Before you strip and refinish an antique table, try some other restoration techniques on it first. Cleaning and waxing refreshes the finish while preserving the heirloom quality of the piece as well as the memories associated with it. If the table requires further restoration, follow a few steps to strip off the varnish and refinish it beautifully.
To clean the table, you need some non-gritty, industrial-strength hand cleaner. Since the cleansing liquid works for hands, you do not need rubber gloves for this part of the process. However, if you decide that you need to refinish the piece, use gloves and a mask. In addition, purchase extremely fine-grade steel wool, soft polishing cloths, BRIWAX, stripper, stain, and both gloss and semigloss finish.
Clean and Polish the Table
Pour about 30 mL of the cleaner onto the steel wool. Gently scrub the legs, underside, and surface of the table. Be sure to work with the grain of the wood. After applying and scrubbing the cleaner to the wood, set aside the steel wool and use one of the lint-free polishing cloths to sweep away any excess. Use a second cloth to polish the table and make it shine. In many cases, this is as far as you need to go with the restoration, as long as the original finish is in fairly good shape.
Apply Wax to the Table
Once you have cleaned and polished the finish on the table, apply BRIWAX in the same colour as the wood. Put a moderate amount of wax on a lint-free cloth and rub it vigorously all over the piece. Be sure to put energy into it, since the warmth and friction from the motion is key to achieving a brilliant gloss. When you are done, let the wax dry for about five minutes.
Strip the Table
If scarcely any of the original finish is left, and if what remains is in poor shape, consider refinishing the table. Check the table's origins to ensure that you are not reducing its value as an antique by putting your own finish on it. Wear a mask and gloves and apply the stripper or remover liberally. Do one section at a time, covering each completed area with newspaper or trash bags to keep it moist. Add extra stripper substance to parts of the table that include carvings. Once it has done its work, scrape the stripper off with a putty knife.
Stain and Refinish the Table
Scrub the table with wood chips and a stiff brush, and then sand it with fine grit sandpaper. Finally, brush on a stain which matches the colour of the wood. Let it dry for a minute or so, and then wipe the table lightly with a cloth. Use a gloss wipe-on finish in three or four coats, with the final coat being a semigloss finish. Store used rags with solvent or stripper on them in an airtight container and dispose of them safely to avoid fire hazard issues.