How to varnish a table that was waxed

This isn’t the most exciting post, however, it may be helpful for anyone else deciding on a varnish. Besides, it’s a break from posts that contain the cat.

We made a bit of an error in judgement with our new dining table. We had it made – in solid oak – by the joiners who made our kitchen cabinets – the legs are painted in Farrow&Ball Railings to match the island colour, the top is wood.

(It’s an amazing table by the way, much better than what we may have afforded in a store and we were able to provide our required measurements. Anyway, I digress……)

A varnished oak table with Farrow and Ball Railings on legs

We wanted to retain the character of the wood and yet also not have to worry about scratches etc. So we were advised to go for a wax finish, which we did but very quickly realised this was a bit of a mistake!

The wax was marking with any wet ring stains from cups and glasses and, more importantly, coming off if you put your elbows on the table for too long. Now, whilst it could have been a great way to ensure proper table manners, it wouldn’t have really been a practical way to live.

So, after much um-ing and ah-ing and internet research we decided to scrap the wax and go with a varnish (laquer) instead. We had only applied one coat of liquid wax with a couple of good buffings so didn’t think this was beyond our skills to get it off and go again.

Maybe worth reminding you at this point – we’re not particularly practical and we’ve certainly never varnished anything before (unless a manicure counts?) so we were a little bit daunted and worried about ruining our new table. But after some great advice from the incredibly helpful  Wood Finishes Direct we were armed with all we needed and it actually turned out to be a dead easy job.

We stripped all traces of the wax from the table using white spirit and scotch pads (so much less messy and effective than steel wool we were advised by our friendly website and how right they were!).

Then we sanded it really well. We wetted the wood with water (once more great advice from our web friends) to check we had an even colour and no wax remained. We didn’t have an even colour, so we scrubbed those bits again with white spirit and repeated the wetting with water. An even colour was achieved – we were good to go.

We had opted not to use a wood stain as we were happy with what the wood looked like wet – an indication of what it would look like with the varnish applied.

We applied the varnish with some incredibly nifty foam brushes that made it a doddle and avoided brush marks. A quick denib between each coat with some sandpaper and, 3 coats later, we were done!

We used Manns Extra Tough Clear Varnish and it was every bit as good as the reviews said. Went on like a dream, no smell, dries quickly and was a lovely matt finish with just the slightest sheen.

A wooden table varnished with clear laquer

The result is a table we’re very happy with and has, so far, proven to have been a wise decision. We’re hosting a birthday dinner next week for a friend, so that will no doubt test it further.

Norwegian Forrest Cat on bed

Ooops, he sneaks into a post once more. Oh, come on – is this not cute?!!


Filed under Furniture

9 responses to “How to varnish a table that was waxed

  1. How long did you wait? most hardwax-oils take a couple of weeks to really harden thoroughly. I used Osmo top-oil for my blackened oak kitchen top, and it was extremely durable after about two weeks. I am sure the varnish will do the trick as well, it looks great, but I dont think you should write waxes off the table just by this experience =)

    • Good point, thanks. It had had about 12 days and maybe we just hadn’t used the right product to begin with. But we’re really pleased with the finish we have now, and it feels a lot safer!

  2. Great job and what a beautiful table! (and kitty cat :))

  3. Hi Jude,

    Just popped by to say hello after your comment on the AO at Home blog and found myself sucked into your fabulous Edwardian restorations 😉 We purchased our Edwardian home 3 years ago – oh and we’re still not done, thus the search for what I’ll be doing in the entrance hallway! Anyway, if you wanted to check out our adventures, you can on my personal blog here:

    Happy restorations and best of luck – your kitchen is going to be incredible! I only wish we had so much space in our own 😉 Will continue to keep an eye on your adventures xxx

    • Thanks for stopping by Kimberly. We are really lucky to have all this space, 6 months in and we’re still pinching ourselves that this is ours and we actually live here!! Unbelievably this poor house was on the market for 3years; I guess it just needed someone keen enough (or stupid enough) to realise its potential. Watch this space!

  4. Really a lovely table! You did a great job refinishing. I also love your multicolored dining chairs. Know what else amazes me? That you can SEE the whole table top! I have not seen my dining table for months, but I’m about to dig it out! 🙂 It’s not as dramatic as yours, though.

  5. Jo

    Gorgeous table! Oh the trials and errors of our learning curve. Will we ever be as smart as our grandmothers? Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

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