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How to Change the Color of Wood

Updated February 21, 2017

You may have a piece of furniture that you adore. But perhaps the colour does not suit you as well as it did at the time of purchase. You may have made a change to room decor that requires changing the colour of your wood furniture. Or you may have purchased unstained, unfinished wood chairs or tables, as a blank slate for your creative spirit. In any case, changing the colour of wood is a step-by-step process.

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  1. Strip the wood. If your wood is lacquered or finished with shellac, alcohol or lacquer remover will strip it. If it is painted or varnished, use varnish remover. (If the wood is unfinished, you can start by applying pre-stain wood conditioner.) In either case, working in small sections (3' x 3' or so), apply the stripping solvent with a brush. For lacquer remover, wait 5 to 10 seconds, then wipe off the remover with a cloth. For varnish remover, wait 30 to 40 minutes, then remove the product with water and dry the wood with an absorbent cloth. Repeat this process until all the old finish is removed.

  2. Dip steel wool in lacquer thinner and scrape down the wood in the direction of the grain. If you used varnish remover, you do not need to dip the steel wool in lacquer thinner.

  3. Sand down the wood with fine-grit sandpaper.

  4. Remove any sanding debris with tack cloth.

  5. Apply a pre-stain wood conditioner with a paintbrush, according to package directions. Follow the grain of the wood during the pre-staining or staining process. Pre-stain conditioner helps even unfinished wood to better absorb staining product

  6. Give the pre-stain time to dry. Consult product directions, but 10 to 20 minutes will usually suffice.

  7. Sand down the wood with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any raised grain.

  8. Wipe away any sanding debris with a tack cloth.

  9. Apply wood stain in the direction of the grain with a paintbrush. Let it sit for three minutes. Some products may require a longer initial staining period. Consult the instructions that come with your wood stain for product-specific directions.

  10. Wipe off excess stain that has not penetrated the wood with a cloth or rag.

  11. Apply a commercial sanding sealer with a paintbrush and let it dry for one to two hours.

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Things You'll Need

  • Alcohol or lacquer thinner
  • Paint and varnish remover
  • Cloth
  • Steel wool
  • Pre-stain wood conditioner
  • Paintbrushes
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood stain
  • Commercial sanding sealer

About the Author

D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.

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