I bought this black and decker random orbital sander, mostly because it was 50% off in homebase, but it's also a massive time saver. With a random orbital sander (vs an orbital sander) you can sand across the grain, meaning that I did all the work with this tool, and had sanded the table by four different grades in under half an hour.
|table top before|
|part way through|
It's still nice to finish by hand, with the finest sandpaper you can get hold of, working with the grain. This only takes a few minutes, because the random sander won't have left any scuff marks, but doing it makes the surface feel like silk :0)
I chose a 'walnut' wood stain from B&M (only £3.79 and I've only used about 5% of the can so I'd definitely go for the smaller £1.59 can next time) and I painted the legs in homebases 'Caramel Cream' emulsion which we had leftover in our garage from the people who owned our house before us.
|walnut stain, drying in the sun|
Polyurethane should really be applied in a vacuum. Without having one of those, my wet varnish kept getting flies, blossom and pollen in it. You need to sand between coats anyway, so just pick them out and try to touch up.
And here it is, the finished product!
Not bad for an afternoons work. :0)