Whether you’re looking to save some money or just love a good DIY project, refinishing and restoring old wood furniture is a rewarding project that could turn into a life-long hobby. Here, we’ll take a look at the basics of restoration, including safety tips and how to select the best candidates for refinishing.
Finding Great Candidates for Restoration
Unless you’re planning on refinishing a piece of furniture you already own, you’ll need to obtain one. This is very easy to do. For some, the hunt for new pieces to finish is half the fun of restoration!
You can begin your search online. Sites like Craigslist offer loads of extremely inexpensive furniture options. You can even find free items, often placed out on a curb and offered to the first person to come and pick them up. In addition, many online sellers will accept bids and offers on their item, allowing you to get something for less than the asking price.
If you can’t find anything online, try garage and yard sales. These are treasure troves when it comes to finding old wooden furniture, and most of it is very inexpensive. Like online sellers, families and groups hosting yard sales will often accept lower prices than those asked.
To be a good candidate for restoration, a piece needs to have good “bones.” This simply means that the lines and design of a piece appeal to your sense of style and are fully intact. Unless you are a woodworker, it’s not a good idea to purchase a chair with a broken leg, regardless of how pretty the rest of it may be.
Seek out items which have peeling paint or fading stain but are otherwise solid. If the piece you choose has cabinets, doors or other working parts, test them out. If they can be easily repaired, go for it – these smaller project require far less expertise than replacing a chair leg, and all the supplies can be obtained at your local home or hardware store.
Where and How to Restore
Choose a place which is well-ventilated and brightly lit. Set up a few fans to draw in clean air and draw out airborne particles of paint, stain and wood. Keep children and pets out of the area. Outdoor areas like a garage or shed are best, but an indoor room can work as well. Cover the floor with a drop cloth, as well as any objects in the room, to protect them from sawdust, paint and stain.
Be sure to have all the basics before you begin:
- Piece to be Restored
- Paint or Stain
- Paintbrushes or Staining Rags
- Sandpaper or Power Sander
- Wood Glue
- Drop Cloths or Tarps
- Gloves, Goggles and Mask
- Set of Basic Hand Tools
- Power or Liquid Paint Stripper – If you think you may be dealing with toxic lead-based paint, seek out a soy-based liquid stripper – these products encapsulate the lead before it can become airborne, allowing you to wipe it off safely.
Your first step is to remove the old paint or stain. Be aware that very old pieces of furniture can have several layers of paint – these may need to be scraped off using a chisel. Follow the instructions of your power sander or paint-removal product very closely to ensure safety.
Depending on the piece of furniture, you may have to take it apart in places to thoroughly remove all traces of paint. Be sure to keep all hardware so you can put it back together.
Sanding removes small imperfection in the wood and will allow your new coat of paint or stain to go on smoothly. Sand your piece until it feels extremely smooth. When you’re satisfied with the results, run a damp rag over the piece to remove any traces of sawdust.
You’re ready to finish your piece! Follow directions regarding the best application method. This is less important with paint, but some stains are better applied with rags, some with foam brushes and some with traditional paint brushes.
Once your piece is finished, let it dry thoroughly in an area where it won’t be disturbed. Now, place it in your home and enjoy!