Furniture Refinishing 1 - Introduction

What You Will Be Doing

Many who want to refinish a piece of their furniture are put off by the amount of work involved. Others are often times too impatient to complete the job and end up with something they either are dissatisfied with or no longer like well enough to go back and do it right. Still others are fearful of ruining a cherished table or chair.

Refinishing furniture does not have to be painful. It can even be fun. But you must first have the right attitude and realize that a thorough job cannot be completed in one day.

New materials and products for refinishing wood are frequently introduced on the market. It helps to consult your local home center or hardware store personnel for suggestions concerning the particular item you will be working on. The suggestions in this chapter are meant to serve as an overview of basic techniques. It covers two different procedures of stripping, one for items having multiple layers of paint and/or old finish the other for stripping unpainted furniture.

A few tips on furniture repair will be covered, because, usually, every piece requiring refinishing needs some repair as well. This step should always be taken care of prior to the final staining and sealing of your furniture.

Finishing can be achieved in a variety of ways from antiquing and custom painting to the use of a simple hand-rubbed oil on bare wood. This section only covers the stripping, staining, and finishing processes but also includes a variety of materials for you to choose from.

Before You Begin - Safety

Because of the caustic chemicals involved in refinishing furniture, great care must be taken to follow safe-use practices.

  1. Always use the proper tool for the job at hand.
  2. When working with chemicals, remember that they are flammable. Do not smoke. Extinguish any pilot lights or open flames in the vicinity.
  3. Wear durable rubber or neophrene gloves, safety goggles, and long sleeves when stripping wood, to protect against splatters and chemical burns, especially to eyes.
  4. Chemical strippers produce vapors which are harmful if inhaled. Provide for proper ventilation with a window fan, or do the work outside.
  5. Seal all healing and air-conditioning ducts and electrical outlets when sanding indoors. Wood dust can ignite. If your project involves a lot of sanding the basement would be a poor choice. The ventilation is inadequate, and wood dust can ruin a furnace or washing machine motor.
  6. Take care in storing oily rags, which can spontaneously combust
  7. Wear ear protectors when using power tools, since some operate at noise levels that can damage hearing.
  8. Always unplug your sander when changing the sandpaper.
  9. Individuals with pulmonary disorders or weakness should consult with a physician before using chemical strippers.
  10. Keep all chemical strippers and materials out of the reach of children and animals.
  11. Most older paints contain lead, the particles of which are released by any means of stripping. The proper respirator with a cartridge designed to filter lead should be worn when stripping, sanding, or scraping. A dust mask is inadequate. Keep pregnant women and children out of the area. Wash work clothes separately from other laundry.