Breathing new life into an old piece of furniture is not only an inexpensive way to add style and creative flair to your home, but an enjoyable and artistic endeavor in itself. Although restoring antique furniture can be time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be complicated. So long as you follow our simple 5-step process, you’ll have your antiques looking back in vogue without any hassle.

Determine the Current Finish

Before you begin to restore a piece of antique furniture, it’s important that you first identify the current finish on the materials used.

To determine the finish, begin by adding denatured alcohol to the surface. If the finish comes off, you’re probably dealing with shellac coating. If it takes lacquer thinner to remove the finish, it’ll be lacquer, and if neither one of these removers works, you’re most likely dealing with a varnish. Other finishes such as oil or wax can be determined by their lack of shine.

2. Start Cleaning

In many cases, old pieces of furniture can be brought back to life with a simple scrub, so cleaning is always a good place to start when it comes to restoration. The methods described below are best suited to wooden pieces, including rattan and wicker.

Begin by using an oil-based wood cleaner to dissolve layers of dirt and wax. If that doesn’t work, try using a mixture of warm water and liquid detergent, applying it with a cloth and ensuring not to soak the wood too much. Once finished, rinse the area and dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth.

If your wood still isn’t clean enough, you may wish to resort to solvent cleaning using a substance like mineral spirits, denatured alcohol or turpentine.

3. Reamalgamation

Sometimes older finishes can develop cracks in their surfaces – a blemish that can be fixed via a process called amalgamation which uses solvents to buff out any imperfections.

To begin, clean your selected piece using the tips above. Next, choose your solvent and apply it using a bristle brush, brushing quickly before the solvent starts to dry. Once you’ve applied enough solvent, let it dry and then buff your piece with steel wool, rubbing in the direction of the grain of your wood.

4. Stripping the Finish

If your piece of furniture needs refinishing, you’ll have to strip away any existing finish before you start. Begin by working your chosen stripping formula into the furniture, waiting 5-20 minutes before scraping the surface with a stripping tool.

After you’ve managed to remove most of the finish (around 95%), start using a liquid stripper to remove any remaining coating. Apply your stripper using a natural bristle paint brush, allowing it to sit for a few minutes before removing the finish with steel wool. Rinse once more with clean stripper to remove any excess finish or paint.

5. Refinishing Your Furniture

Now that you’ve cleaned up your furniture and removed any existing coating, it’s time to refinish it. Start by sanding your piece down with 100-120 grit sandpaper before vacuuming and wiping the surface with a tack cloth to remove any residual particles.

Then select your finish and apply it with a natural bristle brush, allowing it to sit for 5 minutes before wiping away any excess. Apply a sanding sealer and leave your piece to sit overnight.

The next day, sand down your furniture with 220-grit sandpaper before applying additional layers of finish. Once you’re done, wipe away any excess and ensure your finish is completely dry before you bring your newly-restored piece of furniture into your living space.

Get in Touch

Whether you’re looking for furniture upholstery or restoration to match your home decor, we’re the experts. Ask us for a quotation and one of our friendly staff members will come and help you to decide which restoration options are most suited to your preferences.



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