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Refinishing Antique Furniture


Refinishing antique furniture can be a very rewarding experience. If you have not read my article on stripping antique furniture, you need to read it first before proceeding here. It is important to get the stripping done correctly or your finished piece will not produce the results  you want.

Preparation is The Key In Refinishing Antique Furniture

Getting the piece of antique furniture prepared for refinishing is the key to restoring it to its original beauty. And good preparation starts with the proper sanding. Proper sanding starts with using the proper sander. We always used a good palm sander on our antique furniture. I strongly prefer a ¼ page sander to a random orbit one. The random orbit ones tend to leave swirl marks in the wood if you are not real careful. If you are going to use a sander very often I recommend you get the best one you can afford. One of the best and highest rated ones is the Porter-Cable 330 Speed Bloc. I twill cost you about $30 more then many of the other less expensive ones. If you have the chance to try out a great sander vs. a less expensive one, you will never go back to a cheaper one. The ¼ page sander gets its name from using ¼ of a page of sandpaper. These are less expensive than the round sand paper used with the orbit ones.

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TitleDEWALT D26441K 2.4-AMP Orbital 1/4-Sheet Sander with Cloth Dust BagMilwaukee 6021-21 Random Orbit Palm Sander with dust collection bagMakita BO4556K 2.0 Amp 4-1/2-Inch Finishing Sander with CasePorter-Cable 342K 1/4-Sheet Palm-Sander KitPorter-Cable 330 Speed-Bloc 1.2 Amp 1/4 Sheet Sander
ListPrice$93.10$132.00$100.00$93.10$174.95
ManufacturerDEWALTMilwaukeeMakitaPorter-CablePorter-Cable
SKU320076W-MLW6021-21572677417912330P
TitleDEWALT D26441K 2.4-AMP Orbital 1/4-Sheet Sander with Cloth Dust BagMilwaukee 6021-21 Random Orbit Palm Sander with dust collection bagMakita BO4556K 2.0 Amp 4-1/2-Inch Finishing Sander with CasePorter-Cable 342K 1/4-Sheet Palm-Sander KitPorter-Cable 330 Speed-Bloc 1.2 Amp 1/4 Sheet Sander
PriceToo Low to Display$51.95$57.99$49.95$84.95
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It is important to sand with two or three different grits to get the best results. This is especially true for the flat surfaces of like a table or dresser top. Be sure and wear a mask that will prevent you breathing in the dust particles from sanding. We usually started with 150 grit sandpaper for the first sanding. For sides of pieces and legs, one good sanding with 150 should be adequate. You really need to use foam sanding blocks if you are trying to sand rounded parts like spindles and chair legs and rungs. These were a life saver when I first discovered them at a flea market in England before I could find them here. They are so much easier to use than just sand paper folded.  For table tops and the tops of other pieces we always did a second sanding with a 220 grit sandpaper. If you want to achieve a high gloss finish, you might even want to do another sanding with a 400 grit.Refinishing Antique furniture

It is important to make sure you remove ALL of the dust and residue from the sanding process. We completely wiped down every piece of furniture with lacquer thinner. The cheapest grade of thinner will do fine for this. But this step is very important. Remember the key to being successful when refinishing antique furniture is in the preparation. So be sure to be thorough in doing this step. One thing you will notice in this step, when the wood is wet from the lacquer thinner (it evaporates really quickly), you can see what the wood would look like when a finish is applied without adding color from a stain.

Refinishing Antique Furniture: Applying Stain and Finish

One of my favorite steps in refinishing antique furniture is applying the stain. You get a glimpse of what the finished piece is going to be like. If you are going to only be refinishing antique furniture a few times, you will probably want to brush the stain on the piece. Because we did this so much, we sprayed the stain on because it was much, much faster to spray it rather than brush it on. You will use more stain if you spray it because some of the stain will just go into the air. It is imperative when spraying stain and/ or finish that you wear the proper mask like this one from 3M. I would forget this on occasion and then would have to use tissue to get the stain out of my nostrils, which is definitely not healthy. Learn from my mistakes and not yours. You might want to experiment with a couple of different colors of stains on the bottom of the piece to get the desired color. Be aware that it will change a little when the finish is applied. Please, please stain the backs and bottoms of pieces. I also stained the inside of drawers, but that is a personal preference. After you have finished staining the piece, allow plenty of time for it to dry thoroughly. The stain has penetrated down into the pores of the wood, so be sure it is completely dry before applying the finish.

