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IB Kofod Larsen table for G-Plan - Veneer texture

- 30 Nov 2017 -
24 posts / 0 new

Here are some pictures of a table I'm working on. It had a few water rings and stains, and they seem to have come out just fine with oxalic. But I am curious about the texture of the veneer and I was wondering if you had any thoughts about the issue.

The leaves which are tucked under the table are in perfect condition and they are completely smooth and flat. The table top on the other hand is not at all smooth, and you can feel every contour of the grain pattern, ridges and troughs.

This is not localised water damage or something, the entire surface is like this. Does anyone know what causes this? Is there anything that can be done (or should be done)? The colour when wet is OK, it's just the texture that feels rather too "rustic". The top (unvarnished) was very dry, and has probably not been oiled in decades, if ever. always try to avoid sanding as much as possible, and tend to leave anything other than the shallowest marks, which is probably what I will do here, but I'm tempted to try to flat it down here....

IB Kofod Larsen table for G-Plan - Veneer texture
1960 - 1969


- 30 Nov 2017

Was the top stripped and then wire brushed? Or perhaps just stripped and then wetted, which would raise the grain?

- 30 Nov 2017

Hi Leif, there was very little finish, but quite a lot of grime. Cleaned with denatured alcohol and fine wire wool, then wetted with the oxalic.
It's not that kind of raised grain with fibres, the actual surface is quite smooth, but it undulates distinctly with the grain pattern and feels "ribbed" to the touch. It was already like that before I started doing anything. I just assumed that it was supposed to be like that, until I took out the leaves from underneath.

- 30 Nov 2017

Perhaps it was wetted sometime before in its life. This was a 1 owner table, and it came with a bunch of other items all completely original and not messed about with at all. The sideboard that came with it had some old stains but it was obvious that they hadn't attempted to remove them. As I mentioned, it's not in any one place it's the same over the entire area, right up to the edging.

- 30 Nov 2017

Denatured alcohol leeches moisture out of wood, or maybe both moisture and oil, I'm not sure. I use Murphy's Oil Soap to clean really heavy grime off quickly but even that can dry the wood out. So 98% of the time I just use teak oil and #0000 steel wool. It breaks down grime pretty well and then you can just wipe it off with paper towels or rags.

If the wood had that texture before you did any cleaning, then I would suspect that the previous owners used some harsh cleaning agents on it. If it was already dry and you used alcohol to clean it, it would even up even more dried out. I think grain is made up of harder wood formed when the tree is in a slower growth period, and softer wood formed in the growing season (late winter into summer?). I know weathered wood gets that texture and weathered wood is dry wood.

- 30 Nov 2017

Thanks spanky. I'm pretty sure that I haven't given it any more texture by cleaning it with alcohol, at least on this occasion. I've been using your method for cleaning the oil, on chairs, table legs etc. I don't use your method in cases like these where its a veneered top with staining, because I want the oxalic to be able to really get at the stains. I think you're right and the previous owner (since 1966) cleaned it regularly with water and products. Having said that, the colour is not washed out.
So what do you think I should do with it? I'm thinking that a good soak with some of the starbrite oil would be the next step now that it's clean. Then maybe a light sanding, but I'd be worried that even using a sanding block the harder areas of grain would resist the sanding and I'd just make it more pronounced.

- 30 Nov 2017

it is soundings to me like perhaps the top got very wet at some point, and not having any finish it absorbed a lot of moisture. This would swell the veneer, and as it dries out it would shrink different amounts depending on the porosity and density of the wood, which would follow the grain.

- 30 Nov 2017

And it sounds to me like a bit of light sanding is in order and you will wan to fill the grain.

Spanky’s steel wool technique can do this. You can work a slurry or oil and teak dust into the grain especially if you wipe perpendicular to the grain. Wiping with the grain pulls the slurry out of the grain. It can take a lot of coats and be a lot of work, but it does work.

I filled the grain in an entire large table this way not so long ago. I used thickened Watco teak oil (if you leave the lid off for a day or so this happens) and much coarser steel wool to get a nice thick slurry. Then let it dry in the sun. Then take off all the excess finish and keep working the slurry into the grain. After a few coats it fills in and you can work with finer steel wool and start wiping with the grain. The last few coats may only only need wiping on oil with a rag.

There are other faster, less masochistic ways to fill the grain.

- 30 Nov 2017

Leif, your experience is amazing !

