Cerused Oak Dining Table (Table Makeover) – Finished!

I finished my cerused dining table, and I love how it turned out!  Here’s a look at the top before and after…

DIY Cerused oak dining table

That orange oak table with the sad dark grain has a fresh new, modern look with its not-so-orange stain color and white grain.

And here’s a look at the whole table before and after…

cerused oak dining table 32

I did go ahead and paint the apron and base white just because I didn’t want anything competing for attention with that gorgeous cerused top.

I’m tellin’ ya, I could stare at that top all day long.  It turned out way better than I expected.

cerused oak dining table 27

Okay, so let me back up and share the details of how I achieved this look.

When I left off on Friday, I had just stripped and sanded the top.  Then I scrubbed the entire surface with a brass wire brush going the direction of the grain.  And I followed that with a coat of stain.  I used Minwax Jacobean stain on my table.  So after all of that, the table looked like this…

cerused oak dining table 8

When the stain was dry, I scrubbed the surface one more time with the brass brush going in the direction of the grain.  I applied medium pressure to the brush.  In other words, I didn’t put all of my muscle into it, but I also didn’t baby it.

After that second scrubbing, I tried applying the liming wax.

It was actually a disaster at first.  The liming wax seemed to stick where I didn’t want it, but came out of the areas where I wanted it to stay as I scrubbed it with the steel wool.  And I was scrubbing quite hard.  I kind of panicked for a second.  (And evidently when I panic, I scrub against the grain.  Don’t do that.  Don’t ever do that.)  :)

cerused oak dining table 8a

Then I remembered that this one tutorial I found said that you have to shellac the surface before cerusing it.  So I used some mineral spirits to remove the liming wax from that area, and shellacked the whole table using Zinsser Clear Shellac.  It didn’t really change the look of it at all.

cerused oak dining table 9

It dried in about an hour, and then I gave it a quick sanding with 220-grit sandpaper.

Then using a small scraper, I worked the Briwax Liming Wax* down into the grain of the wood.

cerused oak dining table 10

I covered 1/3 of the table at a time and then let it sit for a few minutes to dry a bit.

cerused oak dining table 11

Then I used #0000 steel wool, which is evidently the finest steel wool available…

cerused oak dining table 12

…and I began to scrub off the liming wax with the steel wool.

cerused oak dining table 13

And I could see the wood grain pattern emerging.  After I scrubbed the entire surface once with that first steel wool pad, it looked like this…

cerused oak dining table 14

You can really take off as little or as much of the liming wax as you want.  If you want the entire surface of the table to look limed, just don’t take off as much of the liming wax.  But if you want more of your stain color showing with the liming wax only settling in the grain of the wood (which is what I wanted), then grab a new steel wool pad and scrub the surface again.  I used three pieces of steel wool on each section before I got it looking just like I wanted it.  (Steel wool is just like sandpaper — it’ll get dull and fill up with dust/wax as you use it, and become less effective.  So you have to keep using new areas of the steel wool pad, and then eventually just use a new piece once that one gets dull and full of dust.)

cerused oak dining table 16

cerused oak dining table 17

I won’t be keeping the leaf in my table on a regular basis.  That’ll only be used if we have company and need the extra seating.  So normally the table will look like this…

cerused oak dining table 18

cerused oak dining table 20

I love it!  :)

But I wasn’t loving the orange base with it, so obviously that needed some attention.

cerused oak dining table 22

(That picture was taken before I had completely scrubbed the center section of the table with steel wool.)

The base of the table got my usual treatment — sanding with 150-grit sandpaper (by hand), and coat of Zinsser Primer, and then two coats of latex paint.  I used a Behr color called Polar Bear, which is also what I used on my fireplace.  It’s my “go-to” white paint color.

And I also had some help with the priming — my 9-year-old niece Yaleana, who handles a paint brush better than most adults!  The girl has DIY in her genes.  :)

cerused oak dining table 23

After the base was completely primed and painted, and after I had the top scrubbed with steel wool enough to suit my taste, I needed to seal the top.

I really debated over how I was going to seal the top.  I do not like using water-based polyurethanes on surfaces that are used often (especially if there’s any moisture involved), and we use this table for three meals a day.  An oil-based poly would hold up much better to that kind of usage, but an oil-based poly would also be amber in color and will yellow more over time (as all oil-based products do).  And I didn’t want anything mucking up the bright white grain on my table top.

