Here's a coffee table that was originally a regular oak table. I totally sanded down the top so I could stain it a darker color. I used a Dewalt sander (afil link if you want to find it) to purchase. These are fantastic sanders! I first started with a 80 grit paper to take off all the top varnish and stain. Once that is removed I use a 120 grit paper to sand. And then I use a 220 grit paper. Sometimes I will use a 400 grit at the very end but not always.
After all the sanding then dust it all off. I then use a tack cloth to get the rest of the dust. Once you know it is clean of dust, then start staining. For this coffee table I used General Finishes nutmeg gel stain. I put on a couple coats. When I use the gel stain I always seal it with their gel topcoat. It is made for the gel stain and hardens and protects so well. You can use the General Finishes high performance topcoat (water based) but it won't give you the protection like the gel stain will.
You can apply the gel stain different ways. I like to apply with a sponge brush. You can also apply with a foam stain applicator. Make sure you read the directions on the can for proper drying time. Once the stain has dried in the time needed, that is when I apply the gel topcoat. Let the topcoat dry as required in between coats. I recommend using at least 3 coats of gel topcoat sealer. It is such a durable sealer!
The bottom of the table was painted in Provence by Annie Sloan. I then applied a black glaze over top the chalk paint.
A bad photo as the sun was so bright.
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Here is a true color photo:
More photo's of my work are in the Gallery.