Refinishing furniture can be a challenging but rewarding for someone with these tips and a do-it-yourself attitude. Seeing an old piece of furniture and restoring and enhancing its natural beauty is an enjoyable process. With a bit of hard work, you can transform even the most unsightly piece of furniture into a shining gem. The overall procedure for refinishing furniture will involve three major categories, which include stripping, sanding and finishing work. For the stripping work, you will need a drop cloth or tarp to catch the debris and unwanted material. You'll also need a 3-inch putty knife, rubber gloves, a bucket of water, a regular paintbrush, steel wool, safety goggles, respirator, cotton rags, and a stripper. For the sanding work, you will need 120 grit sandpaper, 220 grit sandpaper, wood filler, a sanding block, and, if you find stains in the wood that need to be removed, oxalic acid. For the finishing work, you will need stain colorant, grain filler, safety glasses, 400 grit sandpaper, sanding sealer, finish and a tack rag. The choice of finish is up to you, depending on the shape and type of finish you would like to use. You should be able to find most, if not all, of these items at your local home improvement store.
To begin refinishing your furniture, you will need to first remove the old finish. Unfortunately, this is the most tiresome part of refinishing furniture, but it is also essential to completing the task correctly. You'll need to use sandpaper and chemical strippers to remove the old paint or varnish from your furniture. Sanding by hand is not advised as this would lengthen the process substantially. If you have experience operating a belt or disc sander, you'll be able to remove the old finish much more quickly and efficiently. However, you must be extremely careful not to sand into the actual wood as this can damage and even ruin your furniture. In order to prevent this from happening, pay close attention while sanding and stop to touch the furniture frequently to make sure you're not sanding the actual wood.
For most people, using chemical strippers may be the best alternative to removing the old finish on your furniture. Depending on the product you buy, be sure to read the instructions carefully and always avoid touching the chemicals directly or spilling them on your skin or in your eyes. Always wear rubber gloves and safety goggles when using chemical strippers. If you use a chemical stripper that says it requires no clean up after use, be sure to sand the residue left by the chemicals either way. Also, ensure that you're using a ventilated area when removing the old finish on your furniture. When applying the chemical stripper to your furniture, make sure the initial coat is thick and left undisturbed after its application. Refer to the label on your chemical stripper to determine how long to let it sit. Use your putty knife to remove the paint or varnish after letting the chemical stripper dry for the recommended amount of time. Depending on the piece of furniture you’re refinishing and the type of chemical stripper you use, you may need to repeat this procedure multiple times. Once you have reached the original wood along all areas of your furniture, follow the manufacturer's recommendation on cleaning the chemical stripper and then allow your furniture to dry for at least 24 hours.
Now you're ready to prepare the wood for the actual refinishing. Use your 120 grit sandpaper to smooth out your piece of furniture. Then use the 220 grit sandpaper to further smooth out your piece of furniture. Again, feel free to use a belt or disc sander to smooth out the wood if you're comfortable with doing so. If you feel more comfortable sanding by hand, remember this golden rule: always sand with the grain. For flat surfaces, wrap your sandpaper around a sanding block to ensure that you are sanding in a balanced manner. Depending on the type of wood your furniture is comprised of, you may need grain filler to produce a smooth finish. Woods that most typically require grain filler include mahogany, walnut, and oak. Be sure to choose grain filler that matches the color of your wood and the color of the stain you plan to use. Follow the recommendations on the label of whatever grain filler you choose. Apply the grain filler with a rag, allow it to dry according to the manufacturer's recommendation and remove the excess material with your putty knife. Also sand the area lightly to make sure everything is smooth.
Choose the type of stain that suits your needs. The various types of stains include oil-based stain, water-based stains, gel stains and one step stains. Oil-based stains seep deep into the wood without raising the actual furniture grain. Water-based stains are more environmentally friendly but they also risk raising the grain on your furniture. Gel stains are thick and provide optimum color control because of their thickness. One step stains allow the user to apply color and finish simultaneously but may cover up some of the wood's natural characteristics. As usual, read and follow the manufacturer's recommendations when applying your chosen stain product. Remember to apply the stain with the grain. You can also apply the stain multiple times to achieve a darker finish. Allow the stain to dry per the label on the side of the can. Finally, use a top coat of your choice to apply the final finish to your piece of furniture. Options for the final finish include water-based polyurethane, polyurethane and lacquer. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendation on whatever final finish you choose.