How to Re-Finish a Piece of Furniture
What you will need: paint stripper, heavy duty gloves, a large cheap paintbrush, wire brushes, toothpicks, palm sander, sanding blocks, lots of paper towels, newspaper, baby wipes, tack cloth, a paint scraper, polyurethane, stain, and several soft cloths.
-Wipe desk down with slightly damp rag or baby wipes. You just want to remove dust, cobwebs, etc.
-Put down newspapers or a drop cloth to protect your floor.
-Put on some heavy duty gloves. Not the cheap kind, it will eventually eat through those. Yes, I learned that the hard way. Then I bought these:
-Open up your bottle of paint stripper. I tried two different kinds and I preferred Citri-Strip. It is really thick so it doesn't drip everywhere, and the smell isn't quite as toxic. Not really pleasant, but not horrific.-Apply the paint stripper using an old paintbrush.
-Make sure you cover every inch of your piece of furniture:-Let the paint stripper sit as long as directed on the bottle. Citristrip said you could leave it on for up to 24 hours. I tried that on one section to test it, and I don't recommend it. It dried really hard and was difficult to remove. It worked much better for me just to leave it on for about an hour.
Don't let it dry too long or it is harder to get off. Mine was actually ready before it turned white, so just keep checking to see how easily the varnish peels off.
Just make sure you work with the grain of the wood and apply even pressure so you don't make any nicks in it.
Use paper towels to get the gunk off the scraper and into a garbage can.
-If you have an intricate piece that has little curves or molding, you will need to use a wire brush to scrape of all the varnish. I'm not going to lie, it is hard work and I was swearing at some points. You will need a few wire brushes, because they get all clogged up with gunk and stop working very well.
-Use a piece of fine steel wool and mineral spirits to rub as much of it off as you can:I had some residue that was really stubborn, and I had to use my paint scraper to carefully scrape it off.
-Now you are ready to sand.
-You are going to need an electric sander. I use this one:
You could try sanding everything by hand, but it will probably take ten years. So buy or borrow an electric sander. I found that it was best to start with fine grit (150), then extra fine (220). Go over the entire piece with fine grit. For the spaces that are too small to fit the sander, use a sanding block. Make sure you always sand with the grain of the wood!
-When you complete the first sanding, wipe the entire piece with baby wipes to remove all the dust.
-Repeat the entire sanding process with the 220 grit sandpaper, and wipe it off again. Yes, I know, this is an insane amount of work!
-When you are satisfied that your project is totally smooth, wipe it off with tack cloth. This stuff is super sticky and will remove all the dust, even in the cracks and crevices.
-Hooray, now you are ready to apply stain. I saw several bloggers who recommended gel stain, so I decided to try it:
It is really thick, like chocolate pudding. Stir it up really well first, and then you are ready to apply it.-Use a soft cloth (I used an old t-shirt that I cut into pieces). Dip your cloth into the jar and get out some of the stain. Start rubbing it on:
I had to use a q-tip to get into some of the tiny crevices.
-I found that it worked best to start at the bottom and work up. Try to apply the stain evenly. After a minute or two, use another larger cloth to wipe off the excess stain.
It had some uneven splotches, and it wasn't quite as dark as I wanted, so after it was dry I gave it another coat. Actually a total of 3 coats.
-After it is totally dry, you will probably want to apply some polyurethane to protect the surface. Because you don't want all that hard work to be wasted, do you?
I was so excited that I was so close to being finished after months of working on this project, that I forgot to take photos. But basically it is like applying furniture polish. You just put some on a soft rag and rub it in. It says on the jar to sand it down with fine grit sandpaper between each coat, but I only did that on the top of the desk and it seemed to work just fine without the extra sanding.
When you are all finished, make sure you let it cure for at least a couple of days before you use it. More is probably better. I waited a week.
You will probably want to buy new hardware to match the new style of the furniture. It makes a huge difference!!
Are you ready to see the finished result?
Here is the before again:
And here is the after:
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