How To Varnish Wood Furniture

I know some of us at Apartment Therapy have strong views on painting wooden furniture, particularly (gasp!) painting it white, but sometimes it’s gotta be done. The mechanism and manifestation of deterioration of metal leaf on furniture occurs both at the microscopic metal layer at the surface and in the underlying ground or size layers. The longer the tea steeps, the darker it will be, so gauge steeping time to match the shade of the furniture that needs a fix. It may seem time consuming and labor intensive but remember a quick spray primer and a rub on protectant are the fastest steps, it’s the repair and painting processes that take the most time. With a close-grained wood like beech, you’re probably okay with three or four coats. To stand up to the elements outdoors, furniture needs to be made using waterproof glue and exterior finishes.

In boat varnishing some people use a two part epoxy or polyurethane to get the build and depth with a product mentioned above or something like this () A bit of caution, if the piece will be outside use an exterior grade product. Other books such as Flexner on Finishing and Wood Finishing 101, plus hundreds of magazine articles, followed. Put on safety goggles and a painter’s mash, and sand away the old varnish with 180-grit sandpaper. Another solution for a scratch mark in wood is to paint” the scratch with a brown felt-tipped marker. I needed this gun 3 weeks ago when it took me 4 days to get the latex paint off an old sewing craft table.

Rafflecopter wouldn’t let me leave my comment… but I would totally use this on my kitchen table and several other pieces of furniture I have sitting in my garage waiting for the day I feel energetic enough to strip the paint off lol. When the wood is dry, if there’s still a scratch, get another cotton swab, this time soaked in a mix of turpentine and olive oil to trace it.

There are many other brands of outdoor oil-based varnish, but the ingredients list is usually much more revealing than the words on the front of the can. The spar varnish I’ve been using recommends at least three coats 8hrs apart for outdoor use, I would recommend at least that many for a lasting finish. 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. I bought this particular piece because of its classic lines and solid wood construction, but many would pass it up due to the surface damage.

The perfect example of this is shellac, which is widely used in furniture conservation because it is very stable and remains reversible for long periods of time. Basically, a flexible varnish is best for paintings because they allow the support of your painting (wood, canvas, or paper) to expand and contract (due to changes in humidity or temperature) without cracking. As the final step in furniture making, finishing has a long tradition, and the more that is known of it’s history, the better finish problems can be dealt with.


It’s tempting to pick up old chairs and tables at yard sales for use in the garden, but we’ve all seen what happens to them after a few seasons if they aren’t properly treated to withstand the elements. Methods for removing unbound dirt and grime from the surface of a coating are similar to cleaning procedures for wood surfaces with the additional consideration that coatings can be physically or chemically more fragile than wood. Nothing worse than spending 2 weeks painting a tiny little desk, only to realize that you forgot primer and the whole project was a waste! The oil-based primer is what will prevent stains from the wood or previous varnishes from seeping through.

After you’ve used the coarse sandpaper, go over everything again with the medium grade paper, this time working with the direction of the wood grain. In addition to existing literature, dozens of conservators and other scholars are continuing to prepare articles, monographs and books on the subject of furniture coatings. I followed your instructions for my first project-two upholstered chairs with caned sides. Most spar/marine varnishes will contain other important additives, such as UV blockers, that give the wood that extra bit of protection it needs in harsh conditions.

Varnish is more of a top-coat, so as long as you get it all off, your wood should be pretty much fresh for using the oil. This often occurs during the change of seasons or if a piece of furniture is moved from a very dry location, like Phoenix, to a much more humid locale, like Miami, or vice versa. M. You touched on two things I don’t know a whole lot about: pressure treated wood and paint.

Gently rub the wax over the surface of the furniture until it’s completely coated. The Wagner meter, highly acclaimed for its accuracy, comes with a special attachment that the kiln operator can slide into the center of the wood bundles before they are placed in the onsite drying kilns. I am first and foremost a die hard wood lover.” I believe in treating it with love and respect and doing what I can to enhance the beauty of a piece, especially older pieces that are constructed of wood we just don’t see much any more in new, affordable furniture…walnut, cherry, mahogany, teak, rosewood.

Bonding primers don’t require sanding, even if your piece is heavily varnished, but I do find giving the furniture a good scuffing with a medium (80 grit) sanding wedge not only helps clean off any debris, but gives your primer a great surface to cling too. I’m thinking of repainting my childhood furniture though, which is in my daughter’s room, and I’d LOVE to be able to use latex on it. I treated the rest of the wood trim in the house with coats of amber and clear shellac. You can still see the varnished bench underneath one coat of paint, and from what the ladies over at Tattered Tiques told me this is normal.

Oh, yeah, I have a bedroom suit and some end tables I need to do. This would be great! As already stated, one of the benefits of applying a wood finish is its protection against moisture and humidity. To help woodworkers better understand wood finishes and some of the issues surrounding their applications, Flexner commented on some of the wood finishing basics. On varnished furniture, you can opt for a clear wax or an amber-colored wax, recommended on dark pieces of furniture. I’m not a big fan of water-based finishes for direct outdoor sun and water exposure, but if the look is important, you may have no choice.

First aid for a scratch in dark wood is just like first aid for a scratched finger: Break out the iodine. The conservation treatment of damaged furniture finishes is a relatively new discipline, and it is likely that much of the framework discussed for such treatments will be superceded by new techniques and approaches in relatively short order. Wipe the furniture down with a slightly damp cloth to remove any excess debris. I’m planning to use Epifanes Clear Varnish to finish an outdoor bench made by Western Red Cedar. If your scratched wooden furniture has a dark stain, use instant coffee to cover the scratch.