Refinishing painted oak wood will first require removal of the paint. Oak is an incredibly grainy wood, and it is difficult to remove the paint that settles deep into the natural grooves. Though many attempt paint removal by sanding, the oak has difficulty absorbing any type of staining product afterward. A quality wood stripper is a much better method of paint removal and can be done by nearly anyone.
Put on your safety glasses and gloves.
Apply with a rag the manufacturer's recommended amount of quality wood stripper to a section of the painted oak. Allow the solution to soak into the surface paint for five to ten minutes.
Scrape the surface with a putty knife to remove as much of the paint as possible. Re-apply the wood stripper and allow it to sit for five minutes.
Use a medium wire brush to scrape the wood. Go in the direction of the wood grain. Wipe the wood with a damp rag.
Dip a piece of steel wool in the wood stripper. Use the steel wool to scrub all of the areas that are difficult to access with the wire brush.
Rinse off the stripping agent with water using a clean rag. Work in small sections until the paint removal is complete.
Purchase a wood stripper that is removable with water; it will be easier to work with.
Spread out newspaper to place all paint scrapings and used rags on. Roll up the newspaper and throw it away after completing project. Check with your local waste management office for information on proper disposal.
For excellent advice regarding working with grainy woods such as oak, Dr. Leona K. Hawks, Home Furnishings and Housing Specialist with the Utah State University Cooperative Extension, has posted an article at the Utah State University website that is an important and informative read (see Resources below).
Wear gloves and safety glasses when using a wood stripper chemical.
Keep the area well ventilated to limit inhalation of the fumes from the wood stripper.