Here's the before:
This table clearly got some abuse in its previous life. I like the worn look though, so I planned on keeping most of the scratches.
Joe referenced the show Dexter as I was laying out all the plastic. Sanding only took a couple of hours (maybe less). I used a 60-grit sandpaper first and sanded it until it was smooth and all the original finish was off. Apparently you should wear a mask while you're doing this, so you don't inhale all the weird particles. Once the entire table was smooth, and I'd sanded down the major scratches and dents, I finished it off with a 150-grit sandpaper. Although, I only went over it very lightly because my arms were getting tired by then, and I didn't really care at that point.
Staining it didn't take long either. The stain I bought was darker than I expected, so I only gave it one light coat, being careful not to let it pool or drip anywhere. By the time I was finished, I looked out our front window and this was happening:
Unfortunately, it was gone by morning. Joe had informed me the night before that I still had to put some kind of coating on the table. Yesterday morning, I bitterly drove to Ace to find some polyurethane. After slathering that on, I waited impatiently for it to set. And this morning, it has finally decided to dry. We have a coffee table!
Goodbye final McDonald's french fry box!
Now it's time to do that grading.