Try scraping it. When I did mine I scraped the finish off. Never used sandpaper, although I did use steel wool before staining it. It got stained Light Red Mahogany, and then coated with Antique Oil Finish. Unfortunately I'm not sure I remember the brands of these products. I think the stain was Mohawk (alcohol or ether based? NOT oil) And Minwax for the finish. Some of the Antique Oil Finish was rubbed in with steel wool. Mine came out quite nice, but I don't remember if it was splotchy at all. You should remove all the metal, also. Good luck!