RETURN TO FURNITURE ARTICLES
FURNITURE TIPS AND TRICKS
Refinishing furniture is neither a science or an art form, but a combination of the two. Knowledge of the materials used and how they interact is necessary, along with a sense of esthetics to use this knowledge to produce a pleasing appearance. If the piece has no mechanical faults to consider, your only concern is appearance, ease of application, and durability. Its appearance well talk about this time, specifically color.
On a piece with a clear finish, color is sometimes predetermined by the wood itself. Species such as cherry, walnut and mahogany have a definite color of their own which most people find pleasing. When it comes to maple, pine, and oak, however, the variations in color can be almost limitless.
There are a number of companies that make wood stains, among them Minwax, Zar and Carver-Tripp, to mention some of the more generally available. When choosing a stain, most companies offer color prints or actual wood samples to show you what the stain looks like after application. If you look at actual wood samples, try to find a sample showing the same species of wood as in your furniture. The choice here can be difficult. A painted piece the wrong color can be repainted; its not as easy to alter a stain thats wrong, so you must choose carefully. It is much wiser to apply a stain that may be a little too light; you can usually apply another coat to darken it. Its not as easy to lighten a piece thats too dark. One personal note here: there are brush-on products on the market that try to combine the stain and finish in one application. I suggest you avoid them. It is very difficult to avoid winding up with a "streaky" color, especially if the pigment is medium to dark. Aerosols combing finish and color are suggested instead, but theyre usually harder to find. It takes longer to stain and then apply a finish, but it beats having to strip a piece (the second time) because it didnt turn out right.
Dont shoot for the impossible. If the piece is walnut, dont try to make it match a blonde oak piece - it just isnt going to happen. After the piece is stripped and cleaned, wipe the top down with lacquer thinner or paint thinner; get the surface wet. This is the color the piece will be if you apply a clear finish without any stain at all. You can accent this color; make it more brown, more red, etc., but you probably wont be able to change it a lot (with just a stain). Maple is especially difficult to stain. Most of the deep reddish brown finishes you see on maple are not stains, as we use the term here - they are shading lacquers (lacquer finish coats with color) applied on the wood - not in it. When you strip off the finish, off comes the color.
Youll often see the suggestion to try the stain in an "inconspicuous" place first. Thats usually more easily said than done. On a veneered piece, all the veneer shows. Applying the stain to the underside of a drawer wont show you what it will look like on the veneer. My suggestion would be to try the stain on the bottom edge of the side, preferably the side that will show the least after the piece is in place. As always, follow the manufacturers directions...they know their product better than you do.
Next time, well take a basic look at color in general. If you have any furniture related questions, drop me a line at the Enterprise, or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
George Utley has about 20 years experience in furniture