How I Lightened My Round Oak Table


Broken & Destroyed

This Table was handed down to me by an old man who actually pulled it out of his barn! He told me this table was her 100 years old; It was his family table growing up, and knows it was around before him as well. This table has seen some cool stuff, and I wish it could tell me all of it's stories.

As you can see in this picture, the top of the table had come apart. The wood had gotten so warped that it was bowing and breaking the glue that was holding it together. And look at those STAINS! This baby needed some work. Most people would have replaced all of that wood, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Who had this table served in the past? Who’s plates were place on the top of this table? I had to save it.

To Start

First thing I did with this was take it apart. Take all the screws out and get it into as many pieces as I could.

I then had to carefully pry each one of those board apart on top. If I would have left the ones that were still hanging on, they would have broken down the road. This was a VERY necessary step. 

I pulled each board apart carefully so I didn’t break any boards. I sured a small flat head to make an opening, and then push a pry bar into the crack and slowly pulled. The glue wasn’t all that strong anymore so it didn’t take much.

Once I got it all apart, you could see why it was breaking. There was SO MUCH FOOD in-between there! GROSS! I cleaned each board really good, and then sanded each one until it was fresh wood again, making sure to remove all of the old glue.

Then, one-by-one, I began to glue each board back together. I used Elmers Wood Glue and two 48 inch Bar Clamps to hold them in place, one at a time, for 24 hours each. These boards were still a little bowed, and since I don’t have access to a planer to straighten them out, I just sanded until I got them close enough, and then used lots of glue and made sure they dried for at least 24 hours.


After I got it all glued back together, I began sanding it to peel it out and remove all of those stains!

This part took the longest. Those stains created a gunky dust, not like wood dust, so I was going through sanding sheets like crazy. So if you have this sort of situation, I suggest getting extra sand paper.

I used three different levels of sandpaper grit for my sander. I started with 240, then used 120, and finished with 80 grit.

I didn’t bother messing with the base that much, just the top. It all needed some screws tightened and an obvious cleaning, but all in all the base was in ok shape.

This is where it gets shifty

This is the finish I ended up with when I started this project. It was so pretty! and the top was so soft like it was new! But I still wasn't happy with it. However if this is a look you would like to go for, Ill tell you what I used.

For this finish I used Minwax Special Walnut Stain. This is my FAVORITE stain. However, once I got it on the oak table, it was just too dark for my kitchen. Everything in this rental house is already so dark colored, I needed a lighter finish.

I topped the table with a Matte Finish Polycrylic. It isn’t supposed to shine, but it did a little bit. I don’t like shine so I opted out of using this again.

Starting Over

Strip & Restart

After winter was her, I stripped the top again and started over!
I used CitriStrip, cleaned it up with Mineral Spirits and then sanded it all down again one last time.

Once I got it all clean again, the top of the table was SO LIGHT and I loved it. So I needed to find a way to get the rest of the table lightened up.

I left the top alone and used it as a goal for the rest. 
I hauled the bottom of the table out into the sun, gave it a light sanding first, and then coated it in a few layers of Chlorine Bleach. I just used an old plastic paint brush I had lying around and wiped it on the wood. I would say I did about 4 layers of bleach before it was where I wanted it to be! Most of the table had gotten pretty light. 

If you ever worked with oak though, you know that the grain is just dark! like almost black! You can see it in the pictures. 

This Is just something you can’t help with oak, but I did find a way to help me get some of that black out of there and ALSO give me a really rustic, old barn wood finish!

Wire Wheel

Ok this is something I had never done before but I was obsessed and wanted to do it to everything I owned! you can see in this picture how it dug the soft dark grain out, leaving behind a bumpy 

weathered-looking rise to the wood!
Oh my gosh it was the best.

I used this 4″ Wire Wheel that just attaches to a drill. I started slow and light, to be sure I wasn’t going to ruin it, but the farther I got, the harder I started to press because I really liked the look! But you could do this any depth with this technique. 

Since I had never done this before, I did a lot of google research and watching Youtube video’s before I started so I knew the right techniques to use. This one being the most helpful for tips

PSA: This is an extremely messy process.

To finish it off

It was so gorgeous once it was white wheeled I didn't want to do much else with it. I blew all the dust out of the grain with a leaf blower, and then wiped it down with a tack cloth.

I did the wire wheel process to literally every piece of table! Thats how much I loved it. The base took a very long time to wire wheel, but it was worth it.

I finished the whole table with a coat of a light stain called Farmhouse by Old Barn Milk Paint.

My new favorite for light stains! It turned out so good! 

My main worry for this entire process was how I would be able to keep the light finish while also going it a protective top coat that wasn’t going to be shiny! This is our everyday use table, and my  year old daughter paints with her food… So I needed a finish. But most finishes hydrate the oak and make it darker.

I opted to go for a high quality Clear Wax by Annie Sloan.

I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out! I did two pretty thick coats of wax to really fill in that grain so my daughters ranch wouldn’t get caked in there. And it worked! Its such a perfect, farmhouse/barnwood-looking finish! 

This style works so much better in our kitchen!

I loved both finishes in different ways, but this way worked for my home. Thats the bet thing about home decor! Its all beautiful, but find what works for you.

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments or you can email me directly!

Also find me on Instagram and you can DM me there as well.

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