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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Posts
    2

    Default How to finish a walnut dining table?

    I have a beautiful walnut (veneer?) dining table by Florence Knoll from the 1960s, and I don't know how to finish it with something that will stand up to spills and whatnot. Info about the table is at:

    http://www.treadwaygallery.com/lotInfo.php?i=910

    I'm not sure what the current finish is; I have been regularly using Finish Feeder, which is an oil & beeswax product, as that seems to give it some protection.

    I have a baby daughter who will soon be eating at the table and I'm sure making a big mess and I'd love to protect it before then. Any advice?
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    731

    Default Re: How to finish a walnut dining table?

    Do you know what a table pad is? I'd use one, in conjunction with table linen which is removed after each meal wipe down the table pad and allow to air dry, and launder the table linens.

    If you strip or refinish the table you will negatively affect its value.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Portland, Oregon, formerly of Chicago
    Posts
    1,804

    Default Re: How to finish a walnut dining table?

    dbermandc,

    You apparently intend to use this table for daily use, including allowing your baby to eat on it. No finish will hold up to such use, including the polyurethanes. Blue RidgeParkway has it correct. You should protect that table with pads. If not a heavy pad, at least a blanket like material with a vinyl tablecloth over it. Kids like to bang their cups and utensils, not to mention constantly spilling their drinks and food.

    If you look at the edge of your table leafs, you will probably be able to see if you have solid wood or vaneer. Vaneer is about 1/64th inch thick and cannot be resanded without danger of sanding through to the substrate which is usually either a laminated wood product or high density fiberboard. Also, the undersides of leafs will look different if it is not solid wood. They are not vaneered for cost reasons.

    Again Parkway is correct. If you intend this piece as an investment, coating it with a polyurethane will lower its value.
    However, if you should go ahead and treat it with a polyurethane or any other type of varnish, you must get that beeswax type finish you have been using off. If water beads on the surface, so will any type of varnish/polyurethane. Removal would be by using very fine steelwool and mineral spirits, rubbing with the grain. Even if you decide to continue with this finish, you will probably have to remove it at some future time due to excessive buildup and start over.

    Many woodworkers do not like polyurethanes in any event as it tends to impart a plasticy look to the wood. Oiled wood or danish oil give reasonable protection without robbing from the beauty of the wood.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: How to finish a walnut dining table?

    Thank you both. I don't think of the table as an investment -- it had what looks like a little water damage (little bumps near where the leaf is inserted) when I bought it, which is probably the only reason I could afford it. I just love it as a table and want to preserve it as best I can.

    Whenever I put on a coat of the Finish Feeder I have been using very fine steel wool with the grain to take off any buildup from the previous coat(s). Should I stop doing this? It seems to be letting me maintain the finish without getting the buildup that would otherwise come from regular refinishing.

    If it helps, I have looked at the edges and I think the table is a walnut veneer, maybe 1/8" thick. That would explain how the bubbles could happen, if the water got under the veneer.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: How to finish a walnut dining table?

    The best thing I can suggest is a table pad which can protect your 1960's walnut dining table at the time you baby daughter starts eating on it.

    Thanks.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: How to finish a walnut dining table?

    I wouldn't have bought dining room table with wood finish. You can get really nice dining tables that have more of a distressed or farmhouse look to them. Obviously, this style might not fit everyone's decor or personal tastes, but I think you are going to have to cover your table somehow, and removing the covering and replacing it every day is going to get old fast.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: How to finish a walnut dining table?

    If you are using a table pad, try and get a clear one - it would be a shame if you covered up all that lovely walnut wood
    Fred Hidden Content

    Love Hidden Content from Jones & Co

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    denver, co
    Posts
    1

    Default Re: How to finish a walnut dining table?

    i know the purists will HATE this, but i have dealt with something similar. i have a beautiful teak table. i know it's probably a collector piece, but i bought it to use it, not to be an investment. when my daughter was born, i knew the oil finish that showed every drop of water would no longer be sufficient to protect this table. and anyone that's recommending table pads and linen have probably never tried to teach a child to use a spoon to feed herself! there simply aren't enough table cloths in the world... anyway, you can hand sand the table top. use a sanding block and sand just enough to remove any finish it already has. you should be able to do this without going through the veneer if you're careful and don't use a power sander. do the same to the sides of the table. wipe clean with tack cloth and finish with polyurethane. if you want a smooth "plastic like" finish, use water based. sand lightly between coats, finish with 0000 steel wool. if you would like the wood grain to show through the finish instead of a smooth surface, use oil based polyurethane. this takes longer to dry, but looks more like the original finish. again, sand lightly between coats and use very fine steel wool to finish. i used about four coats of oil based on my 60-year old teak table eleven years ago. it still looks great and has held up to all of the abuse a child can heap upon it. sure, it's worth less than it was before i refinished it, but the years of enjoyment we're continuing to get out of it more than make up for that. good luck.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: How to finish a walnut dining table?

    I use table pads to protect such wooden finishes but there is a friend of mine who has put a beautiful glass top on the top and it looks just great with most interiors
    Last edited by denise99; 02-17-2011 at 01:08 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Posts
    1

    Default Re: How to finish a walnut dining table?

    Table pads are a good idea to protect your table. You can have a table pad custom made to fit your Florence Knoll dining table if you order one from Ohio Table Pad Company. I had a look at their master manufacturer pattern list (http://www.otpc.com/patterns.html) and they donít have that manufacturer listed.

    Iíve seen dining table pads manufactured by Ohio Table Pad Company on GoTablePads.com. They can send you a tracing kit so that you can trace the corners of your dining table. That will allow Ohio Table Pad Company to manufacture a table pad to fit your table.

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