I have a couple more questions about you suggestion:
- Should I keep the dust from sanding and add it back to the slurry later?
- They don't sell Watco teak oil here. I have a choice of using danish oil with varnish or oil without varnish (star brite). Which would you suggest?
- I would imagine that the less masochistic way would be to purchase some grain filler, correct?

- 30 Nov 2017

Mark, I don't have any tricks for restoring this kind of thing, but Leif has it covered. If it was my table, I'd probably just sand it lightly, oil the hell out of it, and live with the result.

- 30 Nov 2017

I suppose you could try adding sanding dust back to the slurry. I’ve never tried that. I would try the starbrite I think.

Yes a grain filler would be less masochistic.

Just be very careful not to sand through the veneer. If you want a slower safer way to do it, wrap you sand paper around a block of wood. This will give you a flat surface so you won’t enhance the ripples already there. And it is more masochistic.

There should be a book titled masochism and the art of table restoration.

- 30 Nov 2017


So, stooped question time.?.....

Could the table top simply be flipped over?, repair the holes.. then buy a tablecloth? Or not.


Aunt Mark

- 30 Nov 2017

Thanks again Leif and everyone I have the kind of suggestions I was hoping for. I also have everything I need to get it done...except the sunshine for drying between coats ! It was 8° and overcast today.

In the meantime, I can always go with Mark's suggestion ...... a nice red checked table cloth would go great with with my plastic tomato shaped ketchup bottle and look fabulous, so thanks for that !

- 30 Nov 2017

Well if ya sling me a bite-invite...I'll bring booze, hooch, and a fabulous pair of pants that will compliment your checkered table cloth...and more.

I will,

Aunt Mark

- 01 Dec 2017

Sorry to come out of nowhere, but DO NOT apply any finish nor place it to "dry" in direct sunlight!

Don't ask how I know this ...and I knew better at the time!

- 01 Dec 2017

OK, thanks tktoo. I too have an unhappy story where I forgot to bring in wetted sideboard that was outside in the full sun. Luckily it was nothing special to start with. Apart from that, the less said the better.

- 01 Dec 2017

I think sanding it is your best option if the relief in the grain is undesirable. If you are uninitiated with a palm sander, then a sanding block is the way to go. 150 to 220 is the grit progression. Finish with a few courses of oiling (steelwool/sandpaper slurry)

I don't think you are going to make it worse by sanding it, as that is the whole point of sanding, take the higher parts down to meet the lower parts (as well as a polishing function of making scratches progressively smaller, until not visible). As with sanding any veneer, you need to be careful not to burn through, but if you are focused during sanding it is not difficult to avoid this.

As to why it is in its current state, I believe this veneer is likely rotary cut, or early in a half-log flitch (the outer part of log). The majority of teak table veneers I have seen are either quarter-log flitch; and also plain or quarter sawn boards, which are then cut to veneer thickness. I could be wrong, as it is pretty hard to tell from the pictures, but what I can see (the first picture) has the characteristics of rotary cut or half-log flitch(limited cathedrals, more random grain patterning, wide sections of the rings that are not linear).

I agree with the above hypotheses, that the table finish was not well kept (not often oiled), and often exposed to moisture (not pooling but nightly wiping). Because rotary cuts have the most variation in the wood that is on the exposed surface (spring wood vs summer wood), they will shrink and swell much differently. I will avoid going into a discussion of xylum and lumen, but the springwood and summerwood have different densities and color (this is what causes the rings, and grain variation).

I would hypothesize that the substrate underneath is flat, so taking the high parts of the grain down to the lower parts, is not going to result in any quicker burn-throughs. Filling the grain with filler seems like it will be a mess, and not accomplish what you are trying to do. The lighter grain streaks are pretty wide, and from what I understand of grain fillers, they are meant for filling pores (think oak, mahogany, etc.), not wide height variations.

If you are going to try and fill the surface variation here, you need to sand and then use and oil/varnish mix (Watco, etc.) I suppose Starbright would eventually do it, but it is going to be even more work, on a process that is already going to be a fair amount of work. Pour a liberal amount on the surface, then sand vigorously with 180-grit (or finer if you are worried, but will take a lot longer). Once you have worked up a slurry, try to pack it into the low grain spots you are trying to fill. Let it dry overnight (or as long as necessary for it to start to set up. Then, repeat with a finer grit or steelwool. Repeat until you reach the intended smoothness. As Leif stated, the last application, when you are at the smoothness you desire, you can wipe across the grain as one final packing of slurry into the grain recess. If you want, you can keep getting finer grits, and eventually you will end up with what is basically a french polish (I dont recommend this though, not period correct, and takes a serious amount of elbow grease).

