Would like to improve appearance of new table


I have bought a new cheap table. I don't like the appearance of it much (it's pale off-yellow which is fine, but the actual finish looks "thin" and dull.)
How can I improve it's general overall appearance? I am a newbie with wood, so I don't know what options may be available to me. Would it be a stain, or a varnish, etc?
Thank you, regards, dnw.
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Hard to answer without knowing the purpose of the table, the size, and the type of wood, for starters.
Depending on what you want to do to it, it might beg the question of why you didn't spend more money for something more to your liking than buying something you didn't like and then putting additional money and time into it.
todd
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Purpose of table: just general use. Size: 5 foot long - desk size. Type of wood: I'm not sure, but here it is:
http://www.argos.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId 001&langId=-1&catalogId151&productId2677&clickfrom=image
I'm stuck with it now, so any suggestions please. Thanks.
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Ah. It's made from Solid wood. Solid wood is something of a problem to finish, and it's doubtful you'll you'll have much luck.
Related to the Jummy tree, the Solid tree produces wood of variable grain, hardness, finishing characteristics and price.
In general, if you've purchased a piece of furniture made from Solid wood, you are best leaving the finish as purchased, or using the "complete heat reduction" treatment.
Hope that helps.
djb
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Based on the amount of information available, I'd go with a tablecloth. Short of that, perhaps a nice coat of wax buffed out would make it more presentable.
todd
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I would think of painting it, personally.
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http://www.argos.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId 001&langId=-1&catalogId151&productId2677&clickfrom=image
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Haha, no, I don't - at least, I *think* I know what you are implying!
I found this on the net, and thought I might give it a try..
http://www.axminster.co.uk/product.asp?src=froogle&pf_id 771&name=woodwax&sfile=1&jump=0
There seem to be 3 shades available - I think I need the lightest shade, which I think could be "Golden Brown"
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Well, there's also the clear, which you could try if you want to leave the color as-is. Any of the three shades would give you something along the lines of a toned finish. The nice thing about the wax is if you don't like the shade, you can always try another one.
todd
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http://www.axminster.co.uk/product.asp?src=froogle&pf_id 771&name=woodwax&sfile=1&jump=0
Probably a good choice.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com says...

It will be hard to proceed if you don't know what finish it has now. I don't know of anyone who can say with confidence what a random piece of budget furniture has for a finish. I can tell you what a hobbyist like most of us or a custom furniture maker might use, but that may not be much use for a mass produced factory piece. It matters because you can't put just anything on top of the old finish, and I doubt that you want to strip it. I could give you a long answer instructing you to try a variety of solvents on the finish to see how they effect it, but that won't tell you with certainty what it is, and you probably don't want the expense or bother. I don't think there is much you can do without taking a serious risk of making a mess. You can try to see if shellac sticks to the finish you already have. If it does, you can build up the finish with more shellac, or use a base coat of shellac and put something else on top of it. But even if the shellac does seem to stick at first, that is no guarantee that it won't peel off at some point down the road. I recommend you leave it, use it, and save your money for a better table somewhere down the road. Or cover it with a table cloth.
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Hax Planx wrote:

Dollars to doughnuts, it's paper veneer over particle board. IKEA is Swedish for particle board. :-)
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Rob

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Could this possibly be rubber wood? Does it look like it is made up of a lot of small pieces glued and finger jointed together?
Michael

