Mar 3, 2011

Tips on finishing furniture

Howdy all! Have any of you been hit with this flu that's going around like I have? I spent most of yesterday in bed watching Sex and the City, and today I'm still in my PJs at 2 in the afternoon... But thankfully, I'm on the mend.

As I mentioned last week, I went to a seminar on finishing and refinishing furniture at the Mill Stores, a furniture outlet in New England that sells a lot of unfinished pieces. It's where we bought our dining room table, which my husband finished himself. And though our table came out great, I wanted to go to get some tips and tricks for myself, since I've got a few hand-me-down pieces I'd like to refinish.

The Mill Store is like a warehouse in the back, with racks full of unfinished furniture waiting for someone's vision and magic touch. 

The front of the store is more of a showroom.

Aren't these toy boxes adorable? They'd be so cute with a fun stenciled top.

I also like this simple but stylish sofa table:

I love the clean lines of this buffet table. It would look great painted white and distressed with some crystal knobs.
And I adore this buffet and hutch. Someday we'll have one in our dining room...

I also got to visit our table! But this one's naked...
And these are the chairs we plan to buy someday to go with our table.

They also have finished pieces. I love this two-toned table with the stained top and painted legs.

There were just four attendees at the "seminar," which was the short demo by the store manager followed by some Q&A time. Afterward, we got cookies and Hawaiian Punch!

Some tips and tricks:

  • While most unfinished pieces won't need a lot of sanding, it's good to give them a once-over. Use 150-200 grit sandpaper and wipe with a tack cloth. To strip a finished piece, start with 60-grit sandpaper and work up to a finer grit.
  • They recommended Zar stain, because it's thicker than Minwax. Use a high-quality brush or a rag to rub it on in the direction of the grain.
  • Oil-based poly is the most durable, but harder to clean up and can darken the finish. It's good for tables that will see a lot of use. Use water-based poly on light pieces especially if you don't want the finish to darken or yellow. Use 2-3 coats of either one.
  • Tung oil is also a good finisher, and is more durable than water-based poly. But since it's thinner, you'll need 3-6 coats. Wipe-on tung oil is great for finishing chairs, since it's easy to get around the spindles and you don't have to worry about brush marks or drips. A good way to get a durable, smooth finish is to apply a coat or two of tung oil, then top with an oil-based poly. Never use water-based poly over tung oil.
  • You can use a nylon bristle brush or a foam brush when applying the poly, but foam brushes can leave air bubbles, so be careful.
  • The first coat of poly can raise a wood's grain, so it's a good idea to sand between coats using a fine grit sandpaper, like 220-400.
I didn't buy anything except a $3 bamboo tray that I used to help organize cooking gadgets in the kitchen. But maybe we'll go back someday soon for a few of those chairs. I'm feeling more confident about finishing them ourselves now that I know about that tung oil trick.

Refinish anything lately? Have any tips to share? I'd love to hear them!


Nel said...

The blog is very good!

Mindy @ Heart Maine Home said...

Thank you for visiting!