Furniture/ Furniture Refinishing/ Woodworking & Workshop/ Finishing & Refinishing/

How to Stain and Finish an Antique Dresser


Salvage a Painted Antique by Removing Grease and Water Marks and Restoring the Stained and Varnished Beauty of Its Wood

Restore the charm and beauty of antique furniture whose antique value and patina have been compromised by paint, stains, and a deteriorated finish. This antique dresser has already been stripped of paint during an earlier attempt at restoration, but removing grease, stains, and water marks prior to refinishing it reclaims the charm and beauty of its earlier life.

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examining the stains on the antique furniture
Step 1

Examine the Antique Furniture Finish and Protect the Work Area

Examine antique furniture damage areas and obtain stain removers and finishing products to correct them. Prepare a well-ventilated work area. Cover the floor and surrounding objects with drop cloths and newspapers and wear gloves and safety glasses.

examining the stains on the antique furniture
Step 2

Apply the Stripping Solution to the Antique Furniture

Apply semi-paste stripping solution with a paint brush to the antique furniture one surface at a time. Brush carvings or crevices with a brass brush. Work with the grain of the wood and give it several minutes for effect.

lifting loosened finish from the antique furniture
Step 3

Scrape Loosened Finish from Antique Furniture with a Putty Knife

Lift the old finish gently with a putty knife, cleaning off the blade frequently. Recoat the antique furniture if necessary and use medium-coarse steel wool in stubborn or detailed areas where the putty knife is ineffective.

rinsing residue from the antique furniture
Step 4

Use Lacquer Thinner to remove Stripper and Other Residue

Dip fine steel wool in lacquer thinner and apply to the antique furniture to neutralize the stripper and remove residue. Strippers may leave a waxy residue and particles of the old finish may cling to the surface during restoration.

mixing oxalic acid to brush on the antique furniture stains
Step 5

Brush Oxalic Acid onto Marked Areas of the Antique Furniture

Dissolve oxalic acid in hot tap water. Brush it on marred surfaces of the antique furniture to remove watermarks, grease or oil. Let it dry and sponge the powdery residue off with warm water. Household bleach may be used as well.

sanding the antique furniture
Step 6

Smooth Surfaces of the Antique Furniture with Fine Sandpaper

Use 100-grit sandpaper to lightly smooth the antique furniture's surface, then switch to 150-grit for a final pass. Work with the wood grain as you sand, never across the grain during the restoration.

wiping the antique furniture with a tack cloth
Step 7

Clean the Antique Furniture with a Tack Cloth

Remove all dust and grit from the antique furniture with a tack cloth, wiping the sticky cloth across the entire surface to remove dust and lint. Fold the tack cloth periodically to expose a fresh sticky area.

staining the antique furniture with gel stain
Step 8

Stain the Antique Furniture with Gel Stain

Apply gel stain to the antique furniture with a brush or cloth. Work with the grain, paying special attention to ornate carved areas or crevices to ensure coverage. Work on individual surfaces that can be coated in a few minutes.

wiping excess stain off the antique furniture
Step 9

Wipe off Excess Stain from Antique Furniture and Let It Dry

Allow several minutes for stain penetration on the antique furniture and wipe off the excess with a lint-free rag. Greater pressure on the cloth removes more stain to produce a lighter color. Recoat if necessary to reach a deeper color depth.

discussing top coating the antique furniture
Step 10

Top Coat Antique Furniture with Tung Oil

Apply one to three top coats of Tung oil to waterproof and protect the new finish while retaining the antique furniture's character. Check and follow the manufacturer's application instructions to obtain the desired finish.

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