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I'm not altogether sure that it is rubberwood actually. It looks cheap, whatever it is exactly. The coating given to the table is thin, and shows the rubbishy grain underneath, which is the thing that bothers me the most. If the coating was thicker, I'd be quite happy with it. I think.
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Thanks a lot for all comments.
I think I am going to try some wood wax.
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IMHO that's the safest bet. Find a good carnuba/beeswax combo with perhaps a little stain, apply and use a lot of elbow grease. Repeat several dozen times until you've built up a colour you're happy with.
The odds are still high that the final coat will be made of linen though.
- Andy
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On 18 Jun 2005 12:40:25 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Paraffin and matches.
_Why_ did you buy a table from Argos ? And why did you pay 80 quid for it ?
Come past the stall, see some of my tables. Then watch the queue of people complaining about the price (which for the small side tables on display, is about the same as yours). Except mine are individually hand-made locally, from locally felled oak, with full traditional joinery and hand-finished with traditional materials. Good for a hundred years or so, then with a bit of refinishing they'll do for another couple of centuries.
In the kitchen I can't move for a spare table I don't have room for (but was given). Lovely 1920's oak expandable dining table. Nicely made, good condition after I re-finished it, and I can't give it away. Cruise the better S/H shops and you could have your own.
Anyway, you went to Argos.
Our balance of payments is now in the red by another 80 quid, much of that was spent on worldwide shipping and diesel fuel and yet more local furnituremakers are unemployed. And you have a table you don't even like.
What you've got is probably rubberwood (we hope), which is narrow strips of old worn-out rubber trees machined up and glued together. A boring timber, but it's workmanlike and it's very good on sustainability. Then the finish is one coat of a sprayed lacquer, chosen because it's quickly applied and quickly dried.
The downside of this is that the timber's pale, a bit bland, and the finish is hard to work with. You can't put things over it, you can't get it down to the bare wood easily.
First rule of finishing - if you aren't experimenting on scrap, you're experimenting on the real project ! In this case, you should at least try finish samples out somewhere invisible first, like underneath the table top.
The finishing problem you're going to get with this table is that it's already coated in a hard and impermeable lacquer. These modern lacquers are tough ! You'll not shift it. Nor will waxes, dyes or stains work through it - they want to be applied to bare timber. Your choice of Chestnut wax was a good idea, but it's just not going to work on ready-finished timber, especially for a coloured wax. Some people (the "naughty pine" trade) also prefer Briwax to Liberon or Chestnut - there's more and different solvent in it, so it's quicker and easier to work.
You can of course wax your table. You can even use things like 0000 grade wire wool to dull it, then wax polishes to restore an attractive semi-matt finish. However you can't apply a thick enough wax costing to work well with a _coloured_ wax.
So what you're pretty much left with is a "glaze". This is a coloured varnish, applied over the top of the existing lacquer. Because it's coloured, it's even more important that the aplication is even and consistent thickness - thicker coats will give darker colours, and uneven coats will look obvious. As always, applying more thin coats is better than a single thick one.
The likely varnish to use is a polyurethane varnish - it always is these days. These aren't the best finishes in the world (they can look a little "plasticy" if over-used), but they're easy to find. http://www.axminster.co.uk/product.asp?src=froogle&pf_id "829&recno
I'd always go for a "wiped" varnish finish rather than brushing it, if I were using polyurethane. This gives a thinner and more even coating. Search the newsgroups for details, but it's basically standard poly thinned with white spirit (try the ratios, but start at around 50:50) and wiped on with a clean cotton rag (old cotton formal shirts, or decorator's scrim). Some people favour adding a little oil (tung or linseed) to the mix. It _must_ be mixed really well before applying !
If I wanted a thin varnish for brush application, I'd use a water-based acrylic varnish. . http://www.axminster.co.uk/product.asp?src=froogle&pf_id#574&recno $
Before applying the varnish, rub the surface down lightly with 00 wire wool first. This isn't to remove the old finish, it's to give a better key on the surface.
Check that any finish you use is compatible with the old lacquer, by trying it on an invisible spot, then waiting a few days and watching for crazing or wrinkling.
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I like the idea of not having to visit shops to buy things. A couple of mouse clicks, and it arrived within a week. In this case, I was disappointed with the product, but I would say 2/3rds of the time, I am happy with these types of purchases. (I could have returned it, but decided too late that I didn't like it.)

I don't think the price was excessive, but I think it didn't represent good value for money.
I will follow your advice in your post: I would like to try the water-based acrylic varnish. The product you spotted (thanks for the link) says it is safe, quick and easy - my kind of product!
Thanks, regards, dnw.
Andy Dingley wrote:

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