Asked on Feb 4, 2012

restoring a 75 year old buffet...

Trevor OKMS WoodworksPeace Painting Co., Inc.


I am in the early stages of restoring an old buffet that we have acquired. Does anyone have any ideas on how to easily get rid of the old finish and stain??? Thanks in advance. I will try to post some pictures soon.
5 answers
  • Removal of older finishes can be a bit tedious at best. With older furniture you must consider that many times they used veneers over solid wood to make the panels look like a single sheet of lumber. The trick with this type of construction is not to loosen up any of the edges or sand through these thin sheets of wood. Before you even begin, look over the entire buffet for any loose parts or veneers. If you find any, you should be considering those repairs before you even begin. You do not want to get any stripper under or between the layers of wood or joints. Also you need to know where things are loose so you do not catch the edges with any scraper or cleanup rag while removal of the paint stripper takes place. Here s a good DIY link on doing this type of project.

  • Peace Painting Co., Inc.
    on Feb 4, 2012

    The only thing that takes off varnish and stain is heavy duty paste stripper. Follow that with denatured alcohol to remove the leftover sludge. Then you are ready to nuetralize the stripper vapors with a 20-25% vinegar solution worked into the wood. A light sanding will finish it up. Messy business it is. Invest in a respirator. Best, Charles

  • Trevor O
    on Feb 4, 2012

    Thank you gentlemen for both of your responses. I will look further into both of them.

  • KMS Woodworks
    on Feb 5, 2012

    At 70 years old the painted surface may contain you will need to address that too. As far as stains and "varnishes" many older pieces I've worked on were finished with Shellac. This can be somewhat easily removed using alcohol. It will help you to know what type of finish is present. When I refinished this 1860's era drop front desk I did a few back to back Strips with simple cotton rags soaked in ethanol. In my case the woods were solid Mahogany and Mahogany veneers so no stain was present...once the old finish was removed I used a wiping poly to protect it for the future. I know that the old natural "patina" of some old pieces adds the the value of the piece...but in our case we actually use this piece of furniture and some of the finish damage was just too unsightly.

    q restoring a 75 year old buffet, painted furniture, 1860 drop front desk
    • Cheryle Fuller
      on Feb 3, 2016

      @KMS Woodworks Tougue oil is amazing, and if it ever wears, all you have to do is reapply with just your hands even. i would prefer that to a poly anything. This piece looks a little older than you said, and crotch mahogany is gorgeous!

  • Trevor O
    on Feb 5, 2012

    Thanks KMS. I am not thinking that this piece is as old as your roll top desk. The wood on the sides is veneered, ans some is peeling away. So I will be addressing that issue first. Thank you.

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