Refinishing Furniture Technique
Refinishing Furniture Technique
Refinishing can be a messy, daunting test, with questionable results after completing the project. But refinishing can be a the best way to bring a only piece back to life. As with standard finishing, learn the correct way to do it for best results.
In observing many finishers through the years, I have developed a handy list I call " The 20 Commandments of Wood Restoration" and have done all I can to reinforce their observance in shops of all shapes and sizes. The roster starts with two guiding principals, then moves through the key stages of the wood-restoration process more or less one by one, hitting each with a key point to etch in mind. Observing them will save you time, labor, money-- and in some cases, keep you healthy.
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For a simple table that I built I reused the slab of wood that originally was the top of a 1970's wooden government desk. The slab is incredibly heavy, with a nice hardwood veneer on the top and bottom. I started by scraping the varnish off with a 1.25" wide chisel. This takes lots of force and elbow grease. I'm holding the chisel vertically against the surface, and pushing down hard on it as I drag it across. The chisel needs to be quite sharp for it to take off the varnish, and it dulls quickly. Its good for a patch about twice the size I'm doing in the photo before it needs a light resharpening to go on.
Butcher blocks have traditionally been made from pieces of maple or a similar hardwood bonded together to form a solid slab. Butcher blocks have been used for hundreds of years and recently have become popular in modern kitchen designs. More recently, butcher blocks have become available in a variety of imported hardwoods.
An oil/varnish blend is ok, but probably not the right finish for a heavily used table. Your best bet would be varnish. I would recommend 5-6 coats of a wiping varnish. This will leave you with a beautiful finish that protects the wood from the abuse it will most likely see. And skip the wax. Wax is pretty useless in terms of protection. And not to mention, once you apply wax, you are committed to a regular waxing regimen in order to keep the surface looking good. Eventually you will have that wax buildup issue too. So save the wax for your car.
The messiest, most dreaded job in all of wood finishing is refinishing - the stripping off of an ancient, ruined finish in preparation for the application of a new one. Yet, believe it or not, when done properly, it can also be one of the most rewarding jobs in wood finishing. Somewhere under those 37 layers of cracked varnish and wrinkled paint is the patina…a thin layer of beautifully aged wood, just on the surface of your object. If you can carefully strip off the old finish without disturbing this delicate layer, your refinished project will take on a glow and warmth that only the passing years can bestow on the wood.
In my opinion, color matching is something of an art form. There are so many different ways to arrive at a final color and look that it can drive you nuts! Lets see, there are alcohol and water soluble dyes in liquid and powder form, oil stains, water-based stains, pigments, toners, gel stains, glazes, and the list goes on and on.
Upon completing a major kitchen remodel almost a decade ago, my wife, Bobbi, and I purchased a sturdy 7-foot-long, natural pine table. If my math is correct, we've eaten about 1200 meals on that table since then. Needless to say, it has gathered its share of nicks, dings, and rings. Originally, the table was given a beeswax finish, which presented a nice, amber patina and protected the soft wood from stains. But we discovered that this finish presented one serious problem: coffee cups and hot bowls and plates would stick to it.