Why discard old furniture when you can transform that rusty coffee table or dresser into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece? Yes, in just a few simple steps, you can restore the furniture’s finish, salvaging your antique pieces and keeping them in touch with the times.

Why discard old furniture when you can transform that rusty coffee table or dresser into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece? Yes, in just a few simple steps, you can restore the furniture’s finish, salvaging your antique pieces and keeping them in touch with the times.

Refinishing furniture can present a gratifying and engaging project. What’s more, the technique is well within the practical range of any dedicated enthusiast. All you need to breathe new life into even the oldest relics are basic tools and materials. The best part? You need not be a seasoned carpenter to make antique furniture look sparkling new with a refinish.

Why Polish Your Furniture?

Before plunging headlong into stripping away any furniture finish, you need to evaluate if polishing is warranted at all. Sometimes, a simple wood conditioner coat might be sufficient to revive its splendour.

Spotting the signs that call for a furniture’s much-needed revival is an art in itself. However, you can tell a furniture’s restoration is nigh when:

  • The wood surface remains sticky even with meticulous cleaning.
  • Watermarks and rings impervious to conditioners persist beneath the existing finish.
  • Stubborn blemishes and worn-out patches persist despite thorough cleaning efforts.
  • The wood undergoes a colour or tonal change.

Things to Consider Before Restoring Your Furniture

Refinishing antique furniture demands a deep commitment to safety. Pay heed to the labels on all materials you’ll be using, as some of these chemicals present fire and safety hazards. Ensure you safeguard yourself against potential harm by equipping yourself with proper safety equipment.

Vintage vs Antique Furniture scaled

An ideal choice for a workspace would be an open area or one that is well-ventilated. This is essential to limit fire risk and to protect yourself from inhaling chemical fumes.

Armed with the right tools and supplies, your journey to revive that cherished furniture begins. Here are the tools you’ll need:

  • Cleaning cloth
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Power sander
  • Scraper or palette knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Industrial gloves

Supplies you’ll need include:

  • Paint stripper
  • Wood filler
  • Wood oil
  • Wood stain
  • Furniture wax
  • Steel wool
  • Polyurethane coat

Furniture Refinishing 101

Now that you possess the necessary tools and materials at your disposal let’s delve into the step-by-step process of restoring your wood furniture’s former glory:

Step 1: Furniture Cleaning

You’ll begin your refinishing project by starting with a thorough cleansing. Using warm water and mild dishwashing liquid, use a soft sponge to dislodge any clinging furniture, dirt or debris. Once cleaned, ensure it dries completely drying using your cleaning cloth.

Step 2: Removing the Finish

This is perhaps the most trying phase of wood refinishing. You’ll need to eliminate any vestiges of old varnish, paint, or wood stains by diligently sanding every nook and cranny of the furniture.

Alternatively, consider employing chemical or paint strippers. Although relatively less time-consuming, these chemicals can be highly toxic, so exercise caution and follow instructions while using them. Rubber gloves and eye protection are indispensable companions during this process, and this is where a well-ventilated room provides an added layer of security.

However, in some instances, additional sanding may be necessary to eradicate any remaining chemicals.

Step 3: Wood Preparation

Following the arduous task of stripping away the prior finish, allow the wood to dry. It’s now time to ready the wood for the next steps. Using your power sander, remove any vestiges of the previous finish and smoothen the wood’s surface.

Then, follow with sandpaper to refine the smoothness, paying special attention to rough patches, swirl marks, and other conspicuous imperfections. Endeavour not to blow through this stage as a meticulous sanding job here will have a telling result in the final product.


Step 4: Staining the Wood

Having dutifully prepared your wood furniture, it stands poised for a fresh coat of paint or stain. You can have your pick of oil-based or water-based wood stains. However, gel stains, though demanding intermediate buffing between coats, afford greater control due to their thicker consistency.

While applying your chosen finish, abide by the instructions on the paint’s packaging. Allow ample time for it to dry before deciding whether another layer is needed.

Step 5: The Furniture Finish

The finale of your wood furniture refinishing odyssey calls for applying a wood finish. Here you have numerous options, from wood oils and waxes to polyurethane and lacquer.

Nonetheless, among these, polyurethane reigns supreme for its unmatched durability. Apply a substantial coat of sealer to your furniture and allow it to permeate the wood for at least 30 minutes before wiping away any superfluous finish with a clean cloth.

If any cracks or scratches remain visible, fret not; a simple sanding and touch of additional wood oil in the affected area should restore its pristine allure.

Final Pointers

The cardinal rule is patience in embarking upon this endeavour of wood furniture restoration. The careful nurturing of each step successfully culminates in a piece of furniture exuding the essence of timelessness, grace, and artistry.

Yet, some antique pieces are just too cherished to risk a DIY furniture finish. Do you live in London? Whether you need professional furniture refinishing or French polishing, Dorking’s Schryver Restoration are French polishing London furniture specialists with over 50 years of expertise in furniture restoration, antique repair, and bespoke upholstery.