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Refinishing an amish oak table and chairs

whitewaterjay

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Has anyone taken on the task of refinishing a 90s amish oak table and chairs dining room set in that country oak color? I have a client that bought a larger dining table from me but is asking if I can refinishing this amish oak piece they had and their kids grew up with. I'm not sure how terrible of a task this is or how to estimate the hours for them or what to charge that's fair to both of us. Any advice knowledge or experience in this would be greatly appreciated. I really don't want to take on the job but I'm trying to help them out.

Jason
 

Eric Rorabaugh

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Tell them you're unsure of the time. Give a per hour price that's fair to both and that you will keep them up to date on the progress/$$
 

barry richardson

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I never take on refinishing jobs, except maybe if they did the stripping, it's miserable work. I learned the hard way...... The chairs will especially be a PITA, if you do take it on, estimate a high price for it.... Personally, I would try and convince the customer that it would be a great DIY project for themselves, which is what most people do after the sticker shock of an estimate, or they can't find anyone to do crap work like that.... Sorry to be a downer, just my opinion......
 
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DLJeffs

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My experience with refinishing matches what Eric and Barry said above. I refinished a crib when we had kids. Getting the old paint / varnish out of the nooks and crannies was tedious and could only be done by hand with small scrapers, etc. Then the sanding prep was also a pain with lots of small strips of sandpaper pulled back and forth like polishing shoes. I remember helping my Dad refinish my grandparents old quartersawn oak table with the big bear claw feet. Only the top could be cleaned up using power tools. The rest was all hand work. Now if you can dismantle the furniture into straight edge pieces you might be able to save yourself some time. Another potential problem that seems to present itself after you've stripped the old finish is loose glue joints. If those are in structural members like legs and backrests, you almost have to dismantle it and reglue and clamp it - or be resigned to wiggles and creaky noises every time someone uses the piece.
 
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Mr. Peet

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Has anyone taken on the task of refinishing a 90s amish oak table and chairs dining room set in that country oak color? I have a client that bought a larger dining table from me but is asking if I can refinishing this amish oak piece they had and their kids grew up with. I'm not sure how terrible of a task this is or how to estimate the hours for them or what to charge that's fair to both of us. Any advice knowledge or experience in this would be greatly appreciated. I really don't want to take on the job but I'm trying to help them out.

Jason
Failed to see any pictures of the table and chairs. What finish are they going for? If antique, that is simpler. Often a refinish of the top, color match stain and sealer with touch-ups everywhere else. What style chairs? They can be a bear to deal with...
 

phinds

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I don't know much about refinishing but I know that RED oak is a PITA for refinishing because the original finishing agent will have soaked into the pores. White oak much less so. You need to be sure you know which one you are getting involved with. If it's red then I'd either pass on the job or explain the problem to them and make an open-ended bid based on your time, AND don't make any absolute guarantees about the outcome.

If it IS red oak then depending on the original finish, you MAY be able to make such a good color match with the new finish that it will work out OK.
 

Ray D

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I’ve done several refinishing jobs for friends and they have always been difficult. I keep telling myself never again. People just don’t realize how much work is involved.
 

Mike Hill

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If the 90's is 1990's it's one thing. If 1890's try to convince them not to refinish. One of the rules of antiques or at least used to be, is that original finishes and patina sell for much more better - they really do, especially for the really good items. i.e. - if I wanted something nice and shiny, I could go down to World Market or Home Goods or Ikea and pick something up. My first refinish job was a big round oak table for my parents. Back in the 70's there was a craze in this "fake" grain painting stuff. Basically a kit with thick paint that showed brush marks and then glazed. If the table is from 1890's or by real "old school" Amish - the finish is likely shellac and can be refreshed rather easily with steel wool and some sort of solvent even dna. If some more modern finishes - stripper is needed as well as a well-ventilated area and lots of elbow grease. Used to be people around that would dip the pieces. Faster and cheaper than hand stripping and would handle stain better, but could also dissolve the glue in the joints and sometimes you had to address those issues also. Likely there is a stain under varnish of some type. I've had stained objects come out real splotchy after stripping - my kitchen cabinets being one thing - so they got repainted!
 

whitewaterjay

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Failed to see any pictures of the table and chairs. What finish are they going for? If antique, that is simpler. Often a refinish of the top, color match stain and sealer with touch-ups everywhere else. What style chairs? They can be a bear to deal with...
Sorry I don't have any pictures of their table and chairs currently. I think they're imagining it looking like new unfortunately. The chairs have that curved backrest with the spindles. I fear that it would take a stupid amount of hours like you've all said and I'd feel guilty charging enough to cover my time effort and supplies
 

whitewaterjay

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I don't know much about refinishing but I know that RED oak is a PITA for refinishing because the original finishing agent will have soaked into the pores. White oak much less so. You need to be sure you know which one you are getting involved with. If it's red then I'd either pass on the job or explain the problem to them and make an open-ended bid based on your time, AND don't make any absolute guarantees about the outcome.

If it IS red oak then depending on the original finish, you MAY be able to make such a good color match with the new finish that it will work out OK.
It is red oak unfortunately. Sorry it took me a couple of days to respond. Ended up dealing with some medical issues
 

whitewaterjay

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If the 90's is 1990's it's one thing. If 1890's try to convince them not to refinish. One of the rules of antiques or at least used to be, is that original finishes and patina sell for much more better - they really do, especially for the really good items. i.e. - if I wanted something nice and shiny, I could go down to World Market or Home Goods or Ikea and pick something up. My first refinish job was a big round oak table for my parents. Back in the 70's there was a craze in this "fake" grain painting stuff. Basically a kit with thick paint that showed brush marks and then glazed. If the table is from 1890's or by real "old school" Amish - the finish is likely shellac and can be refreshed rather easily with steel wool and some sort of solvent even dna. If some more modern finishes - stripper is needed as well as a well-ventilated area and lots of elbow grease. Used to be people around that would dip the pieces. Faster and cheaper than hand stripping and would handle stain better, but could also dissolve the glue in the joints and sometimes you had to address those issues also. Likely there is a stain under varnish of some type. I've had stained objects come out real splotchy after stripping - my kitchen cabinets being one thing - so they got repainted!
Yeah its a 1990s table, I think its the emotional attachment to the piece that has them interested in keeping it instead of replacing it. Thanks for the input everyone, you guys have confirmed my concerns with this project.
 

whitewaterjay

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RUN, don't walk, away from this project, unless they are independently wealthy and seriously don't care how much you charge.
I was wondering if I just lightly abraid the surface for adhesion and spray a few coats of finish on it to protect it if that might work. The finish isn't failing its just worn through. Obviously I'd need to talk them through the expectations that we're renewing the protection of the wood, but it will look aged and not brand new. Otherwise I think I'll try to just talk them into another new table.
 

Steve in VA

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I agree with the others above, especially on the chairs. That said, it depends upon the finish they now desire. For example, if they were interested in a dark walnut or black stain that would be significantly easier. Either way, it's a messy and time consuming job if done properly.
 
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