I'm looking for advice on how to refinish a kitchen table and four chairs. I would like to sand it down and put a new stain on it and don't really know where to get started. As far as sand paper goes, what should I be looking into? Also, with the stain, what type and how many coats should I be putting on. Also, just wondering what other supplies I would need to do this project. This kitchen table is just a hobby project so I'm not worried about it looking fantastic. Just want to give this a try and see how it turns out.
Refinishing can be a very time consuming project and it's important that everything is done correctly so you have an attractive and long lasting finish. Do you have any idea what kind of wood dining set is made of? Especially with less expensive, modern furniture it's possible that the table top is not solid wood but rather a thin veneer over a man-made substrate (like plywood or particle board). Veneered surfaces are almost impossible to refinish. The table and chairs should be structurally sound as well. Any loose joints, for example, should be fixed as part of the refinishing process as well.
With that said, wood stains only work on bare wood and all traces of the old finish must be removed. Frankly, chemical strippers are much more effective and efficient, although there will be plenty of sanding involved too. Strippers with nasty chemicals are usually more effective than those with "green" or "eco" names but in any case it is very important to follow the label directions exactly and following any requirements for personal protective equipment (eye, lung, skin) and if all possible do the work outside or in a well ventilated garage. The other option is to take the table and chairs to a commercial stripper.
Once you have the pieces stripped, there will still be plenty of sanding to do. Investing in a couple of power tools will make the job go a lot faster and give you better results than trying to do it all by hand, although hand sanding will likely be required too. A 5" random orbit sander works great for large, flat surfaces and an oscillating tool for small surfaces and corners.
Depending on the condition of the wood, you'll want to start with 80-100 grit sandpaper and work you way up to 220 grit. Once you get to nice, smooth bare wood it's time to finish.
Finishing is usually the most difficult part of any woodworking project. Commercial manufacturers and woodworking shops have the advantage of using spray equipment and specialty finishes that aren't practical for home use. DIYers are limited to some kind of stain and a top coat, typically some kind of varnish or polyurethane. Because of the tendency of some woods, notably pine and maple, to "blotch" when stained, a "conditioner" must be used. Under no circumstances be tempted use any of the "stain and finish in one products like Minwax's Polyshades. You will want to do the finishing in as much of a dust free area as you can manage.
Once the stain has been applied and dried, several top coats are next. A very light sanding and tacking between coats is often done as well to ensure a glass smooth finish.
Once you get a little closer to finishing, we can talk more about techniques and materials.
I hope this has given you a good overview. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
Another option is paint or a combination of paint and stain. Because large, flat surfaces are easier to refinish you may want to think about refinishing the table top and painting the base. If that is something you would be interested in, we can talk about techniques and materials.