Refinish Furniture

Wood Finish Furniture
How to Apply

Plyedge Pressure Sensitive EdgematePlyedge Pressure Sensitive Edgemate . Real birch and oak edging gives panels the look of solid wood ready for a finish. Just peel and stick.

Clear Finish

The clear finish is the final step in your do it yourself furniture refinishing venture. The final appearance will depend on how well you've done each of the steps leading up to it, clean, strip, if you're refinishing, surface repair, sand (only if necessary), stain, sanding sealer, sand the sanding sealer, clean with a traditional sticky tack cloth or a microfiber reuseable dry tack cloth and final finish. See our Barebones Basic Information for quick information.

Sanding Sealer

Be sure to use sanding sealer after you've stained your wood project. The sanding sealer will seal the stain so that there's not much possibility of stain bleeding through your clear finish.

Sanding sealer can be sanded very smooth with 400 grit sandpaper to make your final finish very smooth

Different Finishes

You have gone through the difficult part, stripping and preparing your project,now it's time for the final step, applying a finish.

There are many products available for finishes, some very hard and some quite soft. Some will give more protection than others, but some pieces of furniture don't get very hard use, so will do fine with a less protective finish.

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Wood Stain

Staining wood furniture is generally a necessity after you strip and prepare it. If you don't stain the piece it will quite often look uneven in color or kind of blotchy. An exception to this is a clear finish over light color wood that you want to have a natural appearance. Nitrile gloves are always a good idea when you work with stain or paint. They're inexpensive and save your skin by getting the stain and final finish on the wood rather than on you.

The Finish

There are many finishes you can use on your wood furniture, for example:

Lacquer is a good choice for a wood finish, especially on antiques.

Shellac is another good finish choice for antiques, it's very durable, but easily damaged by water and alcohol.

Tung oil will harden the top surface of wood. Tung oil isn't a hard surface wood finish, but if it gets a mar it's very easy to repair.

Watco Danish Oil is an easy to use stain and wood finish all in one. Like tung oil, danish oil isn't as hard as some finishes, but is easily repaired.

Polyurethane is a plastic coating that is very hard, but is far less flexible than the wood it's finishing. Polyurethane has a tendency to pull away from the surface over time and in some situations.

See some more about finishes below.

Flexing

Your furniture does a boogey woogey all day long. The only thing is that it's drummer is very slow moving so you can't see it happening. As temperatures change, the whole piece expands and contracts depending on the amount of heat.

Exposed bare wood on the underside of tables and the inside of cabinets without any finish is very susceptible to moisture changes. If you have electric baseboard or forced air heating it's very dry.

Every time someone takes a bath or shower, even with venting, or when you fix meals there is a teriffic uprise in humidity.

The exposed bare wood expands, then the air dries from the heating system, so there is constant expansion and contraction, but the other side with a finish sealing it isn't as susceptible to the ups and downs of humidity all day.

The warp and wane of the bare wood puts stress on the finish and joints on furniture. Natural finishes, lacquer, shellac, oils,etc. are flexible and can withstand the constant stretching, shrinking, and twisting. That's part of the reason for joints loosening and why hard inflexible polyurethane will crack along a joint line.

Polyurethane

If you have read anywhere else on this site, you probably have figured out that polyurethane is not one of my favorite finishes to use on furniture. Although there have been improvements in polyurethane, it still is a hard plastic coating that doesn't have much give. If you're working on an antique and you use sandpaper and polyurethane, you no longer have a proveable antique and the antique value will drop through the floor.

Oil Finishes

There are many different kinds of oil finishes, some are easy to use and someare very time consuming.

Linseed Oil, Boiled

Linseed Oil was the choice of the old timers.

I put the boiled after the linseed oil to draw attention to it rather than to indicate that there will be other types covered. The other type is raw linseed oil, it will never dry, but will become gummy and sticky, so be sure to get BOILED linseeed oil if you decide on that kind of finish.

Linseed oil gives a fantastic finish, but you need a year to apply it. The general rule of thumb for a linseed oil finish is once an hour for a day, once a day for a week, once a week for a month and once a month for a year. The finish was usually french polished once a year after that. That's a lot of work.

Other Oils

The other oils are much easier to use. Danish Oil and Tung Oil are two popular oil finishes. They are very easy to use and come in clear and in pigmented colors. Just follow the directions on the container, but double the number or coats they recommend. They aren't as durable as some other finishes, but are very easy to repair. If you get a light scratch in the finish, just grab a cloth and apply another coat of the finish and generally it's all taken care of.

Shellac

Shellac is a good durable finish, except that it is very susceptible to water and alcohol. Alcohol dissolves shellac.

Lacquer

Last, but not least, is my favorite, lacquer. Lacquer is a very durable finish, is flexible and is very easy to keep up.

Regular lacquer can only be applied with spray equipment, but it isn'tnecessary to have expensive spray equipment, you can get some reasonably priced airless spray equipment. You can use spray cans of lacquer and get a nice smooth even finish. There is a product called brushing lacquer, which is treated to extend it's drying time so it can be brushed. Lacquer is one thing that is fast, but is also good.

About the only mistake you can make using brushing lacquer is to apply it too thinly or to overbrush. If you apply a good liberal coat and let it dry properly, it will flow together so there are no brush marks or other imperfections. If you do have imperfections dust or bugs, it is very easy to work them out with very fine sandpaper and 0000 steel wool.

Like with all products be sure to read the directions on the container and follow them for best results.

Lasting Finish

Our dining room set is from around the turn of the last century (sounds strange having to define which century, but then it's going to be a real headshaker in a short time when I have to say , "yep, I came along about a third of the way through the last century". I guess a century isn't such a long time after all.) We restored the finish on our set about 25 years ago with a lacquer finish. We have never used waxes or polish of any kind, just clean with a dampcloth and wipe dry with a soft cloth and it has a beautiful sheen. It looks better than it did when we first did it and should last for another 50 years at least.


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