Best Ways to Refinish Antique Furniture: Tips and Tricks

Antique wood furniture embodies a sense of elegance and charm. Unfortunately, most pieces don’t last for generations without incurring a few unsightly dings and scratches. The good news is that antique furniture refinishing can restore your lovely quality pieces to their former glory with the right products and technique.

What is the best way to refinish and restore antique furniture? Many furniture enthusiasts have their own special makeover methods or process for bringing an appealing luster to their favorite piece after years of use or a lack of repairs and maintenance.

Trying to decipher the “right” way to refinish antique furniture can be daunting for a novice, which is why we have gathered a few tips below to guide you on how to refinish furniture for your bedroom or living room or another space in your home with a few steps.

Clean the Furniture

The easiest way to refinish antique furniture is to begin with a thorough yet careful cleaning. Wood furniture accumulates a substantial amount of dirt, oil, and grime over the decades, so you’ll need to remove all unwanted substances from the wood’s surface to help restore the shine to its original finish.

It’s acceptable to clean antique furniture with a soap and water solution. Consider using liquid Ivory dish soap in the solution because it’s gentle on wood and your hands, but it’s tough enough to remove layers of oil and grime. Also carefully consider using varying grit sandpaper products or a sanding block to remove the blemishes and unknown substances on family heirloom or a furniture piece such as a table top, drawers, dresser, desk, antique armoire, dining table, coffee table, chairs and a sideboard.

For furniture that has been significantly damaged in certain areas, using a stripper or different strippers is a last resort because of its harsh properties and requires some skill to make it work. Following instructions carefully is key to making this work.

Use a lint-free tack cloth or dust free rag or sponge to gently massage the soapy water into all parts of the antique and then wipe the dirt away. A soft-bristled toothbrush works well to clean between tight carvings and mouldings. Once you finish cleaning the wood with soapy water, wipe everything dry with a clean, damp cloth.

Disguise Scratches

Superficial scratches can relay a sense of history and character in an antique. However, you can disguise the markings when refinishing wood if you feel the markings detract from the beauty of the furniture.

You have several options to consider when disguising scratches in wood. First, you can apply wood polish to the area and seal the scratch with a bit of similarly coloured beeswax or furniture wax. Touch-up pens for wood come in several colours, which you could use to help conceal blemishes before finishing with wax.

Other folk methods to hide superficial scratches in wood include using coffee, crayons, or cooking oil to darken or stain the color of the scratch to blend with the wood’s natural grain. The local paint store may even be able to match the color with their technology so when you stain the furniture piece with a lacquer or polyurethane liquid, it matches perfectly. However, these methods might not be the best way to refinish antique furniture, so contact an antique restorer if you need assistance with your antiques.

Fill Cracks

Your antique furniture might have a tiny nail hole or small crack that affects the piece’s overall appearance. To fix the damage, you can use wax repair sticks or fill sticks from a local hardware or paint store. Be aware that these fixes won’t work for a deep gouge, though.

Wax repair sticks are great and easy to use. Most directions tell consumers to rub the point of the stick over the hole or crack until enough pieces of the wax break off into the groove and then sand out to smooth over the finish and remove any excess wax.

However, we suggest rubbing a bit of the wax in your hands to make it more malleable. Then, use an angled dowel to gently push the warmed chunk into the groove after shaping it into the general shape of the flaw. Once enough filler wax is in the crack, buff the area gently with a soft, dry cloth. This is a good method that is simple to execute when restoring old furniture.

Remove Dents

Some antique wood furniture has dings and dents from items hitting the surface. All you need to remove a small divot in wood is a drop of water. Dents occur due to a force crushing wood fibres beneath its surface. However, water can swell those fibres back to their original positions and shapes if the liquid penetrates the wood.

You might discover a dent after applying the final layer of finish onto your antique item. However, you can still address it.

Before applying the drop of water on wood with finishing, make a few tiny slits in the ding following the grain of the wood. That way, the water will be able to penetrate the surface of the wood to reach the crushed fibres.

To see these dents better, consider using various lighting sources to highlight the shadows of the dent.

Eliminate Water Ring Marks

White rings on antique tables usually indicate prolonged water or water vapour exposure on the wood’s finish. The good news about white rings is that the damage is with the finish, not the wood itself. However, the marks are like a stain and can be tricky to remove.

One way to eliminate a water ring on an antique’s finish is to coat the defect with a generous application of petroleum jelly with a brush and keep it there overnight. Petroleum jelly is full of oil, penetrating the finish and reducing a white water ring’s appearance if it doesn’t remove it entirely.

Another trick is to warm a bit of olive oil mixed with one-fourth part paraffin wax. Use a clean, lint-free cloth to massage the mixture into the unsightly mark and leave the oil on it for several hours. Repeat the step until the spot dissipates.

Get Rid of Old Paint

It’s not unusual for old furniture to have paint splatters, especially if the item gets passed down through the family. You don’t have to paint the antique entirely to cover the blemish. Instead, you can use a simple method to strip the paint without damaging the old wood finish.

You’ll need a plain straightedge razor with a bit of masking or painting tape around both corners for this job. The tape keeps the blade off the surface of the wood. Bend the razer’s edge slightly and gently push it perpendicularly to scrape up the old paint without harming the antique.

Do you want to learn more about antique furniture updates? Be sure to reach out to our team for more details.

Apply a New Finish

Before completing your antique refinishing project, you’ll need to renew its shine and beauty with a wipe-on finish with a varnish. Any wipe-on finish will get the job done as long as its formula is durable enough to protect the wood without sacrificing shine and sheen. You may want to apply multiple applications or coats with light sanding with a high number grit sandpaper product in between to ensure adhesion and match colors or ensure a consistent look.

The best way to refinish antique furniture is to seek antique furniture repair by Brilho Luxury Cleaning & Services. Call our experts at 416-923-3300 or email [email protected] to learn more about our service and schedule an appointment with us today. We guarantee exceptional results in refinishing furniture.