The Crafter's Guide to Restoring Wood Furniture

Posted  on by Heartwood Carving, Inc.

The Crafter's Guide to Restoring Wood Furniture

Oftentimes, the best furniture isn’t the brand-new pieces that you see sitting out in the showroom of a store, begging you to buy it. Instead, it’s the chests and tables that sit disguised by old paint and scuffs bourn from years of good use. You can find these pieces waiting in the back of antique stores, waiting for an artist’s hand to revive them.

Created several years ago, these items have oftentimes consist of strong, durable material. If you want furniture that will last you a lifetime, consider investing in older pieces and using your expertise to bring them back to life. If you follow our guide on wood furniture restoration, you’ll have a beautiful new addition for your home in no time.

When to Purchase

You may be looking to restore a piece that you already own and will, therefore, need to make no monetary investment. If you don’t already own a piece, however, you’ll want to make sure that what you’re buying is worth the trouble. Be sure to examine the quality of the build as well as the materials used. If a woodworker crafted the item from solid wood, it’s likely to be an eligible contender. Consider the selling price and evaluate how much it will be worth once you’ve successfully flipped it.

The Environment

Before you start any work, you should make sure that you’re in an appropriate environment. You’ll be dealing with various chemicals, as well as any foreign objects that come off the wood when you’re working on it. Be sure that you’re in a place that’s well ventilated; try to complete the project outside, if possible.

Once you have your workspace, you’ll want to collect the items needed for the job. Some basic woodworking tools include:

  • Sandpaper
  • Rags
  • A variety of paintbrushes
  • A stain and/or finish
  • Wax polish
  • A putty knife
  • Goggles
  • Work gloves
  • A dust mask


Depending on the project, you may need to disassemble some pieces before beginning any work. This will likely occur if you’re replacing any of the original building materials, such as screws or glue. If the screws seem in good working order you can leave those as is, but we recommend scraping off and reapplying any old glue.

If you’ve disassembled any pieces, wait to put them back together until you complete all the other steps of your project. This allows you easier access to certain areas of the wood. If there are decorative components save them, they can be re-used or serve as templates for reproduction (see below, Carving)

Cleaning and Sanding

The first thing you’ll want to do is clean the wood. We recommend using water with a mild cleanser and a dampened cloth—we don’t recommend using one that’s soaking wet, as this can damage the wood. Thoroughly clean the wood’s surface and any crevices using a toothbrush or mascara brush. When you’re done cleaning it, make sure that’s it’s completely dry before performing the next step.

Once the wood is completely dry, you’ll want to begin the sanding process. You’ll perform this step if you need to remove any finish or paint, as this will help loosen up the material. The grit of sandpaper that you use will depend on the wood you’re dealing with. When sanding, be sure that you are working with the grain, as opposed to against it. Errors made when sanding can harm the finished product.

When you finish removing any materials, you may want to repeat the sanding process with a lower grit to ensure the surface is completely clean. The smoother you can get it, the better.

Stripping the Wood

You’ll want to take special care when stripping wood to avoid it retaining any damage. This is one of the messier processes, as well as one that involves exposure to chemicals. As such, be sure that you’re properly protected before starting. This step requires the mask, gloves, and goggles we listed above.

You will use a paintbrush to apply the solvent that removes the finish. Depending on the remover you’re using and the coating’s thickness, allow the mixture to sit for up to 30 minutes before scraping it off. Use a putty knife to carefully remove all the coating from the surface of the wood. You may have to neutralize the stripper with wax or polish remover to prevent reactivation. After completing all the removal steps, you should clean the wood once more.

Filling the Grit

If your wood has a wider grit, you may consider filling it. This is an extra step that thoughtful woodworkers with attention to fine detail utilize. It will give your wood a smoother surface and make it more attractive to the eye. Purchase a specially made wood filler with a pigment that matches the type of wood you’re working with.

Tend to Bleach Spots

If there are any bleach spots on the wood caused by exposure to the sun or household cleaners, now is when you’ll tend to those. Do this before staining the entire piece to ensure an even coat. There are a few ways to do this—one is to cover the bleached spots alone with stain curated to match the tone of the specific wood in question.

Stain and Finish

The stain in itself is optional, depending on the appearance you want to wood to take on. A finish, however, is highly recommended in almost any situation to complete the project and provide protection. For a more comprehensive take on finishes and stains, we’ve written an in-depth guide.

Reproduction Carving

As stated earlier, if the decorative components (moldings, appliques, etc.) were damaged or need updating, now is the time to think about creating new pieces. If you wish to enhance the piece with additional ornamentation now is the time. This is where Heartwood Carving can assist you in your endeavors. Decorative wood trim for furniture is an addition that takes any woodworking piece to the next level. Our company expertly reproduces pieces from your originals or you can use our catalog or custom service to create a unique piece that will stand as a room’s focal point for decades.

As we said, if you’re unable to find what you’re looking for in our catalogue, we offer reproductions and original work. You do the restoration work, and we’ll provide the carvings you require for that finishing touch. Contact Heartwood Carving today for all of your woodworking needs.

the crafter's guide to restoring wood furniture infographic

Read More    |   Blog   


Recent Posts