How to Refinish Pine Furniture


Pine is considered a soft wood by composition. When used in furniture, you want to give it a very hard protective finish so it will endure normal wear and use. By painting it or giving it a topcoat of varnish or polyurethane, you will best accomplish this. The most important technique to refinishing a previously finished piece of pine furniture is to properly prepare the surface.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper (80, 120 and 220 grit)
  • Steel wool (00 and 0000)
  • Tack cloths
  • Paint or polyurethane
  • Paintbrushes
  • Putty knife
  • Soap and water for cleaning
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Dust or debris brush
  • Rope sander
  • Scraping tools

Paint and Polyurethane Preparation

  • Use a commercial stripper to remove the old paint or varnish. Spread the stripping agent on with a brush or wipe it on with a clean rag. Then wait for the chemical action to work.

  • Scrape or wipe away the old finish and residue with a putty knife or rag.

  • Repeat the chemical stripping steps until all the old paint and varnish is removed.

  • Wash the furniture with soap (dishwashing liquid) and water.

  • Rinse the piece thoroughly and allow to dry completely. The grain will be raised after being exposed to water giving it a rough texture. You will then begin a series of sanding or abrasion steps.

Creating a Smooth Sanded Surface

  • Sand the entire exposed surface of the piece with an 80-grit sandpaper. Use a rope sander or scraping tools if necessary to remove troublesome areas of raised grain.

  • Brush away the dust and debris.

  • Repeat the sanding steps using a 120- or 180-grit sandpaper.

  • Repeat the sanding steps using a 220-grit sandpaper.

  • Brush and vacuum away all debris and dust.

Final Painting Steps

  • Use a double-ought (00) section of steel wool and rub the entire surface smooth.

  • Wipe the surface thoroughly with a tack cloth.

  • Apply a quality primer coat before painting.

  • Allow the piece time to dry before painting.

  • Paint with a smoothly brushed coat of enamel or flat paint in a color to your liking. Apply a second coat if desired after the first coat dries.

Final Polyurethane Steps

  • Use a double-ought (00) section of steel wool and rub the entire surface smooth.

  • Wipe the surface thoroughly with a tack cloth.

  • Apply your first coat of polyurethane.

  • Rub the entire surface with a section of quadruple-ought (0000) steel wool after the first coat dries. This puts tiny scratches into the surface to which the polyurethane will adhere. Remove the dust and wipe with a fresh tack cloth.

  • Apply your second coat of polyurethane.

Apply a Third Coat of Polyurethane

  • Use quadruple-ought (0000) steel wool and completely rub the surface again if a third coat is necessary to give you a perfect gloss or matte finish.

  • Apply your third coat of polyurethane finish.

  • Let your furniture dry thoroughly before using it.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can easily make your own tack cloths. Soak cheesecloth in turpentine and wring it out. Add enough varnish to give it an adherent quality. That's all there is to it and it will be cheaper than buying tack cloths already prepared. You can preserve tables and desks using only wood wax. Follow the first steel wool step (00) with the second steel wool step (0000). Rub vigorously with bowling alley wax to bring out a shine. For standing pieces (chests, cupboards and bookshelves), you can liberally apply wood oil several times so it soaks into the surface. Use food-safe or edible oil if the piece will be used in the kitchen for food preparation. Always use fresh paint or polyurethane on furniture. Always stir and do not shake paint and polyurethane.
  • Follow the chemical stripper manufacturer's instructions and practice any recommended safety precautions such as wearing gloves and eye protection.

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  • The Furniture Doctor; George Grotz; 1962
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