Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to Finish Wood Furniture

A year and a half ago, my husband bought me a big house to fill with small people.  It was a foreclosure and while in good shape, was VERY, VERY dated.  How dated?

LOTS of brass, laminate, golden oak and this weird blue and gray back splash.  Don't be jealous.
My first major project was to get on the whole "filling it with little people" thing.  See here.  That took up most of my first year in the house.  BUT, I am recovered and not pregnant again yet so I am busting my butt to get some stuff done!
The first thing people see when they come in your house is the entry so I wanted to get mine together.  I decided I wanted a matching set of entry tables to put on each side of the front door.  Being cheap, I bought  an unfinished pair.
Luckily, my dad taught me how to finish wood furniture many years ago. Here is how he taught me to do it!
You will need: wood conditioner, stain, polyurethane, an old sock or rag, gloves and steel wool (the sanding kind not the cleaning kind)
The first step is to condition the wood.  This helps open the grain of the wood so it accepts the stain more readily and evenly.  Wearing gloves, use and old sock or a rag to rub the wood conditioner over the entire piece.  This needs to sit on for about 15 minutes and if there is any product still sitting on the surface simply wipe it off.  After you have completed this step, you must stain the surface within two hours.
Now it is time to add a little color.  To do this, I put on a glove then stick my gloved hand in an old sock.  My dad taught me to apply stain by rubbing it on and in, kind of like lotion.  Don't just slap in on there, rub it gently, wiping it on and off being sure to remove any that does not soak in as you go.  Be sure to do the entire piece, it is very hard to stop and pick it back up later without any seam lines.  When you are done, let it sit 15 minutes and wipe it with a clean rag to remove any extra you missed.  Let it dry about 8 hours.  If you want the piece darker, repeat this process.
I did two coats of Min wax in Jacobean on my tables.
Last, you will apply two coats of polyurethane.  Be sure your furniture is free of dust and apply a light coat, following the grain of the wood, using a sponge brush (I like these because they don't leave brush marks and they are disposable).  Do this in a quiet, dust free area.  DO NOT do this on a windy day with your garage door open.  You will have to steel wool the heck out of it to get it smooth before applying another coat and it will suck.  Trust me.
Polyurethane really brings out the grain in the wood.  The table on the left has one coat done while the table on the right only has stain.
Let each coat of poly dry about 8 hours before applying another.  I have heathen children so I do two coats to give a little more protection from plastic hammers and flying Lego's.  Gently rough up the surface with steel wool between coats.
Let your piece dry 24 hours after the final coat and you are done!  Buying unfinished furniture to complete yourself lets you achieve a custom piece at a fraction of the price.  I paid $80 per table plus under $20 in supplies for both.  $90 for a solid wood table in the color of my choice, not too bad in my opinion.
***Like my tables?  You can get your own here.***

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