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    How to Revive an Old Furniture Finish

    Stripping and refinishing a piece of furniture is a nasty job. Harsh chemicals, hours of tough work, and no guarantee of the outcome mean that perhaps refinishing should be used as a last resort for hopeless pieces. Case in point: the chest of drawers in my bedroom. Built in the 1930's, my humble mahogany chest has been scratched, dinged, and just generally abused over the course of the past eight decades, but the finish isn't so far gone as to require a complete stripping down to the bare wood.

    Most of the factory-made furniture built in the 20th century was finished using lacquer. You can test your own pieces by rubbing a bit of lacquer thinner on an unobtrusive area. If the finish comes away, you're dealing with lacquer.If it doesn't, try the same test using denatured alcohol. If the finish rubs away in this case, you've got a shellac finish. In either case, here's a simple way to rejuvenate a worn out furniture finish. This is a tried-and-true method practiced by finishing pro Jeff Jewitt.

    Remove Wax and Grease

    Paint thinner removes residual wax polish.

    Remove paste wax with mineral spiritsBegin by removing any loose dust on the surface. Next, use a textured rag such as terrycloth to remove any built-up wax or lemon oil. Jewitt dips the cloth in mineral spirits and then rubs the surface in small circles, paying special attention to small crevices and corners that often contain lots of built up wax and grime. Don't forget to remove drawer hardware and other items that might get in the way during the rejunvenation process.


    Clean the Surface

    No need for specialized cleaners. Dish detergent does the trick.

    Clean old furniture using dish detergentWith the accumulated wax removed, now you can get down to actually cleaning the surface of your furniture. Dilute about 1/2-oz. of dish detergent in a pint of lukewarm water. Dish detergent usually contains grease-cutting chemicals known as surfactants that do a great job of cutting through grime. Just be sure to wring out your cloth well (you don't want a dripping wet rag) and change the cloth frequently. When you're done, wipe the surface one more time, using some distilled water to remove any soap residue.

    Sand it Smooth

    Level the surface with a light sanding.

    Sanding a lacquer or shellac finishReviving a shellac or lacquer-based finish is much easier than working on an oil finish, becuase you don't have to add any finish. It's a lot easier to level what is already there than to try brushing on a new, level coat. Once you've completed the cleaning process, dry-sand the finish lightly with P600-grit stearated sandpaper. If the finish is slightly crazed (rough and cracked), you might try sanding it back as much as you can without sanding through the stain to the bare wood. Be careful however, older pieces like my chest of drawers are often built using veneer, which is easy to sand through!

    Retouch Missing Color

    Mix your own custom colors for perfect touch-ups.

    Use furniture pigments to mix a custom shellac for touch-upsIf the piece was originally dyed or stained, you may have to retouch scrapes and dings with new color. Jewitt mixes dry furniture pigments with a dewaxed shellac called SealCoat (available at most hardware stores). The edges of a piece are often the most worn. Jewitt mixes the pigment with shellac and then uses a number 4 artist's brush to lay it on over heavily worn areas. The alcohol-based shellac will dry super-fast, allowing you to proceed to the next step within about an hour.

    Finish with Wax

    Add color and luster with a tinted paste wax.

    waxing furnitureThe final step in the process is wax. Be sure to use a tinted wax (in this case dark brown) that blends with the piece's natural color. Apply a coat of paste wax, allow it to glaze over (about 2 minutes), and then buff it clean. The wax will leave a bit of luster to the furniture.


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    steve irvin writes: I am extremely happy with all your tips to this beautiful old furniture revive. I have read many articles from catchyreviews on how to take care of old furniture. But this blog is simply remarkable in providing the tips.
    Wilson Lauren writes: Old furniture pieces have to be maintained properly, otherwise it would be impossible to restore these. Like furniture you also need to take good care of your house, to keep it protected you should use elevated decking components available at http://elevateddecksystems.com/.
    charles mayer writes: Got this french doors bay area style at http://caldwells.com/ for more than 2 years, now some parts are chipping off because of frequent use and kids slamming and horse-playing.. I came up with similar reviving solution, using sanding machine and coat finishing,, now the door even more look brand new.
    Wilson Lauren writes: Those who love to have heritage furniture in their homes they should follow this tutorial and learn the tricks to keep their furniture beautiful for years. However, not everyone can invest time and money required for maintenance of such furniture, so they should rather opt for modern furniture.
    Wilson Lauren writes: This is indeed a great project for those who love old furniture, they can now add a new shine to their favorite furniture pieces. Furniture making is a hobby of many just like gardening. If you have a garden you need to keep it neat and clean. If you have big trees around then you need to contact a tree care company like Grandiflora Services, which is accessible online at http://www.grandifloraservices.com/.
    adora deny writes: It is great that you know how to revive an ancient furniture. Some homeowners, because they don't know these techniques, prefer to throw away the unnecessary furniture and buy other pieces, for instance, from http://www.hummerswholesale.com/Garden-Furniture-Vancouver-WA.html. They could learn some useful things from your blog and to use these ideas when they really want to save some old furniture pieces.
    Wilson Lauren writes: Having such classy old furniture in home means you have to invest time and hard work for furniture maintenance. Now such wooden furniture could be bought online, not just home furniture but you can also find special items like library furniture online at Moduform.
    Sophie Horne writes: Thank you for providing this quality article! These tips are very useful not only for reviving old furniture but also for keeping modern offices like those from http://mtimodtech.com/office.html like new. It is very difficult to maintain furniture like new but if you use the correct products you can easily do it.
    Wilson Lauren writes: Such old furniture pieces are hard to revive but with this tutorial people would be able to do this. Just like furniture old houses could be revived too, you can renovate it and make the necessary changes. Now the construction companies can find their equipment online from places like http://www.proservanchor.com/ which offers overhead crane parts.
    Sophie Ladal writes: A great technique I tried on the table which is well dull, thanks Sophie on locationvoitureguadeloupe.xyz
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    Kamilla111 Kamilla111 writes: This is a very good post which I really enjoy reading. It is not every day that I have the possibility to see something like this.
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