How to Refinish Antique furniture Wood?
Confirm that you are not removing the patina from an expensive antique. What you don’t want is to take a $1, 000 table and refinish into a $100 table.
Before you begin always read and understand instructions on all labels of the chemicals and solvents you are using and always work in a well-ventilated area. The fumes can cause dizziness or death if not used in a properly ventilated space. Also, your local hardware specialist can serve as a great source of information with this project, its steps, and material needed.
Wash vs. Strip: Decide whether the old finish should come off or if a thorough cleaning will do. Perhaps a rejuvenating coat of varnish will bring it back to its original luster. If cleaning an unpainted piece, hand cleaner containing pumice used with a toothbrush to get into crevices works well. After cleaning you will know better what you are working with. In many instances you can save a lot of work by just refinishing parts of the piece i.e. the drawer front and top of a table or bureau or maybe just the arms and seat of a chair and then rejuvenating the rest of the piece.
Strip/Paint Remover: Always use rubber gloves and a mask when using stripper. Use lots of remover and do not brush back and forth. Put on a thick layer of stripper with one stroke. The stripper will form a skin, like pudding. Place plastic trash bags or newspaper on top of the stripper to help keep the stripper from drying out. Always position the piece so you are working on a horizontal surface, this also keeps you from doing too much at one time. Place a piece of masking tape over the backside of any key and knob holes so the stripper doesn’t spatter the back of the drawer.
Don’t remove any stripper until you can rub with one finger (without scraping) down to bare wood. If the piece has a carving, plan to leave the stripper on those areas longer.
Removing the Stripper: Periodically peek under the plastic to determine how quickly the stripper is working. You may need to flow on additional stripper if it the finish is thick. When the finish is soft, scrape it off with an expired credit card or a putty knife, but a credit card is less likely to damage the wood.
Wash: When the stripper has softened the finish, scrape off as much as possible, so you can wash down the piece with the appropriate solvent or water. It is very important to read the container to determine appropriate washing liquid. Scrub with a stiff brush with course wood chips, hamster bedding from the pet store will work just fine! This will clean and dry the piece around spindles and carvings. If the piece you are stripping is veneered, be careful when using water as to not lift the veneer. When refinishing, it is more desirable to make every effort to bring forth the original surface and not produce a new one.