to use it. I cringed for days thinking about the damage I could do to our beloved table.
In the middle of my procrastination, we got a call from the in-laws, Anne and Buddy. They were going to be in our area in a few days and wanted to stop by. Panic! I had to act and had to act now.
With gloves, ear-protection and goggles on, I looked like a character in a bad Saturday Night Live skit. I took up the sander when my husband was away from the house. He would have freaked seeing me attack the table with power tools. I worked slowly and steadily getting the poly off. Along with the poly, came the original reddish stain. Too late to go back now, I kept at it.
Soon I had a smooth surface on a beautiful walnut colored table. I was amazed how pretty the table was in its natural color. My Google research yielded the correct product to seal the wood with a natural look. I was able to put 3 layers on each day for the next 3 days. Late on the third day, it was looking really good and I could relax. When Anne and Buddy arrived, the table still sat on the porch with drop cloths around it. The table was not restored to its original color; it was better! Whew!
Compass and protractor evidence
Finished and ready for 60 more years of service