First of all may we congratulate you on being the owner of an oak dining table. Oak is a very fine wood and enjoyed much popularity in our grandparents’ time. Sadly oak dining tables went out of fashion for a time and were either replaced by modern painted tables or removed altogether with many families preferring to eat their dinners on the sofa while watching television.

Thankfully, the benefits of families eating together have come back into vogue. In lifestyle and home magazines, the importance of dining tables is reflected in glossy spreads. It is not just for seasonal celebrations but for weekly get-togethers. And for that there is nothing nicer than a solid oak round dining table.

Once you have your oak table then the next question to ask is what kind of finish you would like. Unlike cheap fast growing wood, oak has beautiful markings and grain. So, it makes sense to provide a finish that shows off those granulations. Typically oak furniture, especially something like an oak dining table that has a large surface, can be finished in either oil or lacquer.

Oil is certainly attractive, gives off a soft sheen and can easily be applied at home. However, in terms of ongoing maintenance and protection, lacquer is a much better option. For example a glass of wine spilt onto an oil finish may result in an immediate stain. With a lacquer finish, there is time to remove the spill with a cloth without the liquid penetrating the finish.

For most people leading busy lives with children and the potential for spills, lacquer is the only choice. The only question is if you first need to remove any finish before you add your lacquer.

We advise you to move your lovely oak dining table into a well ventilated area. It would also be advisable to have protection on your floor or even better move the dining table to an outdoor building such as garage where the floor is not important.

First inspect the oak for any imperfections. Are there cracks or breakages? It is easier to make good any physical faults first before attempting to apply any finish. At this stage also remove any hard additions such as nails or hinges. The next step is to see if you have a lacquer or a shellac finish. This can be ascertained by applying a small drop of alcohol to the finish. If the finish becomes liquid then it is shellac and if it remains semi hard, then it is most likely a mixture.

To remove the existing finish, apply a chemical solvent. Use a wire brush to rub it in and apply to small areas as both finish and solvent evaporate quickly. The next step is to sand the surface using either a hand sander or via sand paper, the latter being more time consuming. Finally remove surplus debris with a damp soft cloth.

Once you have a clean surface now you can proceed to apply your lacquer. Pick a cool day so the polish does not dry too quickly. Gently agitate your pot of polish and pour some of the lacquer onto the table. Using a circular motion spread out the polish as you go, working it into the grain of the wood. More polish is better than less. Finally remove any surplus polish. Leave the polish to dry overnight.

It is important to note that despite advising the application of lacquer in a well ventilated area because of its toxic attributes that once hardened the finish is now safe. While we don’t advocate eating directly off your fabulously finished oak dining room table, it is perfectly safe to move it back into your house for normal use.

October 30, 2023 — Chisom Onwukwe

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