You’re eyeing on a piece of an old oak table resting lifeless at the corner of your home; it’s collected dust from years of neglect, and it’s no longer the once beautiful piece of furnishing in the room. What do you do? Do you lock it in storage? Or perhaps give it away? Just before you do that, take one more look at the furniture and try to see beyond its present imperfection – faded paint, dull varnish, and a few chipping. Inspect the wood instead, as what’s beyond the surface often tells a different story from what you may initially see. Underneath the ugly paint may be a salvageable piece of furniture that can be easily restored to beauty. Here’s a do-it-yourself guide on how to restore old wood furniture.
What to Prepare: Restoration Must-haves
Before you start out performing any task on how to restore old wood furniture, make sure to get all the necessities ready. It’s a great effort and time-saving hack, plus it’ll facilitate efficient task performance. Here are the things you need to gather for this wooden furniture restoration job.
- Personal Protective Equipment. Always work with goggles, cloth gloves, and long sleeves clothes. Don’t let experience teach you its importance.
- Dull metal and wooden scrapers.
- A receptacle for the goo.
- A fine-bristle brush.
- A toothbrush: It works well in cleaning dry surfaces.
- Steel wool No. 2 and No. 0000.
- Rags for cleaning up, lintless cloth for varnish application, and some strings as improvised clamps.
- White Glue. Avoid using high-solvent adhesive as it leaves a stain or taints a finish.
- A semi-paste stripper.
- High-gloss polyurethane or epoxy varnish.
- Prepare screws when needed.
- A gallon of patience. Never hurry the steps in restoring wooden furniture; it’ll cause more harm than good.
Preparing the Furniture
It’s best to prepare the furniture before engaging in the actual restoration works to ease the task. Here’s what you need to do.
- Undo all loosened fastening. If screws hold the furniture, carefully disassemble each part. However, if the joints are solidly joined, leave it as it is, lest you run the danger of breaking them apart.
- Inspect for any bare wood. This is crucial before doing the next step.
- Look for stains. Using gentle soap and water, wash the stained area while carefully avoiding any bare parts. Wetting exposed wood will raise its grain, and you’ll have to wait forever to dry the wood before you can restart restoring the furniture.
If the furniture’s condition is beyond simple washing off dirt, it’s time to prepare yourself for some muscle work.
Flaying the Furniture
For heavily damaged surface polish, you need to strip off its old coating and apply anew. Here’s how to restore old wood furniture safely.
- With your rag swab, run a liberal amount of semi-paste stripper over the furniture’s coating. Leave it for about an hour.
- Check if the paint has started to raise and push the raised coating off. Start peeling off more significant parts and then smaller areas later. Never use a scraper as it will hurt the wood. You may apply a little pressure, but do not force removing the gunk. Place rubbish in your bucket; they can get pesky on the floor. Patience makes a good company in this part of the job.
- After removing most of the old coating, finish the remainder using the steel wool No. 2.
- For more tedious parts, run a liquid stripper, but only in smaller areas. Applying it on large, flat surfaces may cause streaking. Do not use the plastic applicator on liquid stripper as plastic melts on this chemical.
- If there are any softened paints left, you may use wooden scrapers to get rid of them. Meanwhile, use the fine-bristle brush or the toothbrush to remove debris off the crevices.
- Leave the furniture to dry for a day or two. When it’s all dry and dehumidified, rub it with the No. 2 steel wool once again to remove the stripper’s glaze and dust off with a rag.
Finishing the Task
Just before you start finishing the furniture, make sure there are no uneven spots. If you noticed streaking at this point, such as darkened areas, apply the liquid stripper to lighten the spot. For light spots, drop a few stains to even the tone throughout. For an enhanced glossy look, here’s the final section on how to restore old wood furniture.
- Some wood restorers are tempted to stain the wood. There is no need to do so as wood grain is already beautiful on its own. But if you want to add a little bit more of a boost to your wood furniture, apply color just very lightly. Never do deep staining on a single coating as this will not look good. Allow another day to dry the paint before varnishing it.
- When it’s completely dry, rub the surface with a cloth before proceeding to varnish.
- Apply varnish evenly, making sure the varnish doesn’t build up on the corners. Dry the furniture thoroughly, dust it again, and apply a second coating, thinly this time.
- Repeat the process until you achieve your desired outcome, but make sure the coats are light every time. Dry the article again.
- When it’s dry, lightly rub the No. 0000 steel wool to cut the gloss and produce a low-sheen protective coating. When done rightfully, the outcome is a piece of hard, water-resistant furniture with an elegant-looking oil finish.
- Reassemble the pieces back and, if need be, apply some glue into the joints, making sure there is no excess glue reaching the conspicuous areas. If you want to add more sheen, you can finish with a coat of paste wax.
Beautiful things can still come from something old, with enough care and attention given to it. So when you see yet another piece of furniture that’s old and worn, know that you can breathe life into it again with this how-to restore old wood furniture guide. Know more about wood furniture care.