How to Restore a Mahogany Table Top


Mahogany is a hardwood valued for its beauty and durability. Through time and use, however, mahogany table tops may lose a lot of their original color and luster. If you found an old mahogany table at a garage sale, or simply want to restore beauty to one you’ve had for a long time, you can do it yourself. This will take a few hours to complete and you should keep pets and children out of the area until the job is finished and you've put the chemicals away.

Things You'll Need

  • Drop cloth
  • Chemical resistant gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Varnish remover
  • Paint stirrer
  • Paintbrushes
  • 2 putty knives
  • Cardboard
  • Steel wool
  • Rags
  • 120-, 220- and 400-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Grain filler
  • Wood stain
  • Move the table outdoors, if possible. If not, protect the flooring beneath the table using a drop cloth.  Put on chemical resistant gloves and safety glasses. If you're indoors, open windows for ventilation.

  • Extinguish all open flames, such as lit cigarettes, candles or pilot lights. Open a container of varnish remover. Stir the remover with a paint stick. Apply the paint remover to the table top using a paintbrush. Allow the remover time to work. The time should be indicated on the label and can be anywhere from half an hour to several hours, depending on the product's strength.

  • Gently scrape off the softened varnish using a putty knife. Work the knife blade at an angle to avoid gouging the wood.  Place the old varnish on a piece of cardboard for later disposal. After scraping with the putty knife, rub off any remaining varnish using a steel wool pad.

  • Rub the table top with a rag dipped in water, mineral spirits or whichever product the brand of remover indicates for neutralizing the remover. Allow the table top to dry.

  • Sand the entire surface of the table top, moving with the wood grain. Start with coarse 120-grit sandpaper to smooth large bumps and imperfections on the wood surface. Follow with finer sandpaper,  220- then 400-grit, to smooth smaller bumps and splinters.  Use a tack cloth to remove dust, then rub your hand over the table's surface to make sure it's truly smooth.

  • Apply grain filler to the table top using a clean rag to gently work the filler into the wood.  After you've completely covered the tabletop with the filler, use a clean putty knife to remove excess from the table. Allow the filler to dry, then sand the table again using 400-grit sandpaper.

  • Apply mahogany colored wood stain to the table using a clean paintbrush. Brush with the grain to avoid brush marks and use long, even strokes. After the stain has dried, you may need to apply another coat, depending on the product. You may also need to apply lacquer or another finish, depending on the stain you used and the look you want to achieve.

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