I recently purchased a Maitland Smith dining room from Habitat for Humanity. The table and chairs were probably 25 years old, and I knew I had to have them when I saw one of the Chippendale side chairs. The table was a double pedestal with a solid mahogany top that needed some work, but the only real issue with the chairs were the tacky upholstered seats.
I went online, and found that Maitland Smith still made this Regency Chippendale set, and the chairs were $699 each, and the table was $4999 at Furnitureland South. Habitat wanted $400 for the table, 2 arm chairs, and 5 side chairs- what a deal! So I crammed them in my F-150 and took them home where they sat for months in my garage.
I finally decided to touch up the chairs, and then totally stripped the top. Being solid wood, I was able to steam out the deep impressions, and sand the rest of the imperfections. I used a penetrating stain, and then sealed the top with a vinyl sealer. After the 2 coats of sealer dried, I filled the grain and then scuff sanded the surface until it was perfectly smooth. Then I finally sprayed 5 coats of flat pre-catalyzed lacquer.
I sanded the surface with 600 grit and buffed the top only to find 3 or 4 places where the grain showed. My wife said that no one would ever notice it, but I decided to break out the grain filler and re-coat the top again with 2 more coats of lacquer. Then I buffed it out in 3 stages and it was a perfectly smooth top that looked wet. It was so perfect that the top actually looked like fake wood to me.
After looking at this table for a couple of weeks, the shiny look did not grow on me, and I decided that I did not like it. I cleaned it, and since I had used flat lacquer when spraying it I knew that if I sprayed a pure solvent like a drying retardant, it would dry flat and smooth. So I did it- my wife thought I was crazy to take a chance on messing it up. But it turned out perfect, and with a flat finish around a 40 sheen.
A friend of mine said that he needed a formal dining set in a newly renovated home, and I described the set to him. He immediately sent someone to my home with a check. He picked out the fabric for the chairs, and I reupholstered the seats. The set looked so good that I wished I had kept it. How often does someone come across a $9000 dining room set for $400? But I have young children that would have done terrible things to it- so I did the right thing. It was fun just working on it. Here are some after pictures that I took with my phone: