How to varnish wood furniture

Written by laure justice Google
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How to varnish wood furniture
Varnished wood chair with a shiny finish. (chair image by hazel proudlove from

Varnishing wood furniture serves both practical and cosmetic functions. Varnish protects the wood by coating the surface of the wood, creating a smooth finish. Though applying canned varnish with a brush is the least wasteful option, spraying varnish onto wood furniture is faster. Sprayed varnish also provides the smoothest finish possible by avoiding brush strokes on large wooden areas, like tabletops. Just make sure you wear protective gear and work in a well-ventilated, but dust-free, area.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Face mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Medium grit sandpaper
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Clean, soft cloth
  • Varnish, in a spray can

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  1. 1

    Put on the mask and goggles.

  2. 2

    Sand the wood surface with the medium grit sandpaper, using short, rapid strokes that follow the wood grain. Remove any large spots that are rough or cracking.

  3. 3

    Sand the wood again, using the fine grit sandpaper and still following the grain of the wood.

  4. 4

    Remove the sanding dust left behind on the wood by wiping the surface with the cloth.

  5. 5

    Shake the spray can thoroughly. Hold the can at a 90-degree angle eight inches away from the wood surface, point the nozzle at the wood furniture, and press down on the nozzle. Keep your arm moving at a moderate pace, using a smooth side to side motion as you spray. Avoid stopping in the centre of wood sections to prevent runs in the varnish. If, for example, you are spraying a table leg, spray the length of the leg in one long sweep.

Tips and warnings

  • Large pieces of furniture will require more than one can of spray varnish. Check the can's label to get estimates of coverage area.
  • Spray the piece, beginning at the top, and working your way down. If you get a run, wipe it off when it reaches the unvarnished part of the furniture.
  • Varnish can also be sprayed through an air gun powered by an air compressor, but this is a professional technique that requires advanced spray painting skills.

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