A DIY Guide on How to Restore Old Wood

Restoring old wood

One of the great things about wood and wood furniture is that you can repair and restore it. Even if it gets old and cracked, you can make it look brand new. It takes a bit of work and know-how to restore old wood, but the payoff is worth it. So, if you’ve old wood furniture, cabinets, or any materials lying around the house, think again before you get rid of it. You don’t even need extensive experience in woodworking for this DIY project. All you need is the right tools and time, and you’ll get there.

This article is a DIY guide on how to restore old wood without the need for a stripping agent. A stripping agent can make the process of restoring wood a messy and time-consuming.  In addition to that, you’ll have to take extra precautions to ensure you’re not exposed to harmful chemicals during the process. The restoration process is simple, as it only requires some thorough cleaning and minor repairs. Here are all the steps you must follow to make your old wood look new again.

How to Restore Old Wood

Step 1. Use Mineral Spirits to Assess the Finish

The first thing you must do is use mineral spirits to assess the finish. This will give you an idea of what the old wood will look like if you simply add a coat of clear finish. This is possible because the mineral spirits will temporarily saturate the old wood’s finish. So, if the finish looks good after this process, you don’t need to follow the next steps in this article.

All you have to do is apply a coat of oil-based clear finish, and it will look beautiful. However, make sure to clean the surface thoroughly before you apply the finish. That said, if the wood still doesn’t look shiny and new, then you’re going to have to do more than that. Thus, you must move on to the next step.

Make sure to acquire appropriate safety gear before you start restoring old wood. You’ll be using various tools and chemicals for this process. Thus, make sure to wear rubber gloves and a long sleeves shirt. This way, your skin won’t be in direct contact with the materials you use and handle during the restoration process. You can consider wearing protective eyewear, but it’s not particularly necessary if you’re not using chemical strippers.

Step 2. Clean the Old Wood Thoroughly

The next step on how to restore old wood is to clean it thoroughly. Cleaning old wood can save you time, effort, and money. This is because it’ll provide excellent results without the need of chemical strippers. Grime and dirt usually cling on to old wood after several years. Therefore, simply wiping it down won’t be enough to restore it.

Use a Solution of Soap and Water

To clean your furniture, you simply need soap and water. Mix some liquid soap in a large bowl of water until the entire solution is soapy. The proportion should be about the same you’d use to wash your dishes. Use a sponge to apply the solution and simultaneously scrub the surface of the wood. Wring out the sponge before you apply the solution. This will ensure that it doesn’t wet the wood too much. Also, make sure you don’t apply much pressure during the process. This way, you’ll ensure that the finish on the wood stays intact.

After you scrub the entire surface of the wood with the soapy sponge, you must rinse it off. Therefore, you must use a wrung-out sponge and clear water to rinse the surface of the wood. After rinsing the surface, use a clean and dry towel to absorb the water off of the surface. This way, you’ll prevent water damage to the wood.

Use an Oil-Based Wood Cleaner

Other than soap and water, you can use an oil-based commercial wood cleaner. The wood cleaner will do an excellent job of removing layers of wax and dirt collected on the surface of the wood.

Either of these cleaning solutions should do an excellent job of restoring the appearance of the old wood. However, in some cases, even this may not be enough. Well, there’s still one more thing you can do.

Use a Solvent

Use a solvent, such as turpentine, denatured alcohol, or mineral spirits, to clean the old wood. You must use two cloths for this cleaning method. Use one old towel for applying the solvent to the wood and another cloth for wiping the solvent off the surface. Apply a layer of an oil-based wood cleaner to the surface after cleaning the wood surface with the solvent. Immediately after that, you must buff the wood with a clean cloth for an incredible sheen.

Step 3. Get Rid of White Rings from the Wood

To get rid of white rings from the wood, apply petroleum jelly on the ring liberally. Now, you’ll have to let the wood rest for the night. The oil from the jelly should make the ring a lot less visible. However, if this process doesn’t work, you’ll need to purchase a product designed for this purpose. While these products produce good results, for the most part, they may change the sheen on the wood.

Step 4. Apply Expoxy to Replace Missing Pieces of Wood

You can use epoxy putty to replace chipped wood or missing veneer. Thus, replacing missing wood is the next step on how to restore old wood. The epoxy should look very similar to the wood’s surface once it becomes hard. To apply the epoxy, use a razor to slice a piece off the putty. After that, knead it with your hand. Make sure to wear rubber gloves for this process. Continue kneading both parts of the epoxy until the color is similar to that of the wood. It doesn’t have to look the same because you will apply the stain later.

Make sure to apply the epoxy with five to ten minutes after slicing it off. After that point, it will start to harden, and its application will be difficult. Add a bit of water to the epoxy so that it doesn’t stick. Use your finger to apply the epoxy to the wood. To finish up, use a razor to scrape the excess epoxy, marking it with the wood’s surface.

The epoxy should harden after a few hours. Once it does, use sandpaper to smoothen the epoxy surface. Make sure to take your time with this process. This way, you’ll prevent the sandpaper from spoiling the finish surround the epoxy.

Step 5. Use Gel Stain to Restore the Color

To seal the deal on the restoration process, you must use a gel stain to restore the color of the wood. What’s great about gel stain is that you don’t need to strip the existing finish to apply the new one. Use a soft cloth to apply a dark gel stain onto the surface of the wood. A few moments later, use a clean cloth to wipe off the gel from the surface of the wood.

If you don’t like the results of the gel stain, you can use mineral spirits to remove it. Also, the gel stain alone is not ideal for protecting the surface of the wood. Therefore, it’s best to let the stain sit for eight hours or the entire night, and apply a coat of oil-based clear finish. This way, the wood will look beautiful for a long time.

Step 6. Fill in Small Cracks

The final step on how to restore old wood is to fill in small cracks. These are the final touches of the process, so you should do this after applying the stain. Use can use fill pencils, colored wax fill sticks, or wax repair sticks for this process. Break off a chunk of the stick and warm it in your hands. Try to mold the stick so that it matches the shape of the defect. Next, use a smooth tool to press it onto the defect.  When fixing a crack, make a wafer and slide that into the small crack on the wood. After that, work the wax in both directions. This way, you’ll fill in the small crack without ruining the surface. To finish it off, use a soft cloth to buff the wood.

If the wood has small dents on the surface, all you need is water to fix it. The moisture will swell the wood’s fibers to their original shape; thus removing the dent. That said, the finish on the wood will prevent the water from penetrating the wood. Thus, you must make tiny slits parallel to the grain of the wood. Add a few drops on the dent and let it dry up. It should fix the dent. If it doesn’t, repeat the process. Last, add a coat of wipe-on clear finish to protect the wood and its finish.

Now that you knowhow to restore old wood, you can transform old furniture and cabinets in your home!

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