tips for refinishing wood furniture

4 years ago

I've been dying to refinish/fancy up some old furniture pieces. About a year ago I redid a credenza from Goodwill by painting it a fancy bright red. This time around, I found the below table for $8! I loved the wood grain so I wanted to try to keep the integrity of it. You can see how beat up it was in the below photos. 

This post in no way is a professional's guide to refinishing wood furniture, but what worked for me (and will hopefully work for you!) So here is where you can learn from my mistakes(as well as my successes).

In my credenza redo, I used a belt sander to get off a thick layer of nasty paint, varnish, etc. So in this project I started going nuts with the sanding. Mistake! It was impossible to belt sand it to make it perfect, for 2 reasons - a.) there wasn't a lot of paint or varnish on the table already and b.) there was some cross-grain areas that the belt sander just made all crapped up which would be noticeable with a wood finish (but wouldn't have mattered if it was painted a color). Oops. 

So then I went with plan b and used the below stripper from Minwax. Since there wasn't a lot of finish on it already, it worked well to remove the light layer of varnish.Use thick gloves (the chemical ate through my first pair of cheapie throw-away gloves, so I had to switch to thick rubber dish gloves which got ruined/stained but lasted) and use steel wool to remove all of the finish. Oh and I would cover your nose/mouth too because this stuff is strong!


Once you've gotten all the varnish/finish off, you can very lightly sand the wood (with a light grit sandpaper, around 220) to get it smooth. Then I used a tack cloth to remove all dust/dirt. Now you're ready to apply your stain. Evenly coat it on your piece with a clean brush. I allowed mine to sit for about 15 minutes and then I wiped it off with a clean cloth. I was happy with the color so I didn't add more stain, but you can add more coats until you are happy with the saturation of the color/finish. (Check the back of the stain to see how much time to wait between coats.)

For this project, I also added gold spray paint to the feet area to give it some interest (in photos below). If you want to do the same, just wait until the stain is dry (probably a few hours), tape off the area you want to spray-paint and do about 2 light coats in a ventilated area. The last step is to protect it. I use the above pictured clear coat - Minwax Polycrylic. Use a sponge or regular brush to apply a light coat all over to protect it.

So now here is a before/after of the area where I put the table in the house. I've had this tiiiiny table (that I bought for $20 at Hobby Lobby) by our leather chair for too long. Our living room only really has sunlight from this window, so I wanted an area to put all of my plants (which isn't a lot) on a bigger table right in front of the window. 


So the dinky table is gone and here's my new beauty! I didn't do a perfect job with it, but overall I'm happy with how it turned out. And now I know the tricks for how to do it better next time!


Bowie approves. So those are my amateur wood refinishing techniques. Again, not perfect - but it's a learning process. If you're interested in doing something too, I would definitely start with a cheaper piece just in case you have some learning issues like I did. I'm so glad I gave it a try and was able to maintain the wood grain. 

Can't wait to do another piece! Oh and please don't judge the various states of death of my plants. I'm trying over here, k? Anyone else recently do any fun new furniture/home projects? I might be addicted. 

Hope that everyone has a great weekend! Any fun plans? Remember that I am participating in the local Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes where I'll be walking for my mom (type 2) and fiance (type 1) (you can read more about it in my post here). You can help out by either sponsoring me here where I'm donating all ad sales to the campaign or donate directly here. Any little bit would help and thanks in advance!!
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