Refinishing furniture takes time, determination, elbow grease and a keen desire for Enlightenment.
We say this because we once adopted a friend's discarded old dining table and spent an entire week transforming it (with hand-held sandpaper blocks) to a level of gleaming perfection that it had probably never before known. That week was among the most meditative experiences we've ever had (and we do a lot of yoga). There's nothing quite like the repetitive motion of sanding for hours on end to put you in touch with your Seventh Chakra.
So if you've got some time on your hands and a wooden beast that's just waiting for a transformative kiss, check out Do It Yourself.com's extensive how-to on restoration and refinishing. This is a collection of smaller pieces on the subject, which makes it quite thorough. The pictures leave much to be desired, but you can find info here on everything from removing the gunky build-up to making small repairs to assembling the right tools for your job. (We recommend power tools.)