Furniture restoration — rescuing a damaged oak table with beeswax polish

This nice old oak drop-leaf table had been badly neglected. In particular, the centre section had suffered from both sun bleaching and water damage,  causing the wood in the middle to turn grey and lifeless. Next to the bleached area was a blackened patch. Also, due to extreme temperature changes, it had developed a nasty split in the centre section.  With my furniture restoration hat on I decided to see what I could do to save it, mostly by sanding it down and applying our Traditional Beeswax Furniture Polish.

 A badly neglected oak table in need of some attention

A badly neglected oak table in need of some attention

 The middle section was in a particularly sorry state

The middle section was in a particularly sorry state

As you should with every furniture restoration project I reviewed the damage to decide a plan of action. I decided not to strip the entire piece - the varnish on the legs did not look too bad, and with limited time available to work on it, I wanted to do something I stood some chance of getting finished. With this in mind, I sanded the table-top surface. I did not know how deep the damage would be, and my thoughts at this stage were that if I could get below the bleaching, and the colour of the wood evened out, I would polish the entire surface with our Neutral Traditional Beeswax Polish, for a lighter finish. If, however, the damage went too deep, I would use a combination of the Neutral and the Brown Polish, in order to darken the wood slightly, and disguise the discolouration.

Sanding the table was relatively easy using an electric sander. I started with a coarse grit, as there were numerous scratches and gouges on the surface and I knew I was going to have to remove quite a bit to make it smooth again. However, It soon became apparent that the sun and water damage in the central section was too deep to remove. I had sanded down quite a bit, and the discolouration was not going away; so I decided that damage limitation using brown polish would be the best option.

The next step was to repair the split. This kind of job is relatively straightforward as long as you have (or can borrow!), extendable woodworkers clamps like these. I just applied a generous bead of Evo-stik wood glue, fitted and tightened the clamps (using a couple of pieces of batton to protect the surface), then wiped off the excess glue that had squeezed out, and left it overnight. The next day I simply removed the clamps and ran the sander over the surface again with a fine grit, just to remove a few remaining traces of glue.

As I had expected, there was still a small gap showing in places, so I used a piece of beeswax as a filler. I simply rolled a tiny piece of beeswax into a "worm" shape and pushed it into the gap with my thumb nail. Then I gently removed the excess with a knife blade. Beeswax is brilliantly malleable. A small piece can feel hard between the fingers, but in minutes it absorbs enough heat to become soft enough to push into the smallest of gaps. The wax was naturally a similar colour to the wood in this case, but as I expected, would also be coloured slightly by the brown polish. For small repairs like this, I find beeswax much easier to use than modern wood fillers you can buy, as they often seem to dry out quickly and become a bit crumbly, especially when handled,

 Push a small beeswax "worm" into the split

Push a small beeswax "worm" into the split

 Trim off the excess wax

Trim off the excess wax

 The table fully sanded and ready to polish

The table fully sanded and ready to polish

So now, at last, it was time to start applying polish! I began by applying our Brown Traditional Beeswax Polish. I used a small amount of the brown polish, just enough to cover the whole surface, and buffed it off. I did this three or four times, using only the minimal amount, until the whole surface had darkened just enough to disguise the discoloured area. At this point I was satisfied that the bleaching was no longer visible, and the overall surface had gained a nice antique sort of look. This is due to the way that the brown polish enhances the grain. 

Now I had the kind of colour I wanted, all that remained was to continue polishing with our Neutral Beeswax Polish. At this stage, the amount of polish one uses depends very much on personal taste. During the first few coats you can see an improved shine and lustre with each application. My favourite method is to apply small amounts several times a day, over several days, and just to keep going until I am satisfied with the finish. 

 The finished surface

The finished surface

beeswax polish restoration tablee.JPG
beeswax polish restoration tableg.JPG

So that's the end of this furniture restoration journey! That saves a battered and discoloured oak table from being dumped and brings many more years of use and beauty out of a solid oak table. You may also like to read another furniture restoration piece, when I rescued a water damaged Indian hardwood boxDo you have any wood furniture restoration stories? Any tips and tricks you can share? 



Furniture restoration — using beeswax polish to renovate sun bleached and water damaged wood.

 The box before any work

The box before any work

 A small brush is useful in detailed furniture restoration projects

A small brush is useful in detailed furniture restoration projects

Ok, so its not exactly "furniture", but this little Indian hardwood box is an ideal piece to demonstrate how useful our brown beeswax polish is for furniture restoration and treating this kind of damage.

It had been left unattended on a windowsill where it suffered from both sun-bleaching and water damage from condensation.

When it comes to wood furniture restoration, the kind of results you get are going to depend on the type of wood. In this case, the Indian hardwood is nothing special, so it's not going to get the kind of glow that can be gained on a quality piece of red oak, for example. But it shouldn't be hard to make it look respectable again.

My preferred method for dealing with a small decorative furniture restoration project like this is simply to apply a small amount of polish two or three times a day for about three days. If you apply the polish sparingly, a bit at a time, you don't end up with too much vigorous buffing to do. Also when using brown beeswax polish in furniture restoration, using a little bit at a time allows you to judge the level of staining you want to achieve, so you can stop when you have the desired effect.

I did not sand or even scrub the box before I started this mini furniture restoration project. I just started to apply the beeswax polish. The pierced lid was the only fiddly bit on this piece. A useful tip with this kind of detailed decorative furniture restoration is to use a small brush to work the polish into the cut-outs.

So, here are some before and after shots. I was really impressed with the results and I think the pictures speak for themselves... NB. I shot all these pics under natural sunlight, just inside the roller door of our unit.

Would love to know what you think, or if you had tried anything similar, so let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

 Water damage stains before I started restoring the box with brown beeswax polish

Water damage stains before I started restoring the box with brown beeswax polish

 Water damage stains had completely gone by the time I'd finished applying layers of brown beeswax polish

Water damage stains had completely gone by the time I'd finished applying layers of brown beeswax polish

 The results of a very satisfying mini furniture restoration project

The results of a very satisfying mini furniture restoration project