Re-Finishing a Mahogany Side Table

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I have been doing some research on refinishing a mahogany side table. I have sanded it down (up to 120 grit) and am wanting to finish it with Tung Oil. I love the beautiful color and grain of the natural wood.

Only, I have finished Mahogany before with stain and had gotten a blotchy effect - that with using a Wood conditioner first. Not sure what I did wrong but want to avoid this problem again.  Shall I use a Wood conditioner before using the Tung oil? I have Varathane Pre-stain wood conditioner. 

Lastly, should I go up in sandpaper grain (to 220 or so?) (oh, and poly on top?) That's it!

I'm new at this and have been figuring out things myself as I go along but have made mistakes in almost all of my projects. Not dealbrreakers, but I want do do this one right.

Any help you can provide would be awesome.

Thanks - Rebecca

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Tung oil is not all created equal. Pictures of your project as well as exactly what tung oil you are using (Manufacturer, can etc) will go a long way in helping you. At this point guess work is the best someone can provide.

Tung oil is not all created equal. 100% pure tung oil is created from the nut of the Tung tree. Tung oil finish sold by Watco for example is not 100% pure tung oil, it is more a polyurethane finish that has some tung oil in it among many other things. Pure tung oil applies drastically different than polyurethane. Poly may benefit from a pre-stain conditioner while that same conditioner will prevent the tung oil from working at all.

This isn't even touching the Mahogany portion of the question. Which Mahogany? Is it true Mahogany, a close relative, or is it one of the look alikes? I don't expect you to know this but a picture can get us in the ball park.

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First, before you do any more sanding, make sure you are dealing with solid mahogany and not a veneer. You can easily and quickly sand through the veneer and then you have big problems.

I think a lot of your success will depend on how much of the old finish is removed. If you were starting with fresh unfinished wood, I would say that tung oil is unlikely to be blotchy; particularly on mahogany. However, if all you have done to remove the old finish is sand it, you may have remaining finish, particularly in areas that are hard to sand in corners, etc. You might be well advised to use a chemical stripper on it before sanding to more completely remove the old finish; particularly from the deep pores. Then, sanding through 180 grit should give good results.

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THANKS for these replies. I'm not sure exactly what type of Mahogany this is. I'm attaching a picture to show you.

As for the sanding...I've sanded pretty carefully so hopefully don't need a chemical stripper. 

The Tung oil I have is: Minwax Tung Oil Finish. So, I guess it contains poly? That's good, then that should be a good enough finish long as I do enough coats.




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I agree with Wimayo  above, be careful sanding going through veneer will cause the blotchy look but you aren't actually getting blotching. What is happening is the glue from the veneer is causing uneven absorption and there is no fixing this.

With that finish and that wood you shouldn't need a conditioner and the conditioner may work against you. Applying per the directions on the can is the best way. If you do see any blotching don't try and sand it out. The center potion of the framed top is very clearly veneer, it's going to be thin and you will easily sand through.

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Ah ha! Thanks Chestnut. I had no idea that the middle was veneer. I am glad I didn't actually sand through it. It looks pretty clean. So, with your advice, I'll just apply the Tung oil as instructed. (without the conditioner). Shall I sand up to 220 prior? And what do you think about a poly on top of the tung oil once it's dry...or does this tung oil have poly?


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That tung oil has poly. Continue additional coats of the Tung oil if you want a thicker glossier finish. It's likely poly won't adhere to it well.

Hand sanding lightly to 220 could help make the surface feel smoother but i'd be careful.

If you have mineral spirits around you can wipe that liberally on the surface to get an idea of what the finished result may look like. Make sure to do the finishing in a well ventialted area as well.

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@Another Newbie

Rebecca, I have used that particular finish on a few recent projects, and can offer a couple of tips.

First, as @Chestnutsaid, it is an oil / poly blend. Similar to Minwax Wipe On Poly, but with less poly and more solvents. 

Second, the high solvent content allows it to absorb into the wood and what remains on the surface flashes off rather quickly. When wiping it on, be sure to apply liberally to get a full, even coat, then wipe away the excess with a dry rag. Any spots left dry will telegraph through the following coat.

Blue shop paper towels make excellent applicators.

With maple, sanded to 220, I had a glossy surface at 3 coats, but the film was quite thin, without the 'plastic coated' look that brushed, or even wiped-on poly can have. Mahogany is more porous, and may absorb more before building a surface film. Follow the dry time recommendations on the container. Some folks like to create a slurry by sanding the wet finish with high-grit abrasive, which fills the pores of the wood for a smoother look. Don't try this with that particular finish, it dries too quickly and will just leave a mess.

Good luck witb you project! Be sure to give us an update.

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I've had a lot of success with Old Master's Tung Oil finish.  It is definitely a blend but goes on very simply and smoothly with a wipe on method.   I have the luxury of getting lint free towels/applicators from my profession that would normally go in the trash can if not taken by employees.  However I have used the Minwax tung oil finish as well and it's turned out fantastic.  Read the can and follow the directions to a "T" is the only advise I'd have when using the Minwax


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