So I finally opted for a waxed finish using Minwax Paste Finishing Wax.  It’s very easy to use.  You just rub it on with a clean cloth, wait about 15 minutes until it becomes dry and a bit cloudy, and then buff it with a clean cloth.  It leaves a beautiful satin finish.  It’s not as durable as polyurethane, though, so I’ll need to keep an eye on it and see if it needs to be waxed again in a few months.

cerused oak dining table 24

But it gave the stained wood an even richer appearance, which I love.

cerused oak dining table 25

On the apron and base, I sealed that with Annie Sloan clear wax.  My reason for doing that is because the Minwax Paste Finishing Wax does have just the slightest bit of amber color to it, and I didn’t want to take a chance on it dulling the white paint.  Annie Sloan clear wax doesn’t have any color to it at all, and it’s specifically made for using over painted finishes.

Truth be told, I don’t like the Annie Sloan wax nearly as much.  Where the Minwax wax dries in 15 minutes or so and is ready for buffing, the Annie Sloan wax still felt just as waxy and freshly applied several hours later as it did when I first applied it.  So I still haven’t had a chance to buff it out.  I’ve been told by several people that you need to wait about 24 hours before buffing it.

But other than buffing the apron and base, it’s finished!  And I love how it turned out.  My very least favorite wood just might become my very favorite now that I know about cerusing.  :)

cerused oak dining table 29

DIY Cerused oak dining table

If you’re having trouble finding any of the products I used, I put together a little Amazon widget with the products here…

 

Please note that those are affiliate links, as are the links in this post marked with an asterisk (*). If you click those links and make a purchase, Amazon will pay me a bit of commission.

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Comments

  1. Emily says

    Wow!

    Beautiful! Anyway you want to do MY table? Yours is gorgeous! I had never heard of this until last week’s post. I love it!

  2. Mary L says

    It turned out beautiful and you were so lucky to have that beautiful grain on the top. I don’t know how you keep up with all the work you are doing and not get too discouraged!

    • Laura says

      GORGEOUS!!!!!!! I have never seen oak look so good!!!! And I will never look at an oak piece the same way now that I know it’s a diamond in the rough!!!! :)

  3. Patty Brenner says

    What a transformation! You were so right about the lovely piecing of the top – the wedges almost look like feathers, and the center looks like a little flower. I am so impressed with your talents and vision!

  4. Kirsten says

    Your table came out great!!!!!! I’m mentally planning to redo our kitchen table. Mine is very similar to yours except mine has the dreaded tile top, with a 2 inch boarder of wood. First I thought to take out the tile and put some kind of wood in the groove, then maybe cover whole top with wood and now I’m thinking make a new top and attaching it to base, making it look more like a farmhouse table. Decisions, decisions!! Any fantastic ideas??
    I really enjoy your blog!!!!!

  5. Lisa says

    It’s so striking! Wondering – can other types of wood be cerused? I’m assuming you’d need a heavy, visible grain. I’ve got some vintage Ethan Allen maple furniture that I would love to do a limed finish on the top. I don’t want to paint the entire piece – but was thinking the stain/cerused top and a white lower would look great in a beach house. Not sure maple has enough grain. Thoughts?

    • says

      From what I read, cerusing works best on hard woods, and on wood with lots of visible grain. So that makes oak the most suitable, and the most commonly used, wood for cerusing. I’m definitely tempted to try it on other woods, though! I was going through my scrap plywood last night to see if any of it had enough grain to make a cerused serving tray for my living room ottoman. I want to try a white tray with gold cerusing. :-D

      • Lisa says

        Thanks, Kristi! I am looking at a drop leaf table right now that I believe is either maple or cherry … it has some nice graining, but is an uuuuuggggly orange stain. I smell a project! Will be sure to take before, during and after pictures.

  6. Marian says

    FYI General Finishes makes a poly that does not yellow.
    Love your table and am amazed at what you do by yourself

  7. Zeitamurphy says

    Girlfriend, you ROCK! That table will be a gorgeous addition to your space. I am very impressed, and enjoy your creativity and hard work. I genuinely look forward to seeing your progress. Very well done, professional, and impressive. You are the best!

  8. Debbie says

    I am very interested in seeing how your waxed table top holds up. I waxed the top of our kitchen table and every hot plate or pizza box melts it and leaves it dull. I’m looking for an alternative. Your table looks amazing!

  9. Marcia says

    Like you, I can’t stand golden oak, but your ceruse finish is gorgeous. And how lucky that you have a table with such a beautifully done veneer! That’s true craftsmanship. White for the base and apron was the best choice. Beautiful job; congratulations.

  10. Tess says

    To be honest, I was not liking it until I saw it with the base painted. It looks great!!! Nice job and its great that you can see it long before you actually do it! Just wow!!!

  11. Karen H. says

    Oh my word, Kristy! That table is absolutely gorgeous! Until you did the post on cerusing, I had never heard of it. But I am in love now!

