A DIY Guide on How to Restore Old Wood Furniture

Restoring old wood furniture

Many people keep old wood furniture at home, even though it may not look as pretty as it once did. As with everything, wood ages and loses the essence that made it so special when it was new. If you’ve got old wood furniture, don’t throw it out just yet. Instead, learn how to restore old wood furniture!

With a little bit of work, you can breathe new life into it. You can make it look like it just came out of the shop. The restoration process can take a bit of your time. However, you can execute it to perfection even if you don’t have any woodworking experience. So, you don’t need to spend money on a professional service either. You just have to make sure that you have the right materials and tools to accomplish this task. So, here’s a DIY guide on how to restore old wood furniture.

Method 1: How to Restore Old Wood Furniture Without Stripping

There are two main methods that you can use for restoring old wood furniture. If the finish of your furniture is still in good condition, you won’t need to strip the finish. This process is simple, as it only requires some thorough cleaning. Here’s what you must know.

Step 1. Identify an Old Finish

The first thing you must do is identify what finish your furniture already has. This way, you’ll know what you must do to remove the existing finish and add a new one. Many old wood furniture pieces have natural finishes such as lacquer, varnish, and shellac. Now, it’s difficult to identify these finishes by simply looking at them. So, you will need to perform a few experiments to learn which finish your furniture has.

Apply a bit of lacquer thinner on the wood of the furniture. Try to apply it to a spot that won’t be visible. If the thinner removes the finish from that spot, then the finish on your furniture is lacquer. However, if that doesn’t remove the finish, apply a few drops of denatured alcohol to a small part of your furniture. You can use denatured alcohol to remove shellac finishes. If neither of these solutions works, then the finish on your furniture is most likely to varnish.

If your furniture doesn’t have a shine to it, the finish is most likely oil or wax. Other finishes include enamel or paint. Determining the existing finish is an important step in knowing how to restore old wood furniture effectively.

Step 2. Use Appropriate Safety Gear

Before you can start restoring your furniture, you must acquire appropriate safety gear. You’ll be using various tools and chemicals for this process. Therefore, these chemicals can be hazardous to your health if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Some of the gear you will need to protect yourself include a long sleeves shirt and rubber gloves. This will ensure that your skin is not in direct contact with the chemicals you’ll be using.

You must also wear protective eyewear. Protective eyewear will keep your eyes safe from any chemical burns if it splatters during the process. In addition to wearing appropriate safety gear, you must also follow correct safety precautions.

The chemicals involved in this process emit toxic chemicals. Therefore, it’s best if you perform the restoration process outdoors. If that’s not possible, make sure that your workspace is well ventilated. So, open all doors and windows in the area.

Step 3. Cleaning Your Furniture

Sometimes, your wood can look as good as new by cleaning it thoroughly. This way, you won’t have to strip the existing finish. So, by cleaning your old wood furniture, you can save time, effort, and money as well. To clean your furniture, you’ll need an oil-based commercial wood cleaner. The wood cleaner will remove layers of wax and dirt that have collected on the surface over the years.

Typically, the wood cleaner should do an excellent job of restoring the original appearance of your furniture. However, it may not be enough for some old pieces. In that case, you can use a solution of liquid detergent and warm water. Use a soft cloth to apply the solution. Make sure that the cloth is damp so that it doesn’t wet the wood too much.

After you apply the solution on the entire piece, rinse it off with a wet cloth. After that, use a dry cloth to dry the wood immediately. This way, you’ll prevent water damage to your furniture. If this doesn’t produce the same results, don’t worry, there’s still hope.

You can use a solvent such as denatured alcohol, turpentine, or mineral spirits to clean the wood. You’re going to need two cloths for the cleaning process. Use an old towel or any rough cloth to apply the solvent to the wood and the second cloth to wipe off the solvent right away. After you’ve cleaned the entire piece of furniture, apply a layer of commercial cleaner to the wood. Soon after that, use a clean cloth to buff the wood for a beautiful sheen.

Step 4. Reamalgamation

The next step to restore old wood furniture is reamalgamation. This is a process in which you can repair the cracks and scratches on wood. So, you can apply a solvent to the furniture to buff out the subtle damage and imperfections. However, if your wood has a varnish finish, you won’t be able to perform reamalgamation on it.

If your furniture has a lacquer finish, you should use lacquer thinner for this process. On the other hand, use denatured alcohol for a shellac finish. Use a natural bristle brush to apply the solvent to the wood. Move the brush in quick motions, and keep dipping it in the solvent. This way, the brush won’t dry up, and the wood will get enough of the solvent. At first, the wood will appear glossy. However, it will go back to a dull finish after it dries, and the scratches and cracks will disappear.

Now, you’ll need steel wool to bring some sheen to the finish. Gently rub the steel wool onto the surface of the wood. Don’t apply much pressure as that may scratch the surface. Also, work along the grain of the wood to ensure that you don’t damage the surface during this process. After that, apply a layer of hard paste wax to really make the surface shine.

Method 2: How to Restore Old Wood Furniture With Stripping

This process is a little more tedious than the one mentioned above. However, it is just as rewarding nevertheless. Here’s how to restore old wood furniture by stripping the existing finish.

Step 1: Strip the Existing Finish

Stripping the existing finish on your old wood furniture will allow you to add a new stain. So, you’ll need a tough stripping formula like semi-paste to remove the finish. Apply the paste liberally from top to bottom, and make sure to work in a single direction. Also, make sure to add a bit more of the substance to the carved areas. This way, you’ll be able to remove the finish more quickly in these areas.

You must also be careful when stripping the paint off of your furniture. Some old furniture has lead-based paint, which can emit toxic vapors when stripping it. So, you should consider using a ventilator to ensure the air is safe during the process. Also, store all oily rags in the solvent package. This will ensure that there’s no risk of fumes or combustion.

After the application process, let the furniture rest for about twenty minutes. Next, you must use a stripping tool or putty knife to remove the finish from the wood. Repeat the process. To remove the final bits of finish, use a natural bristle brush to apply a layer of liquid stripping agent. Next, use steel wool to remove the wood’s finish completely. After that, use a squeegee to apply one last layer of the liquid stripper.

Step 2. Refinish the Old Wood Furniture

Only start this process after you repair the furniture. Remove all scratches and fill in all cracks. After that, use 100 to 120 grit sandpaper to sand the wood. Clean the dust off with a cloth or a vacuum. Once the surface is ready, use a natural bristle brush to apply the stain to the wood. Use a cloth to wipe the excess off after waiting or five minutes.

Next, apply a sanding sealer and leave the piece as is for the night. The next day, use 220 grit sandpaper for sanding the wood again. Repeat the process you did the day before. However, after applying the sealer, apply polyurethane, varnish, or lacquer to protect the stain and give your piece an excellent sheen.

Last Few Words

Knowing how to restore old wood furniture allows you to engage in an immensely rewarding experience that you can enjoy on your own or with a family member or friend.

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