Now it is time to apply the finish. If everything else is done correctly, the piece can become a disaster during this step, to the point of even having to start over from the very beginning. I was never able to brush on a finish when we first started refinishing just on our own pieces. We went to spray cans and then to our own spray rigs. If you can’t afford a spray rig or you are just going to do a piece or two, buy a good spray on finish.

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TitleWagner 518080 Control Spray Max HVLP SprayerCampbell Hausfeld HV2500 58 CFM Fine Finish HVLP Paint SprayerEarlex HV5500 Spray StationFuji 2903-XPC Mini-Mite 3 HVLP Spray SystemEarlex 5000 Spray Station Pro Professional Hvlp Spraying System
ListPrice$129.99$429.99$319.99$699.00$.
SKUDH518080B004RGOKR2
TitleWagner 518080 Control Spray Max HVLP SprayerCampbell Hausfeld HV2500 58 CFM Fine Finish HVLP Paint SprayerEarlex HV5500 Spray StationFuji 2903-XPC Mini-Mite 3 HVLP Spray SystemEarlex 5000 Spray Station Pro Professional Hvlp Spraying System
PriceToo Low to Display$327.98$319.99$549.00$292.00
FeaturePowerful Two Stage Turbine sprays latex, as well as thinner materials such as lacquers and stains
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3 spray patterns - select the best pattern for your job
Variable flow control covers large spray surface down to detail work
HVLP fine finish paint sprayer with 2-stage tangential turbine and 2 air filters
Sprays light, medium, heavy-stains, varnishes, oil-based paint, and latex
Durable metal body, plastic hose
Includes spray gun, 25-foot hose, 2 needle/nozzle sets, wrench, viscosity stick, strainers, cleaning brush
12-1/2 by 22-1/2 by 12-1/2 inches; 32 pounds; 3-year limited warranty
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Professional spray gun now features pattern control knob to adjust size of fan pattern from small to large
Spray gun has 100 percent stainless steel fluid components, ergonomic handle is insulated ? never gets hot.
Non-bleed spray gun for less blowing around of shop dust
High-efficiency air cap installed for reduced overspray
25ft hose includes air control valve to reduce overspray and bounce back
Professional metal spray gun provides maximum control and minimal over spray
Spray volume control dial
Multi-purpose for indoor or outdoor use
Sprays a variety of materials including water-based and oil-based coatings
Easy to set up, use and clean
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Always start with a coat of sanding sealer. Sanding sealer is a softer finish that helps fill in the pores. I might add, for someone wanting a mirror like finish you will have to pore fill the piece first. I definitely do not recommend this for the hobbyist. Because it is a softer finish it sands very easily, so the name sanding sealer. Now, we will be hand sanding after every coat except the final one. Never use a power sander doing this. I used a combination of a foam sanding block and a regular sanding block. Foam sanding blocks come in several grits. During the finishing stage you never want to use a grit more course than a 220. We usually applied three coats of finish. One coat of sanding sealer and two coats of lacquer. We ALWAYS used lacquer for our top coats. We just liked the look and feel of lacquer. I sprayed on pretty heavy coats, others spayed lighter coats and sprayed more times. Resist using more than one coat of sanding sealer, because your finish will be too soft if you use more than one coat. Before the final coat is applied I want to use a 400 grit sand paper and use a wet sandpaper. This gives the smoothest finish. Whether you want a high gloss or satin finish is a matter of personal preference. But just like in staining, be sure and spray the bottoms and backs of every piece. I also recommend spraying the inside of chest of drawers and other similar pieces.

For those wanting to get more serious about refinishing antique furniture, having your own spray equipment gives you so much more control with your finish. There are many different additives you can add to your finishes that will prevent problems before they happen.  You just can’t do this  with a spray can. You can also achieve much more professional results with a spray gun. If you go this route or even considering it I would recommend looking at the Earlex Spray Station HV5500 or the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 system. These are good starter systems that should give you excellent results. I strongly prefer the cup to be under the gun rather than above as you will see in other systems. Play around with them just spraying pieces of wood before spraying a piece of furniture.

I could have written another thousand words on this and not covered everything on refinishing antique furniture. But this should be enough to get you started. I will do another article on antique furniture repair. Then you will know the joy in seeing the results you get from refinishing antique furniture.

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Refinishing Antique Furniture”

  1. Save time, money and trouble by reading up on refinishing techniques before you tackle your kitchen cabinets. Learn the realities of refinishing projects

  2. Great thanks for sharing review on refinishing antique furniture very useful.

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