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Thread: Antique Walnut Table

  1. #1

    Antique Walnut Table

    Iíve recently acquired a walnut table made in the 1920ís. The original finishing is rather beaten and very cracked. Iím excited never done a project this large, but I want to stick with the original look of antique walnut stain. Does anyone have advice on refinishing antiques?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    First of all, you have to decide if you want to even refinish it if it's a valuable antique...if so, professional conservation is likely worth the investment. Refinishing can have significant adverse effect on the value of a real antique. Cracked shellac or lacquer can often be repaired by someone who knows what they are doing whereas many modern finishes are less amenable to repair. To actually refinish, removal of the old finish is probably indicated and that is best done chemically...something else harder to do at this point because the "good stuff" is no longer available on the market in many areas for safety and regulation reasons. Sanding finish off is absolutely a last resort as it can very easily damage the furniture. Commercial stripping is certainly an option.

    BTW, it's highly unlikely that the walnut was stained (although certainly possible), IMHO. Any color imparted by the finish is just from the natural color of the finishing product used...shellac, lacquer and oil based products typically add a bit of warm, amber cast to the natural color of the wood. Walnut is also interesting in that it actually gets lighter over time from UV and oxidation, unlike many other wood species that get darker over time. If you do decide to alter the color with dye or stain as part of the refinishing process, you'll need to keep that in mind.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Lily Sorensen View Post
    Iíve recently acquired a walnut table made in the 1920ís. The original finishing is rather beaten and very cracked. Iím excited never done a project this large, but I want to stick with the original look of antique walnut stain. Does anyone have advice on refinishing antiques?
    Walnut as it ages turns from an almost purple color to a warm brown. If the damage is just in the finish try to chemically strip the table and keep the sanding to a minimum. The more you sand the more of the aged wood you will remove. Walnut traditionally has a glass like finish on the top. In order to achieve this you would need to fill the grain with a pastewood grain filler. Most of them come in a natural color which looks bad when finished. They can be tinted to a dark brown just like paint before it is used. Then any clear finish would be fine however I would recommend spraying the finish. The original finish was most likely lacquer so if you can finish with lacquer you would come close to what it was originally. Build the finish with lacquer sanding sealer, sanding between coats until the finish looks good to you and then topcoat with lacquer.

  4. #4
    The wood was very dark and on the mark it was labeled antique walnut, the appraiser said that it was likely the finishing they used was an antique walnut,

  5. #5
    Iím not looking to resell it, Iím hoping to turn it into a family heirloom. Itís a beautiful piece though and I want to do it justice. Iíve started sanding it by hand, it has a few deep grooves in it from itís previous owner that I need to repair.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    the appraiser said that it was likely the finishing they used was an antique walnut,
    There's not such thing as a finish called "antique walnut", especially from that period of time. Personally, I'd probably used an oil based clear coat, either wiped or brushed on, or if you have spraying capability, BLO (wiped on and off for color), de-waxed shellac (barrier coat between the oil and the top coat) and a sprayed on water borne top coat.

    Please be very careful with sanding. And I'd leave the grooves as is rather than trying to sand them out. The act of sanding them will be a lot more visible than the actual indents. It is, after all, quite old, and things like that add character. But that's subjective, of course.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  7. #7
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    Lily - I get the sense you're looking for a... less complicated approach. Any chance you could share a photo of the table and the damage? It's not clear if the wood is walnut, or a lighter wood that's stained to look like walnut. The refinishing method would depend on which it is.

  8. #8
    I havenít sanded the grooves, so youíre thinking the dark colored wood Iím seeing on top is just the regular wood? And the light colored wood is the layers that are underneath? No staining at all?

    Iíve sanded one of the panels the rest of the table is as it was, but the part I have started sanding, with a 120 grit sanding sponge by hand, turned significantly lighter after sanding it. From a dark brown to a very light golden color.

    I picked up an 80 grit sanding sponge but I donít want to tear up the wood. Is the 80 grit going to be too rough for it?

    Your advice for Refinishing is to put on an oil based clear coat, then BLO, de-waxed shellac, and lastly pray on a water borne top coat?

    Is filling in the scratches going to make it look bad? I got a ďPlastic WoodĒ filler but Iím worried itíll just make it look awkward.

  9. #9
    C35D36C6-3CEB-4102-955E-15203723399F.jpg5815F84D-0D7C-4EB6-9014-518B80E9887D.jpg Iím not necessarily looking for anything easy, I just donít know what Iím doing with this table and Iím trying to make it look nice. The only other refinishing Iíve done was with my father on kitchen cabinet doors. But Iíve moved away from him and he feels out of his element with this table. I feel very out of my element as well and Iím trying to understand what the best thing to do is.

  10. #10
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    If there is light colored wood under the dark colored wood...you have something that's veneered and you absolutely want to avoid sanding to remove finish if you can or be uber-careful. It's way too easy to cut through the veneer and that will "ruin" the table. The good news is that "old" veneer is likely thicker than anything made today. If sanding the dark colored wood makes it substantially lighter in color, then it may not be walnut and may be stained. At this point, since you already sanded one panel, you're kinda committed to duplicate the effort so you can make the table top look consistent. And those edges in the photos (which do appear to Contributors) are going to add even more fun to your task, depending on how the table top was constructed originally. You need to get the entire top consistent before you can make a decision on whether or not to add color or go right to finish. I'm assuming you want it to match the legs, so color probably is going to come into play. My previous advise assumed a solid wood top and it's sounding like that may not be what you have. This kind of project is really difficult to give accurate advise on because as you can see, there are a great many variables involved.

    "Plastic wood" filler is going to stand out...horrible stuff.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
    The type of table you have is known as a gate leg table. From the style of the legs I think it may be of English origin. I've never seen one that was made out of walnut and it very likely has a solid wood top. The wood is probably a wood like beech or maple. Not being there, there is no way to know. If you chemically strip the table and sand it you should be able to stain it to a lighter color if you wish. Once you strip the old finish off you would be able to tell if the top is solid wood or veneer. If it's veneered you need to do as little sanding as possible. The table has been sanded at least once and you wouldn't know how much veneer is left.

    What ever finish you decide on I would get the means of spraying the finish. A table top shows everything and brush marks would really show up.

  12. #12
    image.jpg This is a better example of the color difference, it has been very think in my opinion, and I know itíll be a difficult task especially with the legs, My primary concern isnít reselling it though, I am planning on keeping this table for a very long time and perhaps even passing it down into my own family. The history of the table is beautiful to me, but as Iím not trying to resell, Iím not afraid to refinish it. I just want to make it look as beautiful as it should for such an elegant piece. Would this be veneered then?

  13. #13
    I believe the appraiser I had look at it wasnít as familiar with the table as I had hoped. I posted a picture of the color difference, perhaps someone can give me a better idea of what I might be dealing with. Spraying seems like the best way to go at this point but Iíve been given quite a few option on what KIND of finishing I should do. Iíve got as much time as I need to finish this and donít mind waiting til I know for sure what would be best. The only thing is Iíd like to refinish it on my own, which has become tricky after finding out it was an antique, I was originally just going to stain it and do a drift wood look but I donít think it would do this table justice anymore.

  14. #14
    I think it's walnut or mahogany. Good table ,but not antique,too many boards. It looks like the original wretched "varnish
    stain" finish, the moulded edge of the top is so glopped up it looks like paint. I would use chemical stripper ,and sand
    with nothing coarser than 100 grit. Plenty of skilled finishers here to guide and encourage.

  15. #15
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    I agree with Mel...that last photo does make it appear to be walnut or a mahogany variant which would make sense.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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