How to refinish old pine furniture

Written by linda stamberger
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How to refinish old pine furniture
Pine is easy to cut and shape but challenging to refinish. (pine wood background image by stefanie van der vinden from

Pine tends to gradually lose moisture, leaving a dull finish that makes furniture look old before its time. Refinishing can restore pine furniture to its former glory. Creating a smooth, even finish on pine can be challenging unless you know the tricks of the trade. Consult an appraiser before working on furniture that may be more than 50 years old. Altering an original finish on an antique or vintage piece may reduce its value.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tarp
  • Phillips or flathead screwdriver
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps (optional)
  • Disposable rubber gloves
  • Dust mask or respirator
  • No-wash chemical paint stripper
  • 2 clean coffee cans
  • 3 paintbrushes (one with natural bristles)
  • Putty knife
  • Nylon abrasive pad
  • Clean cotton rags or cheesecloth
  • Wood filler
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood conditioner
  • Water-based wood stain
  • Non-yellowing varnish
  • 0000 steel wool

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  1. 1

    Lay out a tarp to protect the floor or work surface. Open all windows or doors and use fans to provide adequate ventilation (see Tips).

  2. 2

    Pull out any drawers and set them aside. Take off any doors by removing the screws holding the hinges. Remove any hardware, such as knobs or handles. Typically, this means removing screws inside the drawers or doors. Fill any loose joints with glue and clamp in place overnight.

  3. 3

    Put on rubber gloves and a dust mask or respirator. Pour a generous amount of no-wash chemical stripper into a clean coffee can. Paint the stripper onto the pine surface, covering one small, manageable section at a time. Work the stripper into any crevices or detailed areas. Wait 15 minutes, or as directed by the manufacturer.

  4. 4

    Scrape the surface with a putty knife while following the grain of the wood. Discard the dissolved finish in a separate coffee can. Scrub any dissolved finish from the nooks and crannies with an abrasive pad. Wipe down all surfaces with clean rags.

  5. 5

    Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for all remaining sections, drawers or doors. Let the dissolved finish completely dry in the coffee can, and then add the dirty rags. Consult the stripper label for disposal instructions.

  6. 6

    Seal any gouges, pits or hairline cracks with wood filler. Allow the filler to dry for six to eight hours. Carefully sand the repairs. Wipe down the piece with tack cloth to remove any sanding dust.

  7. 7

    Put on rubber gloves and a dust mask once more. Apply a coat of wood conditioner to the entire piece, using a clean paintbrush. The conditioner partially seals the pine and controls the penetration of the stain to create even colouration.

  8. 8

    Stir the stain thoroughly, and then paint it on all surfaces, using a natural-bristle paintbrush. Wipe off the excess stain with a clean rag. Work in the direction of the grain to apply and remove the stain.

  9. 9

    Turn off any fans and dust the work area. Wipe down the pine with a clean tack cloth. Let the dust settle for an hour.

  10. 10

    Stir the varnish gently, taking care not to create bubbles. Brush an even coat of varnish onto all surfaces. Start by brushing diagonally, and then lightly drag the brush across the surface in the direction of the grain. Let the varnish dry for 24 hours.

  11. 11

    Sand the finish lightly. Wipe away the dust with a clean tack cloth. Apply a second coat of varnish.

  12. 12

    Rub the entire surface with 0000 steel wool, and then wipe down the piece with a clean, dry cloth. Replace any hardware, such as the knobs, handles, doors or drawers.

Tips and warnings

  • "Proper ventilation" means chemical odours should smell no stronger than they would if you were working outside.
  • Work in small sections. Do not allow the stripper to dry on the finish.
  • Pine is a soft wood. To avoid cross-grain scratches, always scrape, scrub and sand in the direction of the wood grain.

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