  12. Susan DeYoung says

    A M A Z I N G !!! What a transformation! Wow! There is NOTHING you can’t do!!! I can’t wait to see this in your finished kitchen!!!!

  13. Shirlee says

    Very interesting finish.. The pattern of the wood grain looks like large feathers to me, very pretty. Painting the lower part of the table white was the right choice, and gave the table a fresh new look.

  14. Marty Gish says

    I, too, had never heard of this before. We all learn so much from you! What a gorgeous table you now have!! Can’t wait to see more from you.

  15. Rose L says

    $75.00 plus some latex paint…not bad at all. It turned out beautiful!! The veneer is so pretty, I love oak wood grain. Maybe I’ll give this a try on my entertainment center. I had watched this with interest since I have a dinning table that needs some work due to too much wax being applied at the factory but my dining set is wormy maple so has no real grain to it. I’ll have to wash all the wax off (almost a 16th of an inch!) with mineral spirits and put a light fresh coat on. Great work!!

  16. says

    Beautiful!! I’m pinning on the outside chance that I might be able to work a piece, too.
    That was a lot of hard work, Kristi….how’s your arm?

    P.S. Marian Parsons/MMS has referred to a non-yellowing poly. You might want to search her site for that.

  17. Jaybird says

    Love the table!! You did a beautiful job!
    Cutie pie helper too :^) I had three in that age range this past weekend….. We had a ball, but I remember how OLD I am today :^(
    Blessings,
    J

  18. Alta says

    Another fabulous project! I’ve always loved oak, but you’ve once again taken it to a whole new level. Great job, Kristi, and a BEAUTIFUL table!

  19. Judy Benton says

    I have this very same table. I have never heard of this technique before and I’m so pleasantly surprise how it turned out. I would love to see how it looks in your dining area of your home. I don’t think I could be brave enough to do the same with my set. Beautiful job though!

  20. Lisa says

    Love it!!! Besides the floors from Cameron Diaz’s kitchen that you posted, I recently saw something else that was cerused (sorry, can’t remember the website) and fell in love!!! Thanks for the helpful tips. (as always, YOU ROCK!!!) I can’t wait to try this technique!

  21. debbie says

    This is my very favorite project you have done !!!! I have a table just like yours that I also got on CL and can’t wait to try the ceruse technique – I hope I can be as successful.

  22. Sara says

    The wood grain pattern reminds me of heads of wheat. It turned out georgeous! My daughter achieved this look on our desser using her dad’s deodorant. ;)

  23. Tracy says

    Serious tie between this table and the credenza for my #1 favorite change. I want to try but I’m afraid. .it looks like a lot of work.

  24. SLNY says

    The table came out beautiful. I wonder how this technique would work on the interior doors. This would definitely minimize the wood grain.

  25. bonnie hunt says

    The table is beautiful! There was a step that you did in the process of doing your table that I just can’t understand. When using the wire brush to open the grain up even more, doesn’t that scratch the surface of the wood veneer??? Wouldn’t there be lots of scratch marks on the surface? Would love to try this!

    • says

      I thought the same thing, and was a bit nervous to try it. But everything I read about cerusing said that this is the most important step of the process, so I just trusted and did it. And it worked! It didn’t scratch the wood at all. I imagine that might be why they suggest doing this on hard woods specifically, though. Hard woods can withstand all of that scrubbing with the wire brush, where soft woods would probably get scratched up. I’m not sure about that, but it’s just a guess on my part. :)

      But I will say that one tutorial I read (the one I linked in my post above) said to use a brass brush specifically because it’s tough enough to open up the grain, while being soft enough that it won’t scratch the wood. So perhaps a stronger, stiffer metal brush would actually scratch the wood. Not sure, so I stuck with the brass, and it worked perfectly.

  26. designdreamer says

    WOW!!!!
    I’d never heard of this before either, but it’s definitely what I want for my coffee table finish!!!
    Love it!!!!
    designdreamer

  27. says

    Your table is gorgeous! This is the first time I have seen that wax method used so I learned something new today. Thanks for sharing!
    Oh, and great minds think alike…..I use Polar Bear too as my go to white color and I love it. Its on every molding and trim piece around my house and I love how crisp and white it is! I can’t wait to get a final home tour when its all said and done. You have done so much thus far and everything looks FAB!

  28. lizziegreentree says

    How fabulous! I have seen lots of faux graining and that was what I originally thought you had done. I hope to screw up my courage enough to try it one of these days. Beautiful job!

    • says

      No, I almost never put anything over a paint. Even on kitchen cabinets, I’ll just stick with the paint without putting any type of clear coat over it.

