A clever way to adorn your home with high-quality furnishings for a fraction of the price is to shop the online classifieds. Well-crafted, solid wood pieces manufactured before the 1960s are durable and timeless. Dressers, desks, chairs, and other sets of wooden furniture from this bygone era can make a lovely addition to the home and will serve you well for many years.
When the bones are in great condition but the exterior has suffered from some neglect, refinishing the wooden surfaces will help restore the piece to its former glory. Read on for our step-by-step guide on how to make something old look new again.
Supplies You’ll Need
- Protective goggles
- Dust mask
- Drop cloth
- Latex gloves
- Sandpaper – 150-grit and 220-grit
- Sanding block or power sander
- Finish (tung oil, linseed oil, wax, shellac, polyurethane, etc.)
- Wood stain (optional)
- Cloths and rags
- Paint brushes
Removing the Finish
Select a space to work in that is well-lit with good ventilation. Put down your drop cloth and, if applicable, disassemble the piece of furniture.
Thoroughly clean each piece with a mixture of dish soap and water, making sure to gently scrub all the nooks and crannies to remove grime and dirt. Rinse with a moist sponge and dry it off with a clean cloth.
When the wood is completely dry, put on your gloves, goggles, and dust mask. Begin sanding the wood surface with the rougher 150-grit sandpaper, rubbing it with the grain of the wood. Sand out any scratches, watermarks, and dull or faded areas until the surface is uniform and smooth. Though this step is time-consuming, it will be well worth it when you start to see the natural beauty of the wood hidden beneath the old finish.
Once the finish is completely removed, use the finer 220-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the whole piece again. Test for smoothness by rubbing a length of pantyhose over all the surfaces to see if it catches or snags.
Applying the Stain
Unless you love the look of natural wood, you’ll want to add colour with a wood stain. Whatever type of stain you choose – oil-based, water-based, gel, or one-step finishes – always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying it to your furniture.
As a general rule, the longer you allow a stain to permeate the wood, the darker the colour will be. Apply the stain evenly and wipe off any excess liquid right away. You can use a paint brush or a rag to rub the stain into the wood. Allow the stain to dry completely for at least 24 hours before moving on to the next step.
The Final Coat
Now it’s time to protect the wood by applying a clear finish. There are many types of wood finishes available and selecting the right one for your project will depend on several factors like how frequently the furniture will be used, its exposure to sunlight and humidity, how easy the finish is to apply, and whether your preference is for a glossy or matte appearance, a transparent varnish or one with warm woody tones.
Before applying the finish, use a clean cloth to remove any dust that may have accumulated between steps. Using a paint brush or a clean rag, apply the finish evenly in a thin coat making sure you wipe off any excess varnish. Allow it to dry for at least 12 hours before applying another coat.
When you’re satisfied with the finish, reattach all the pieces. To give it a nice shine, apply a light coat of paste wax and rub it in well.