All Replies on Refinishing a MCM dining table -- sanding, staining and finishing advice/opinions/help welcome!

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Refinishing a MCM dining table -- sanding, staining and finishing advice/opinions/help welcome!

by TimesWaitsForNoOne
posted 09-17-2018 01:20 PM

11 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


3358 posts in 2656 days

#1 posted 09-17-2018 01:47 PM

The wood along the edge looks like oak, for sure it’s not teak. The area between the oak edges looks like it could be teak but probably plywood so be careful sanding.
Good luck

-- Aj

View Waldo88's profile


207 posts in 2155 days

#2 posted 09-17-2018 01:53 PM

The table is almost certainly veneered. I have multiple Drexel pieces from the era, including the hutch that matches your table. They used thick veneer, but its still veneer.

That is not teak. Drexel did not use teak in any of their main MCM lines (Declaration/Profile). Drexel used walnut for the most part (but the ends don’t even look like walnut, smaller Declaration tables definitely use walnut when using solid wood, that almost looks like ash, old walnut should darken when sanded).

The breadboard looking ends are solid, but the main tabletop is veneered. All MCM furniture is this way. Only a handful of makers used solid wood for everything (McCobb for example).

It is not stained. Staining is more of a hobbiest/DIY way of coloring wood. Drexel colored the wood the same way any volume furniture maker did, then and now, with a tinted lacquer called a toner.

MCM furniture did not use “teak oil”. Some of the imported danish stuff used different finishes, more like “danish oil” or even just oil/wax (think high end stuff back then), but most of the imported stuff and basically all domestic MCM furniture used a lacquer finish. Compared to all other finishes, lacquer is the only one that is commercially viable for non-high end furniture, and its been this way since about WW2 (all others are WAAAAAY too slow and labor intensive by comparison).

View Waldo88's profile


207 posts in 2155 days

#3 posted 09-17-2018 03:19 PM

Teak Oil is typically a product to put on teak in an exterior environment. Most are just oils of some sort, or oils with a bit of varnish mixed in. Its good for outdoor furniture, but a dining room table is basically the last place you’d want to use it. Teak oil for the most part is marketing mumbo jumbo, it is basically danish oil (which itself is marketing mumbo jumbo) meant to be used outside. The product you listed is basically tung oil with a little bit of varnish.

Tabletops need quite a bit of protection. Danish Oil, especailly Watco, is not the kind of finish you’d want. As Danish Oils go, Watco contains little to no varnish and dries very soft. Some Danish Oils with a higher varnish content (or homemade) will give a hard(ish) finish after a few coats.

There’s a reason Behlen makes a product called rockhard tabletop varnish. Tabletops take a beating, second only to floors in the amount of abuse they take, and unlike floors, they are expected to maintain a shiny scratch free finish. Tabletops WILL experience water stress from rings to spills.

With high abuse furniture, there is a tradeoff; you can use varnish, which will last the longest looking the best, but its high effort to apply and even higher effort to refinish, or use lacquer, which is relatively easy to apply, but not quite as durable (esp to water rings), but easy to fix/refinish. (Or Shellac, which is kinda like a less durable version of lacquer). Either way, a table isn’t going to last long looking good that lacks a built up film finish.

View TimesWaitsForNoOne's profile


4 posts in 745 days

#4 posted 10-06-2018 02:41 PM

Alright guys!  Time for a follow up.  And eventually for an aggregated and detailed post, that can help others in projects such as these.

Here’s a link with a photo gallery:

One more project got added into the mix: a used teak outdoor set (which was previously poorly finished with I’m guessing Watco Danish Oil ?)

MCM dining top:  (total time, around 7 hours for refinish 1, refinish 2, and now the correct table top coating)

The first photos of the gallery show the starting point (refinish 2, after the original refinish)—

The table indeed turned out to use a teak veneer, with solid teak on two ends, and solid oak? teak? on the others.  As I very quickly (and luckily) discovered on the table leaves by completely destroying one, and then messing up another one.  The challenge was this: sand off the old finish and discoloration, without sanding out completely whatever is left of the veneer.  The trick is to be extremely careful around the edges—as with those, one wrong tilt of the hand, and you lost your veneer (as is shown on one of the leaves in the photos).  Working with veneer essentially amounts to an approach of mistake mitigation.  Make sure not to fuck up anywhere, and you’re good.

The grits I used were: 150 and 220 with Mirka Abranet Mesh – an excellent product.  Sands great.  Lasts a very long time.  Dust collection I am sure is magnificent due to the design (I did not use a hooked up vac).

The tool, Bosch ROS65VC-6, on the other hand, ended up being not so great at all.  The vibrations from the tool actually adjusted the dial speed, which constantly had to be reset.  Worse, the “hook and loop” system they use for actually holding the sanding pads in place DOES NOT WORK.  Well, they work for the first 5-10 minutes, and then you need a brand new foam pad which also then only lasts for 5-10 minutes (I bought 2 as a precaution, and had to go through all of them).  The sanding discs constantly slip off (or fly off). Which of course then leads to a TREMENDOUS amount of circles and swirlies that then need to be sanded out by hand. If you’re going to spend $300 on a tool, get a Festool.  Night and day difference.

