Do It Yourself Tips: Refinish Furniture

How to make your tables and chairs look brand new with a few tools and techniques.

When you look around your house do you see a tired set of furniture but do not have the funds to purchase new chairs and tables? If this is the case you can save money by refinishing your furniture on your own. All it takes is a trip to the hardware store, some extra time, some elbow grease, and some patience. Here are some tips on staining and varnishing your furniture for a restored look.

The first step in refinishing furniture is stripping off the old finish. Unless you are planning on using opaque finish and the old surface is not blistered or peeling, then you will need to remove the old surface. Wash the furniture with disinfectant soap to remove the old wax. Some light sanding will roughen up the surface just enough to give the new paint a plain to grip onto easily. If the surface is bad or if you want to use a stain lacquer or oil you need to remove the old finish. It can be a frustrating and messy job but if you have the right equipment it won't be too hard. Here is what you need to do.

You will need chemical paint remover, paint thinner, several inexpensive bristle paintbrushes, a putty knife for scraping off the old finish, several tin cans, some steel wool, rubber gloves and some scrappy clothes you don't mind getting dirty.

Put the paint thinner into a tin can""coffee cans work very well""and fill about halfway. Fill another can halfway with paint remover, being careful not to get any on your skin. Paint remover contains powerful chemicals that will cause a burning sensation if they interact with your skin. If you do get splattered, remove the smear with the paint thinner.

Spread newspapers over the ground where you will be working to prevent unwanted staining. Use several layers of paper, as the remover will eat through it quite easily. Next take off all removable hardware like the handles and other ornamental items. Lay a layer of paint remover with one of the bristle brushes. Do not paint it on; lay it on gently with short brushstrokes. Let the remover sit on the furniture for ten minutes. Then, with your putty knife, gently push at the surface to see if the remover has set and will allow for an easy scrapping. If it is not budging, wait five minutes and try again. Once the top layer seems loose enough, lay on one more coat and wait ten more minutes. When the surface is ready take your putty knife and, using long scraping motions, take off the old finish. Go over the round surfaces like table legs with a scrub brush and use a toothbrush for the corners. There is a chance that you will need another layer of remover to get all the finish off. Take your time with this process and do not worry if it takes several remover applications before the final result. Once all the surfaces have been removed use the thinner and a scrub brush to take off all the excess glop produced by the finish and the remover. Next, rub all the surfaces with steel wool dipped in thinner. Pay special attention to any stains that might be left by the gunky residue. Once your chair or table is fully stripped you are ready to apply the finish.

If you are staining your furniture you will need to sand it first. Starting with a medium and ending with fine paper, sand all the surfaces evenly. The last scrubbing should be done with steel wool. Make sure that you get rid of any unevenness and fill any gaps or gouges with wood putty. Before you apply the stain you should seal the surface of your item. Sealing your table or chair will insure that the stain will apply evenly and will not soak into the dark areas where the wood is particularly porous. Sealing is essential if you are using soft woods like fir or pine. A good sealer is a solution of four parts denatured alcohol to one part shellac. After you apply a coat of sealer and it is fully dry steel wool the piece again. Clean off the shavings with a brush for a smooth surface.

It is recommended that you use an oil-chart to pick out your stain since certain stains work well on certain woods and work poorly on others. You can find the chart online but usually your hardware store will have one as well. Once you have picked your stain, apply it with long and even brush strokes. The stain will seep into the wood and will make the item darker and darker the longer it stays on. Once you are satisfied with the darkness of your item wipe the stain off with a rag.

Let the stain dry for at least one whole day. After it is fully dry you are ready to varnish. Mix one part varnish with four parts paint thinner. Using a soft paint brush, apply the mixture to the item with even strokes. Let this layer sit overnight. In the morning take steel wool and buff your item, being careful to go with the grain. You will notice a new luster at the end of your buffing. Add another layer of the varnish solution and let dry. Repeat this process several times""at least three and up to ten times. The more coats you add, the newer your old furniture will look!

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