I almost like it as is, it has depth and character; just oil the hell out of it with steel wool (with varnish content). But if I were going to smooth this out, I would use a combination of what I discussed above. I would sand first (180 palm sander-220 by hand with block-maybe 320 by hand with block), and then use the oil slurry grain filling method described above (Watco teak oil with 220/320 and then 400, and maybe 0000 steel wool).

I am just finishing up my 11th table, and this is just my 2 cents based on these experiences.

- 01 Dec 2017

Also, hopefully it goes without saying, always sand/steelwool/etc. with the grain of the wood.

- 01 Dec 2017

To be clear, I was not suggesting grain filler to even the top. That would be a fiasco. I thought I was saying to sand it to flat, and then the large pores that teak has are going to open and those pores could use some grain filling.

Early teak pieces that are oiled or very thinly lacquered have much more open grain. Later in the mid 1960s and beyond the lacquer finish got thick and thicker, and quite frequently it becomes flat film finish filling in all the pores. So if the intention is to match that, then the grain will need to be filled. Otherwise the texture will just be all wrong.

- 01 Dec 2017

@Zephyr thanks for your take on it. Yes, I think we can conclude that the current state is due to nightly wiping. From what I understand, this table belonged since new to a man in a city apartment where it was the only eating table so it probably did get wiped every night. He was obviously careful, because there's not a scratch on it although it did have quite a few localised stains which the cleaning and oxalic have dealt with very well.
The small dent in the edge shown in the picture is recent, from where it was strapped in transport and the blanket slipped away. This dent has come out quite nicely with steaming to re-swell the fibre, not perfect but much better.
The table came as part of a set with matching chairs, sideboard, dressing table. All the other items seemed to have had very little use, including the chairs. Even the original G-Plan labels and some notices were present. The aim is for these items to stay together as a set, so this table is letting the side down a bit.
I think a palm sander is the way to go rather than a block because I have a feeling that I'd be able to concentrate the sanding on the high/hard parts without always running over onto the softer areas to take a stroke, or running along existing ridges. But I am nervous about burning through though and knowing when to stop.

@leif Thanks, I had not quite understood that. Do you know if grain filler was ever used originally? I have sometimes wondered if the contrasting dark brown grain patterns you can see in a table's leaves but not on the a used or a restored top were not sometimes accentuated with coloured filler.

- 01 Dec 2017

Not burning through veneer is almost entirely based on how closely you are paying attention to what you are doing. Sanding is obviously a pretty dull pursuit, so this is much more difficult than one might expect. Start with finer grit if you are really concerned. Also, attaching a vacuum (shop vac) to the dust output of your sander helps quite a bit, as it allows you see the wood better.

Keep the sander flat with even pressure. It is tempting to use the edge to focus you effort, but before long you will find yourself doing this all the time; it does not support producing flat surfaces, and it often promotes pigtails in your finish. This technique should always be used sparingly.

Unfortunately, one can never truly know how thick the veneer is; whether it was refinished at some point, or the fabricator had to sand deep to get edges to match.

Goodluck, and let us know how it turns out.

- 01 Dec 2017

Hi Mark.

First off, you have a beautiful piece of furniture here. Lovely lines. Now your intent is to make the texture less "rustic', and I the leaves do look pretty tight. But I'd be concerned about not getting that "one area"..or 2..consistent with the rest of the top..and your eyeball would see nothing but that area..and miss out on the lovely design of the table. (By the way , I'm in therapy). You'd then have to shop for a fringed table runner in a simple holiday plaid.


My 2 cents.

Lightly strip both the top and the leaves, and apply an Indian Ink finish (yes, black) to the grainy top and hopefully grainy leaves. Indian Ink looks its best when applied to wood with a slight texture..and the table would shed its rustic charm.

Leave the base alone.

Throw a dinner party.

Drink vodka.


Aunt Mark

ps I'm usually wrong.

- 01 Dec 2017

The foam above the sand paper lets it conform to the surface below. You do not want it conforming. You want to enforce a flat surface. Use a sanding block. In fact use a full sheet of sand paper wrapped around a longer board. The sand paper will ride on the ridges. You may even be able to see exactly which stroke is perfectly done by when you finally just take the slightest bit off the valleys. And the remainder of the time the sand paper will pass right over the top of the valleys. You want exactly this.

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