The finish process:

Having gone through the correct sanding (and then destroying) of two of the leaves, I had then decided to take the easy way out, lightly sand off the existing finish, and use a darker stain for the top to even out the former problems.  For our finish we wanted to try just a teak oil as well, instead of any kind of varnish, etc. We got the stain, and on the drive I kept thinking about how to approach the sanding to not get past the veneer.  Decided to give it one more shot starting with the 150 grit, as opposed to the 80 before, knowing what I knew then.  The gamble worked out on the final leaf, and so I then proceeded to do the table as well.  Seeing the final product, we both much preferred the natural variation in the wood, so decided to keep it (and not stain).

The finish:

For the finish, initially, we used Starbrite teak oil.  It looked incredible (albeit with certain muted areas as the oil dried up), and as Waldo88 epxplained, it turned out that teak oil is NOT a suitable finish for any surface that gets any kind of real use.  He mentioned a product called Behlen rockhard table top finish, which I then purchased in satin, and have now (30 minutes ago) applied using a paintbrush, going with the grain in the application. The plan is to apply 5-6 coats (with the 14 hour curing period in between), and a final 48 hour dry period before using the table.  Will update the finish photos once I have them.  And will report on how the Behlen product works over time. 

The correct steps: start with 150 grit, move to 220. Be extra careful around all the edges.  Finish sanding by hand with 220 pre-finish application (obviously). Total time estimate: 2 hours sanding, 30 min finish hand sanding, and then 20 minutes per coat.

Outdoor Teak Patio Set: (total time: around 30 hours. power wash, sand, sand, sand, Starbrite teak cleaner, Starbrite teak brightener, Starbrite teak oil)
This was a teak set of 6 chairs, and a table, which we purchased for $500 off craigslist.  The former finish, unfortunately, was either a wrong product, or an incorrect application, which led to a tremendous amount of work.  Here goes:

First step, was power washing each chair.  I was hopeful that this would take out a step or two in the sanding process, but in all honesty, probably didn’t really save any time.  If I was re-doing the project, I would power wash ONLY the hard-to-reach areas by the orbital sander tool.

Second step:  Sanding. Sanding. Sanding.  80, 150, 220 grits.  80 was the workhorse.  The others were just for smoothing out.

Third steps:  (first time) using the Starbrite products.  In all honesty, once sanded, neither the cleaner nor the brightener really did much of anything at all.   All directions were followed.  All surfaces were scrubbed and agitated, etc.  Not really worth the time. 

Very important to use a good quality sander.  Iinitially I used a palm sander, which took something like 5x as long as the Bosch RSO one.  Now if only the sanding pads actually held the way they were supposed to, and I had the RSO from the start, this project would have taken at least 5 hours less to complete.  Moral of the story, as always:  get the correct and high quality tools.

View TimesWaitsForNoOne's profile


4 posts in 745 days

#5 posted 10-12-2018 10:56 AM

Alright! So a follow up to the follow up.

This Behlen Rock Hard Table Top Finish varnish is living hell to apply. Weather has been extremely humid, so the drying time is getting extended. Getting small bubbles and the brush strokes each time (foam brush yields better results, but can still see “the track”). Had by far the best results with a microfiber rag for wipe on.

So here’s the question: How do you finish the product off after the final 320 sand? Wax? Mineral Oil?

Or should I just go to super fine sand grits like 600, 800, 1000, 1500 and not bother with any of the wax?

View TimesWaitsForNoOne's profile


4 posts in 745 days

#6 posted 10-12-2018 11:31 AM

View OSU55's profile


2658 posts in 2848 days

#7 posted 10-12-2018 11:40 AM

Wet sand with 600 and up. I use ms so if the finish is breached water does not get into the wood. What grit to stop at depends on desired gloss. 1200 and 0000 steel wool is a nice satin. 1500 and various car polishes take it to hi gloss.

View Rich's profile (online now)


5913 posts in 1447 days

#8 posted 10-12-2018 01:45 PM

Wet sand with 600 and up. I use ms so if the finish is breached water does not get into the wood. What grit to stop at depends on desired gloss. 1200 and 0000 steel wool is a nice satin. 1500 and various car polishes take it to hi gloss.

- OSU55

+1. I prefer diluted dishwashing liquid to MS because it evaporates slower, but OSU55 makes a good point about his reason for using it. With your initial sanding, look for the surface to become evenly dull. Any shiny spots/streaks are areas the sandpaper hasn’t reached so the surface isn’t level yet.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5303 posts in 4818 days

#9 posted 10-12-2018 02:27 PM

Lot of work for sure, but the final result certainly looks good.
Very complete post of your process.
I was surprised to see your comments about the Bosh sander. Thought that they would be better than your experience.

-- [email protected]

View Kazooman's profile


1540 posts in 2810 days

#10 posted 10-12-2018 03:49 PM

A question about your comments on the Bosch ROS. Your original post mentioned that you had purchased Mirka Abranet sanding disks. I LOVE using Abranet. However, you do need to have the proper hook and loop pad if you are using Abranet. Mirka sells adapter disks that attach to the sander pad and then the Abranet is stuck on. The material of the Abranet allows the hooks of standard sander pads to stick through the mesh. Heat buildup can cause the tips of the hooks to deform ruining the grip of the pad. Did you use a Mirka pad or their adapter on your Bosch sander?

View OSU55's profile


2658 posts in 2848 days

#11 posted 10-12-2018 05:22 PM

Use a soft pad 1/4” thick or more and light pressure. I uae a clamp on type light to create a raking light to see reflections – shiny spots. It can be repositioned all kinds of ways to get the correct angle.

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