How to strip and stain furniture

Over the past few weeks, people have asked me how I strip and stain furniture. My cousin Linda was one of them, so I took pictures with explanations and sent it to her. Because others have asked the same question, I decided to share it with you and include all my trials and tribulations along the way.

free oak dresser 1
Whether your working with a painted piece of furniture or stained, the process is pretty much the same.
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I start with this brand of stripper.  It is less toxic and has no harsh fumes.
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Apply the stripper liberally and let sit for 30-40 minutes. I usually walk away so I am not tempted to scrape before it is ready. The longer you wait, the easier it is.
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Here is where I will impart some good wisdom from past mistakes. Use a putty knife that is not dulled at the end and gently remove the paint. Make sure to keep it on a horizontal plane so you don’t put gauges in the wood (been there done that).

 

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The same applies for stained furniture when you are removing years of old stain and varnish.

 

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These type of brushes are great for intricate areas.
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The foot on this dresser is a perfect example when you should use one of the wire brushes to get into the detailed woodwork.
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I usually only put stripper on two times. I found it can dry out the wood. If there is still residue on the piece I will take very fine steel wool (any brand) with some mineral spirits and go over it to remove remaining paint or vanish. This will usually take most of it off and make it ready for sanding.
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After it is dry you can start sanding. I start with a medium sandpaper and finish with fine for a nice, smooth finish.

 

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Pre-stain is your best friend. Before I started using it, I would apply stain and sometimes it would be blotchy. I had no idea why. In cases like that, I would have to start all over. I eventually educated myself and found that wood can absorb stain unevenly. The pre-stain conditions the wood so it distributes uniformly over the entire piece. One word of advice, use this outside or in a well ventilated area. It has a very strong chemical smell.

 

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I use Minwax stains. It has always worked well for me. It comes in many different shades. One of my favorites is dark walnut. Sometimes I mix stains, but as a beginner, I used to stick to one to start. You can apply it with a foam brush or lint free cloth. When you apply stain, use even strokes following the grain. Leave it on as long as directed, then wipe off any excess stain. If you want to put on another coat, check the label to see how long it needs to dry before applying a second coat.

applying stain video

 

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I like to use a water based matte finish polyurethane as a protective final coat. It is easy to clean up and for me, easier to apply. I will be honest, I have had trouble in the past with this final step. I have had to sand a piece again because I did not like the way the polyurethane dried.  I have learned that applying with a foam brush works best for me. Make sure the brush is cleaned in between applications. Do not go over areas where you already applied the polyurethane. If it looks like you missed an area, get it on the next application. And finally lightly sand using a very fine sandpaper in between coats. 

Look for more transformation pictures in the coming weeks as I prepare for “The Purple Painted Lady Festival”!

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