Making Old Furniture Your Own with DIY Staining
After successfully sanding down a piece of furniture, it’s time to “bring in the new.” If you did all the sanding and cleaning yourself, that’s great, but these techniques also work with furniture bought in the “raw.” Even if you didn’t build the furniture, restoring it gives you a feeling of pride and ownership, and you’ll run your hand over the finished product thinking “I did that.” It’s a wonderful feeling.
You have many options when it comes to refinishing. Staining gives that luxurious, mellow look that makes the furniture gleam and simply painting furniture allows it to blend with any other décor you have. Painting is by far the easiest and it covers up any scratches or mistakes made beforehand. However, if you suspect the furniture to be of any value, have it appraised before painting, since this can seriously lower the value of antiques.
If you really desire to paint the furniture, the darker the tone, the less likely mistakes and scratches will show up. Before painting, fill in any gouges or deep scratches with wood putty, which can be worked into holes with a plastic applicator and then sanded smooth. This putty works much better with paint than stain, since staining might make it appear more obvious.
Staining takes more time, but nothing beats the look of well-stained furniture. Oil based stains are more difficult to work with and less forgiving, but they have a much better sheen and feel to them. It also gives the finish a streak-free look. Water based finishes clean up easily in case you make a mistake, but can also look muddled if the furniture has not been sanded perfectly.
Stain is best applied lightly, in even, slow strokes, always going with the grain. If you put it on too heavy, then it turns into a botched and gummy mess. When it doubt, shake some out…and put it on lightly. When it comes to an oil-based stain or finish, putting on two coats works best. If you don’t want to wait long between coats, set up a few fans around the furniture as it dries and let this speed up the process.
The Finishing Touch
After the finish is dried, be sure to give the entire piece of furniture a good once-over with some fine sandpaper. This smooths down the invisible splinters of wood that raise up during the staining process. To make the surface even smoother, and to get that rich, buttery feel of professionals, purchase some carnauba wax from an automotive store, the same material they use to get that extra shine on a car. Apply it lightly, just like you would on a car. After application, let it dry and then buff it out with a smooth, lint-free cloth. Once completed, the wood won’t feel like wood but creamy glass. As a bonus, this wax also puts an extra layer of protection between the wood and the elements, meaning than you won’t have to overhaul the furniture anytime soon.