How to Refinish and Restore Old Wood Furniture

Updated April 17, 2017

Old wood furniture is vintage or antique. Many pieces of old furniture show their age through damage, dirt or from fireplace smoke soot. This can altar the appearance of wood furniture by darkening the wood, dulling the wood, and detracting from its natural beauty. There are simple steps for refinishing old wood furniture to bring it back to original condition, and to restore the beauty and charm of a valuable or cherished piece.

Spread old newspaper around the floor if refinishing the furniture inside. Open up windows, for proper ventilation. Put on a chemical fume mask and disposable gloves. Apply a chemical stripping agent with a paintbrush. Wait five minutes, and before the stripping agent dries, take a scraping tool and scrape away top layers of old paint or varnish.

Go over surface of the wood with an electric sander. Fill in any hairline splits with wood sealant. Glue any raised sections of wood back into place with wood glue, and let dry. Go over all reglued and sealed spots after it is dry with 150 grit sandpaper. Remove wood dust with a clean paintbrush.

Apply a wood stain to the grain of the wood that is similar in colour for the restoration of an original piece of old wood furniture. A wood stain will enhance the natural colour of the wood if matched correctly and not altar it. Choose latex enamel paint for colour, and prime the wood. After the stain or paint is dry, apply two coats of waterproof and insect-repellent varnish. Let the first coat dry before applying the second coat.

Repair veneer on an old wood table by gluing down loose sections with wood glue. Replace the veneer with new veneer if there is total surface damage.

Remove old veneer with lacquer thinner. Open windows to properly ventilate, put on protective gloves and a chemical fume mask, and apply the lacquer thinner to the seam where it is attached to the surface. Take a sharp tool and lift the veneer in small sections. Continue applying lacquer thinner, and remove the rest. Get a presized piece of veneer made to fit the furniture.

Apply contact cement to the surface, and then to the underside of the new veneer. Line up the veneer and carefully place on top of the surface, making sure that the fit is precise. Press down, and scrape away any excess contact cement with a putty knife. Allow to dry, and apply a veneer sealant all around the edges.

Reglue old wood joints on chairs and small decorative tables. Take sandpaper and remove old glue from the joint. Fill in any gaps or cracks near the joint with wood sealant. Apply wood glue to the end of the piece that is inserted, and insert back into the joint. Clamp the joint, wipe off excess glue and let dry.

Things You'll Need

  • Old newspaper
  • Mask
  • Gloves
  • Chemical stripping agent
  • Paintbrush
  • Scraping tool
  • Wood sealant
  • Wood glue
  • 150 grit sandpaper
  • Wood stain
  • Latex enamel paint
  • Primer
  • Varnish
  • Veneer
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Sharp tool
  • Contact cement
  • Putty knife
  • Veneer sealant
  • Clamp


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About the Author

Linda Stamberger began writing professionally in 1994, as an entertainment reporter for "Good Times Magazine." She has written online copy for The Volusia Community website and is the author of "Antiquing in Florida." Stamberger studied creative writing at Southampton College, where she won a partial writing scholarship.