This week I’m showing you how to refinish wood furniture when you don’t want to use paint. I love paint and color but I also know when a piece will look beautiful with a simple rejuvenation and this bench is one of those pieces. It has really ornate details and I had a feeling that underneath that old stain and finish was going to be a beautiful wood grain. So let’s go through the process from start to finish and I’ll show you how a simple gel stain can bring an old piece back to life.
Supply List for How to Refinish Wood Furniture
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Surf Prep Sanding Kit (Use coupon code BELLARENOVARE10 )
Step 1: Cleaning the Piece With White Lightening
Here’s a look at the bench before I even started cleaning it. It’s not in terrible shape but it’s dirty and there are a couple of areas where I need to glue some wood back into place. This isn’t an antique and it doesn’t have any value, but I still wanted to try to keep its original look while giving it a nice refresh.
Even though I’m going to strip the paint, I wanted to give it a good cleaning first because it is a great starting point to see what I’m working with.
Step 2: Scraping Off the Paint
The finish on this piece was really brittle and I decided to start by scraping it off first on the flat areas rather than using the paint stripper right off the bat. Doing it this way, you don’t have to use so much stripper and the existing varnish or paint comes off very quickly and easily so you are spending less time applying the stripper and then cleaning it off.
Step 3: Moving on to the Paint Stripper to Refinish Wood Furniture
When the flat areas were finished being scraped with the paint scraper, I applied a coat of paint stripper to all of the more detailed and intricate areas. Typically I’m very methodical with this process and I start with the hardest areas first, applying the stripper and working in a small area.
Let the stripper sit on there for 15-20 minutes and then come back with fine steel wool to remove whatever is underneath.
This process will be repeated one more time to ensure that I get everything off. Depending on your piece and what has been painted on previously, you may need to repeat this process more than twice. Because my piece has so many rounded and ornate areas that can be hard to get into with the steel wool, I also used a plastic brush with plastic bristles. You don’t want to use anything with wire bristles and risk scratching the wood. This also helps decrease the number of times you’re applying and reapplying the paint stripper.
You can use a shop towel afterwards to wipe off all of the bits of paint or stain that you’re removing which makes it easier to see what you have left to remove.
In the ornate areas apply the stripper with a brush and then use your plastic brush again to get into the hard to reach areas. One great TIP is to wrap the plastic bristle brush in a shop towel which will help remove the paint or stain as well as pull it out of those nooks and crannies.
Step 4: Mineral Spirits
Part of the process of refinishing wood furniture is neutralizing the paint stripper afterwards. You need to do this for a few reasons:
it will stop the stripping process
it will remove any residual dirt that didn’t come off or was missed in your cleaning process
it helps open the woodgrain so that the stain will take
Using a fine steel wool, dip it into the mineral spirits and coat the entire piece and then let sit for 24 hours for it to dry.
Step 5: Sanding and Smoothing the Wood
When I’m refinishing wood furniture, my next step is to use my Surf Prep sander with a 10 mm foam sanding pad (roughly about a 120 grit paper) because I don’t want to close up the wood grain. I’m just trying to smooth everything out to make it ready for the stain.
I wiped off all of the sanding dust with a cheap chip brush and was ready to stain!
Step 6: Applying the Stain
I’m using Gel Stain in Walnut and I’m going to apply a very light coat because I don’t want to change the color, the goal is to rejuvenate the wood, not change it.
I apply it with the applicator pad and then wiping it back right away. You’ll need the applicator pad and a cheap chip brush.
It needs to sit for 72 hours to completely dry.
Step 7: The Final Step
When refinishing wood furniture, the final step in this process of how to refinish wood furniture is sealing it with a really good quality hemp seed oil. Hemp seed oil is food grade and safe even for your animals (if you watch the video you’ll see Cannon sneaking in to lick it). It’s also amazing for cutting boards and butcher blocks to bring the wood back to life and seal it.
Apply the hemp seed oil generously on entire piece and let it sit overnight. If you come back the next day and there are pools of oil, just wipe them away with a microfiber cloth and go over it with your cloth once more to buff in that oil.
The How Refinish Wood Furniture YouTube Video
This how to refinish wood furniture project was so much fun, I hope you’ll watch the how to video and follow along to be able to do this for yourself!
The Finished Product
The wood is so beautiful on this piece, I’m really glad I decided to refresh it instead of paint it. You can see the grain of the wood and I love all of the ornate details that pop with the thin layer of gel stain.
There are lots of different techniques and videos that will teach you how to refinish wood furniture, this is the way that I do it, that has always worked for me. I hope you give it a try and have the same amazing results!
If you’d like to see more furniture painting tips and tricks, feel free to scroll through the blog. Here’s one you might love: https://bellarenovare.com/2019/04/add-gold-leaf-to-your-projects-with-ease/