      I treated this one differently simply because it’s a dining table that gets lots of use every single day — three meals a day plus it’s where I spend quite a bit of time using my laptop. So I wanted to give it a bit of extra protection. I actually wish I had used two or three coats of satin water-based polyurethane on the apron and the base, and I’ll probably end up going back and doing that just for the added protection.

  29. Gina says

    Your table is absolutely beautiful. Everything that you touch turns out so nice. I was wondering if the white paint is a flat finish because the Annie Sloan wax doesn’t work on semi-gloss paint? If you use it on semi-gloss it always feels sticky. Trust me I know from experience.

  30. deborah says

    Absolutely beautiful. The person who made that table is quite talented. I never heard of that technique but you did a fabulous job! Gorgeous!!! I think I’d protect the tabletop by having a piece of glass cut to size.

  31. Jamie says

    I love it and I also think this would be great on your doors! I am partial to the distressed look so I would have done that, however I know you are NOT :) I have used Annie Sloans wax several times and I have found if you use to much wax it will stay tacky for a very longeriod of time. You have to wax it and them rub the access off with a clean cloth, then buff. In my experience if you used the right amount of wax you should be able to buff very soon after wars. I painted my table and waxed it as well with Annie Sloans wax. I was worried about not having enough wax on the top to protect it from….ya know children and husbands so I over waxed on all coats and I shouldn’t have because it feels tacky in spots still and it’s been at least a month and plenty of meals have been had there. I used placemats, never set hot things on it Without a pot holder or something and always wash it with something that is not to harsh, I use disinfecting wipes. I have also waxed other furniture with it where I was not so concerned about protection so much and did not have a tackyness issue at all. Not sure if this helps but it’s my experience anyway.

  32. Kimberly says

    Holy mackerel, Kristi, that table turned out GORGEOUS! So hard to believe its the same table, the transformation is just that remarkable! It was a nice table before (aside from the orangey finish), but now it’s a designer showpiece. Nice work, as per usual!

  33. says

    Wow that is one beautiful piece of furniture. I never heard of this technique and now I want to try it. Wondering if you are considering doing this with your interior door? Cheers

  34. JoEllen says

    This is amazing!!! Wow!!! I can not wait to see this all come together! You have some kind of stamina! Just go, go, go, and your table results are proof. It’s amazing.

  35. Andrea says

    Once again you amaze me. One question that I didn’t see answered in the comments: Could you do this technique on a piece with angle and carving? Something like a hutch? Or would you recommend only doing this with flat pieces like your table top?

  36. Gilmer Gal says

    Just wow, Kristi. My sister in law has a beautiful house build in the 80′s. She just had the most beautiful counter tops, stone flooring, and updates put in her kitchen. But the cabinets are the old 80′s full-on nasty grain that everyone loved in that era. Now it just takes away from the work and big bucks. Dear Abby, how do I tell my sister in law that this procedure would look mighty awesome in her kitchen??? I would even be willing to do it myself :)

      • Deb says

        Thanks for responding. Was going to donate a mission coffee table and side table until I realized they were solid Oak. Considering Ceruse for the top, but mostly just love the dark color stain as opposed to the “oak” look. May go with just stained top and distressed soft turquoise for the bottom. Or Ceruse and white. Love the way your table and chairs turned out.

  37. Blanca says

    Is there any way you would consider doing a video tutorial on how to do this? I have the exact same table and want to do this, but am afraid of messing something up. A video would be wonderful! Maybe on just a small piece of wood? Please consider it! :)

  38. says

    This looks awesome, you did a great job! I saw Steve Fanuka do this one time on his show “Million Dollar Contractor” and thought it was a very interesting process. Yours looks just as good as his, haha!

  39. Dawn Furner says

    I want to do this to a picnic table I am building in my back yard. What can I seal it with?
    It will be exposed to the elements. 100% of the time. My husband loves the color you ended up with, and I don’t like the idea of it yellowing after sealed. Any suggestions?

  40. Angie says

    This table is amazing! Is there a such thing as opposite of cerused? I wanted a limed look but didn’t know what I was doing. I did a white/gray wash onto bare oak. It is seeped into the grain but bare wood is underneath. Could I stain over it and the stain not absorb in the grain where the paint already is and get the same effect or close to it? I hope this makes sense. Thanks!

  41. Charlotte says

    Your table is beautiful! I have the same table and have pondered staining the top and painting the bottom. Thank you for the inspiration!

  42. Charlotte says

    I have this same exact table. You have inspired me to make it over! Your table is beautiful, but I’m not sure I could do all that work. In Part 1, you stated you didn’t sand through the veneer. If I didn’t want the wood grain, would it be okay to sand down completely and stain the top? Thanks!

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