May 22, 2012 - 12:40pm
Filling and refinishing an antique kneading table
We are in the process of opening a new location. While hunting for "old stuff" to display and keep with the artisan theme, I found an old (circa 1800 or so) kneading table that I bought for $150. It is about 10 feet long, 3.5 feet wide and made of solid, though quite knotty pine. Problem, the top has ridges, dings, and gouges. I would like it to be brought back to active use in the new bakery, so the dings etc, while adding character, would have to go.
Anyone out there have any experience in refinishing this type of thing? Obviously, it would need to be food-safe, but I don't think mineral oil/beeswax will be enough.
Any ideas or thoughts will be welcomed
With a large hand-planer you should be able to make it as smooth as you want. When I was doing log-work I would use a 6.75" planer to smooth out log mantel pieces and purlins that we had ripped with a chainsaw, so you could definitely use it for a table your size. Someone in your area who does logwork or timberframing should have access to either a planer that size or possibly a 12.25" hand planer. It would not take them very long to do it, then you can oil the top after.
and I would only add that you should consider doing some preliminary work on the dings and dents before planing the table top down. Doing so can preserve from 1/16th to 1/8th inch of thickness in the table top, depending on your success.
An old fashioned electric soldering iron (a "gun" is too lightweight) and some old terrycloth towels and paper towels are sufficient. The idea is to steam up the dings and dents to raise them as much as possible before planing down, thus preserving thickness in the piece. Thoroughly wet a small portion of a terrycloth towel, and a folded over paper towel. Put the wet terry towel section over the dent/ding, top with the wet paper towel, and lean on it with the hot tip of the soldering iron. The soldering iron boils the water in the towels at the point of the damage, and the steam will penetrate the ding/dent and swell the wood grain, raising it up. Work each ding in sequence from one side to the other over the length of the table, then return to the beginning and start again. Apply at least two treatments to each ding or dent before assessing your progress. You will be amazed at how well this works. It is especially effective on dents. Somewhat less so on "punctures" where the grain is torn where it is depressed. Obviously, it is of no use on a true gouge, where there is missing material. Those you must either fill, or plane down till they are gone.
Old high school wood shop trick! Thank you Mr. Schramm, wherever you are.
Once you have an acceptable surface I think mineral oil would be sufficient. It is food-safe, durable, and very easy to keep up.
Best of luck with your table, and your new location Paul!
A standard flat iron works much better than the soldering iron, A belt sander will probably deal with the rest. Bare wood is reasonably sanitary, we used to scrape our wooden butcher block clean each night at quiting time with a purpose made flatwire brush.
But this is pine... soft enough to make a dent with only light pressure even after a couble of hundred years. We will be trying these suggestions and finishing with a mineral oil/beeswax paste --- unless a better suggestion pops up
as soft as you describe, and your comment makes me suspicious that there may be some rot or decay going on internally. Pine, and other woods too, tend to dry out and harden as time goes on unless the environment is humid. In the humid environment they will absorb moisture, and you often see dry rot or "corking" in places. You may find some of one or more of these conditions as you work on the table.
The belt sander will work but make sure you use fine grit abrasives or your soft wood will disolve before your eyes. I, myself, would still choose a hand plane for the control and to make sure I worked slowly. A power planer would be my next choice. A belt sander will work, but it is easier, in my opinion that is, to make valleys and "swales" where the wood is softer. In my opinion again, it is easier to maintain a good flat surface on soft wood using a plane.
I'm not aware of any other treatments you might use on the table top that would be food safe. Do all wood tables and benches available from food business supply companies use natural, oil or oil/beeswax type finishes? I'm not in that business, but you are. Perhaps some phone calls to equipment suppliers or manufacturer rep's can get you some ideas for harder surface treatments. It might be a good idea given the way you describe your table. Soft is pretty synonymous with porous, and a tighter seal might be advisable if you will work anything but dough on the table. In any case the wood will start off thirsty, so expect to have to apply multiple coats of treatment to get things to even out.
Again, best of luck with it
No matter what tools you choose to apply you must be skilled in their use.
If this table top is pine it is surely old growth pine and will be quite soft and very uniform in grain.
I recently refinished an oak table for a client. I used Scotch Brite pads in various degrees of fine to coarse that way I was able to preserve the aged look of the table while completely cleaningthe surface. For the new finish I used shellac as that was the original finish.
There are several salad bowl finishing products that would be a good choice for this table top.
My contractor recommended that I use Osmo top oil (an oil/wax mixture) for my butcher block and other wood surfaces that come in contact with food -- I'm very happy with the product -- easy to apply, low odor, dries pretty fast. I would avoid using shellac. I suggest calling Osmo and seeing what they suggest.
If it was my table I would make a sanding block. Long and straight and do it by hand. I would make it at least 2' long. With any mechanical device the risk of making a wavy table is great. I use mineral oil on my wood surfaces.
I would be willing to bet good money that the original finish was linseed oil. Long boarding it will get it flat but in all probability it is much too warped to make flattening posible.
If the legs come off you can take it to a shop that has a wide-belt sander. It won't be very costly at all and will give a perfectly uniform surface in 30 minutes. No gouges or runaway belt sander ridges. Be sure to do it before you apply any finish.
The table was taken to an antiques restoration shop where the owner absolutely refused to sand or plane the thing, or do anything else about the "damage." He offered to buy the table and make me a replica out of new wood. Done deal!
I get a functional, food-safe, old-look table and he will make a decent buck off something that likely should be preserved. Everybody's happy.
The best choice. Sanding that old table flat and smooth would distroy its value as an antique.
to take off a bit but worried about gravel. Glad you both got a deal. :)