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If the piece has a clear finish on it, this is the tutorial for you. If it has a painted finish, the process is basically the same, but the products are slightly different. I'll do a post on removing paint at some point in the near future, so be sure to follow me (see the various options at the bottom of the page) and you'll be able to read that post as well.
I realize that everyone's time is precious and that painting over a beat up finish is the quickest and easiest fix, but there are times that it's worth the extra time and effort of refinishing a nice piece of furniture. It's not difficult to do, but does take a few hours.
Here's an example of why you really should take the time to refinish a nice piece of furniture, or at least part of it, whenever possible:
These are the products I used in the desk makeover that has the refinished top, which is what you see in the photos throughout this post. #1 through 4 were used on the top, and the other products were used on the drawers, hardware, and body of the desk.
Another note: if you're staining softer woods like pine, I would strongly suggest using a pre-stain wood conditioner first. This will prevent splotchiness and help your stain go on evenly.
6. Apply the stain with a clean cotton rag, working in a circular motion so it will really go down into the wood grain. I applied a fairly generous amount, let it set for 5 or 10 minutes, and then wiped off any excess that wasn't soaking in. FYI: different woods absorb stain at a different rate. Softer woods will soak it right up, while harder woods take longer to absorb it.
The whole desk after staining, but before applying the clear finish.
Depending on the piece and how much wear and abuse it will get, you can use a variety of finishes. For this piece I used ZAR oil based polyurethane in Antique Flat. I chose polyurethane because it is extremely durable and doesn't show water spots if a glass is set down on it. And it lasts for many years without having to redo it. I chose the antique flat finish because I just don't like glossy finishes, but that's my personal taste. Antique flat isn't completely flat, but is very low gloss.
8. After the finish dries completely, sand it lightly then use a tack cloth to remove the sanding dust. Apply a 2nd coat of polyurethane. Let it dry completely.
Here's the view of the whole desk. Yes, I could have refinished the entire piece. But I thought that the details would actually show up better if painted, and they do. I'll have another post soon and go through the painting process that I did here and the colors that I used.
Also, this is a piece that's for sale (it's now sold), and the time it would have taken to completely refinish it would have caused the selling price of it the be more than anyone in my market is willing to pay. It only has one coat of paint, so if someone decided to strip the paint at some point in the future, it wouldn't be that difficult.
I hope this tutorial has given you the information you need to refinish your furniture. Let me know if you decide to try it and how your project turns out!
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