I have never worked with wood before, and this is going to be my first DIY wood project. I did a significant amount of research, but still have questions as I don't want to damage a piece of furniture I am working on.

I have an old solid wood coffee table. It has scratches and black rings, so I decided to refinish it. In my understanding, the workflow is as follows:

  1. Strip off the old finish
  2. Remove the residue using a stripping pad soaked in mineral spirits.
  3. Bleach the top to get rid of the black rings.
  4. Sand the table.
  5. Apply a pre-stain conditioner
  6. Stain
  7. Apply a finish. Sand after each coat.

My questions are as follows:

  1. Is my understanding correct?
  2. Which steps are optional?
  3. Would you recommend to sand manually or use an orbital sander?
  4. What type of finish should I apply if I want to preserve the matte look of the table?

I appreciate your help and apologize if some of questions sound silly.

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  • Are you going to redo the entire thing, all sides all wood? Its important to know if you are trying to match, not match, or if matching matters. Also, I see a number of "knick's" on the bottom picture. Are you going to sand it clean for all areas? I ask because the picture show such a light amount of finish you can sand to get what you want. An important part of the process is using the right grit paper. and clean clean clean. Cleaning is essential. Also, if you are willing to disassemble it, some of your job can be more professionally finished then working with corners
    – noybman
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 1:19
  • 3
    Be aware there is also a Woodworking Stack Exchange
    – Tyson
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 1:52
  • Thanks for your comments @noybman! I was going to redo the whole thing as I feel like it will be hard to match the sides
    – molkee
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 11:12

1 Answer 1


Let me start by saying, I have refinished my share of furniture. What kind of top coat is that? To me it just looks stained and maybe shellac. How old is it may determine the top coat. Are the black rings on the top coat? First, I would not use stripper. Makes more of a mess than worth it. I would just clean it with mineral spirits, let dry and sand. You can use a random orbital or sheet orbital is ok to use during resurfacing but ensure to progress threw the various grits. You can use pre-stain conditioner but that is usually for new wood, not refinishing, unless you have removed all of the stain (very hard to do) and you are doing a major color change. I.E. Dark to light or light to dark. Depending on what you use, you do not sand after each coat of finish only fine steel wool or very fine sand paper (hand sand only). Top coat finish is a personal preference. I use oil-based polyurethane for all of my projects because of the durability, takes a little longer but worth the effort. I hope I helped and good luck!

  • Thanks! You did help @Dan Lavoie. It clarified a lot of things.
    – molkee
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 1:27

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