Way, way back, in 2001, I built a kitchen table
out of ash. It's a 4 foot diameter (1.2m for the
metrical peoples) round top on a basic set of
tapered legs joined together by 4 inch
aprons using mortise and tenons. Basic stuff,
solid construction that should stand the test of time.
And it has, or at least the wood has.
Alas, the finish left much to be desired these last
few years. Since the table was destined for everyday
use in a busy family kitchen, I originally finished it
with Nahm's good old polyurethane. There may
have been a coat of shellac under there too, but
that information is lost to the mists of time.
A couple of weeks ago the bathroom started leaking
through the kitchen ceiling (again) and dripping on
that poor abused table. So it was time for me to cut
a hole in the ceiling and repair the bathtub drain.
It was suggested (not too subtly) that this was
an opportunity to refinish the table since it needed
to be out of the way whilst I played with the plumbing
and drywall. "Yes, dear."
I removed the table top and carried it down to
the shop. Good heavens, this thing is HEAVY.
Of course it is. Ash is not a lightweight wood.
I won't bore you with the trials and tribulations
of plumbing and drywall and paint, but I will tell
you all about the fun I had refinishing that table
The first big job was to find space on the bench
for it. It'd pretty big. That required a lot of shop
cleanup and some reorganization. Since I was
going to be doing actual finishing work, I figured
I should vacuum too, instead of just sweeping up
the detritus off the floor.
I also had to be able to hold the top securely
whilst I worked on it. I figured I'd be scraping
the old finish off. Well, it turned out to be a fairly
easy thing to hold. I had two small face vises on
the outer corners of the bench, a row of square
dogs, and a bunch of 3/4 inchholdfast holes.
The vise dogs easily held the top against the fixed
stops, so the thing showed no tendency to move
as I worked.
The first tool to hit the surface was a Stanley #80
cabinet scraper. It did a great job of stripping off
the bulk of the old finish. Since I was doing pretty
coarse work here, I used Scott G's drawfile-and-go
sharpening method on the scraper blade. The old
finish was awful. Gummy and gross, with a tendency
to clog up the scraper. I sharpened the iron twice
through this, as the old poly seemed to dull
it pretty quickly.
Once I had the bulk of the finish off and started
seeing actual wood coming up, I switched to the
big old Stanley #112 scraper plane. This one is
rarely used, but very much appreciated when it
does. The surface looked very nice now, much
paler after the old finish was gone.
I prepped the ash for finishing with 220 grit sandpaper
on a wooden block. Just to make sure the poly stuff
would stick properly. I knew SWMBO had picked up
a couple of quarts of finish recently so I asked her
which one I should use. I suspect there was something
wrong with that can of poly. It wasn't nearly as watery
as it should be. The stuff did not level or flow, and I
was left the next day with brush marks everywhere.
Out came the extra thin flexible scraper to remove the
yucky finish. That was done, and then I sanded it again.
The newer can of finish behaved much better. I put on
the recommended 3 coats, with a day of drying between
each. And the 220 grit sandpaper between each coat as
Then I left the top to sit a few more days to cure a bit
before putting the table back together and back into
service. We're still under a "don't leave anything sitting
on it" restriction for the rest of the week. But it looks
good once again, and the ceiling isn't leaking on it now.
who now has a large expanse of clean bench top...
time to start a project to clutter it up!
Wood Hoarder, Blade Sharpener, and Occasional Tool User