How to Condition Wood Furniture Instead of Having to Refinish It - DIY


I paint furniture but I have to admit I'm a purist when it comes to true antique pieces. I can't seem to bring myself to paint them and most of the time I don't even want to strip and stain them. I like patina on wood and that only comes with age and years of use. I love the story it tells. The dents, dings, and scratches. The wear and tear. All of those are part of the story. Last year we bought 4 pieces of late 1800s furniture. Every piece was faded and had its own share of scratches and dings. I knew I didn't want to lose the patina, so I researched until I found a solution I could live with.
Here is a close up of one of the tables. It had the most sun damage.
This is a before picture of my late 1800s lamp tables. You can see the darker area where the lamp sat was protected from sunlight.
I used a restoring product that is similar to stain. It comes in a variety of colors and you should choose the color that best matches the existing finish. Apply it and then wipe off 2-3 minutes later. It covers sun fade, water marks, white rings, and many other things. This is what the top looked like immediately after wiping off the restoring product. The directions say to wait 30 minutes before moving onto the next step.
I waited 30 minutes then applied a gel-based citrus wood conditioner and allowed it to sit for 20 minutes or so before wiping off the excess and then buffing with a clean rag. The darker area remained which I knew would, but faded area blended much better!
Love the luster! I used these products on these tables in February 2015 (a full year ago) and the finish held up well for 10 months or so. I probably should have used the wood conditioner again every few months, but life was busy and I never got around to it.
A champagne bucket hides the darker area where the lamp had sat before. For more pictures and product information visit: http://www.thetatteredrabbit.com/how-to-condition-wood/

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 10 questions
  • Cbe33697115
    on Oct 13, 2018

    what if it has inlays?

  • Marcia
    on Sep 5, 2019

    I inherited these exact tables, but my mom had glass inserts made for the tops. They are in excellent condition for their age. I've washed them and scrubbed the carvings with a toothbrush but still there is "stuff' in the crevices which I'll use a high pressure steamer to remove. Anyway, do you have any information about the maker of these pieces, or any other info you can share? My mom bought these tables in Chicago before I was born in 1959. Where did you find yours? I am considering white washing these pieces also, but always hesitate to do so when something is so well preserved. Any opinions on that?

    • Dawn Bienias - Weitz
      on Feb 15, 2020

      I have the exact set of tables from my grandmother and do t know what to do with them? They are not my style and I have NO idea of their worth?

  • Brocho
    on Sep 17, 2019

    Really beautiful! I got a free used upright piano that needed a good cleaning, but was over zealous in my endeavor. This may be the trick to bring back it’s beauty. If you can, can you post a picture of the products you used, or at least post a full description, brand and name? It takes the guessing out of the ratio. If I want to do it right, I prefer to know the full details. Thank you.

Join the conversation

2 of 32 comments
  • Tdoo
    on Jul 29, 2017

    I have a beautiful antique bed. The footboard is faded. Have not known how to address this till now. Thank you for this post. The bed is a Pulaski piece and I adore it.
  • Aiokersonalicea1
    on Jun 9, 2018

    They are gorgeous! I love old furniture left in the original finish. I will definitely be passing this on to someone who has a dining room in much need of TLC. Thank you for posting.

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