Patricia
Patricia
  • Hometalker
  • Lebanon, OH

Refurbish Wood Furniture Without Sanding or Stripping

6 Materials
$15
1 Hour
Easy

Today I am sharing an easy method to refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping the old finish. The dresser I am working on is from the early 1900's and is in very rough shape.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

I eventually plan to paint this piece, but while I was working on repairs I thought it would be a good project to demonstrate how to refurbish the wood top in case you prefer a stained wood finish instead of paint. If you have a piece that is valuable then it is best to have it professionally restored, so do some research first. But a professional restoration can be expensive, so if you need an easy fix then this method might work for you.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

As you can see in the photo above the finish on the top of the dresser is in poor condition. First I cleaned the top with soap and water to make sure it was free of dirt and oils.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

For this project and for best results I recommend using a gel stain. Find a color that best matches the piece you are working on. For my dresser I used  General Finishes Antique Walnut Gel Stain (affiliate). Before you jump in you might want to test the stain in an inconspicuous area first. The stain is easy to work with, but to be safe I put a drop cloth underneath the dresser to protect my floor.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

I used a disposable foam brush to apply the gel stain and spread it over the entire top of the dresser.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

After I spread the stain over the entire surface, I wiped away the excess stain with a blue shop towel (folded in quarters). The shop towels are disposable, absorbent, and basically lint free so they work well for this project. I wear disposable gloves for this part of the project. The gel stain isn't as messy as other stains, but it's best to protect your hands.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

Sweep the shop towel across the piece following the pattern of the wood grain. Refold the towel when it becomes saturated. I keep a roll of towels nearby in case I need more.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

Wipe on, wipe off. It's that easy! Here it is above after one coat.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

I can still detect hints of a couple of water rings, although I don't think it's too noticeable. A second application of stain would make it even less noticeable. But I plan to paint this piece, so I will leave it with one coat.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

If you don't plan to paint then once you are satisfied with the finish it can be sealed to assure a lasting finish. I typically use GF High Performance Top Coat in either the flat or satin finish. Let the stain dry thoroughly (at least 24 hours) before applying the sealant coat. I usually apply 2-3 top coats with a foam brush (let dry between coats). For the smoothest finish you can lightly sand in between coats.

refurbish wood furniture without sanding or stripping

The restored finish looks pretty darn good, so you might be wondering why I plan to paint the dresser. First, because I am a furniture painter, but secondly because there is significant damage to the wood veneer on the front of the dresser. But don't worry it looks beautiful with its painted finish which if you're interested you can see HERE.

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Patricia

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 21 questions
  • Linda
    on Feb 14, 2019

    I have a large buffet in excellent condition but it is light honey colored from the 60's. I would like to darken it without sanding. Would gel stain work?

    • Patricia
      on Feb 14, 2019

      I have used gel stain to darken the finish of lighter wood with good results. However, there a many types of wood and finishes that react differently, so I would recommend that you visit General Finishes website as they do have some tutorials and recommendations. Also test the product first on an inconspicuous area. Good luck with your project.

  • Tamera Sellers
    on Feb 17, 2019

    The best way to get water marks off of your furniture is mayonnaise did you happen to try that or does it not work if the stain is too old??

  • Anthony
    on Apr 23, 2019

    Could you tell us how much you spent to do this product. Those towels are very expensive at Amazon.

    • Patricia
      on Apr 23, 2019

      Hi Anthony, I don't recall what I spent on the roll of towels specifically, but you could probably shop around if the online product is too expensive -- try Home Depot, Lowes, or Walmart. Alternatively, you could use a lint free rag (such as an old t-shirt) instead of the towels.

Join the conversation

3 of 50 comments
  • Queenbee
    on Dec 10, 2018

    There was pretty good damage to the veneer and it looks like there is a difference in height where the veneer is missing. I don't understand how just putting the gel stain on corrected that part of the top of the dresser. I must've missed something...

    • Patricia
      on Dec 10, 2018

      There wasn't any missing veneer on the top of the dresser (only on the drawer fronts). The finish was in rough shape with scratches, water rings, etc. The gel stain settled into the damaged areas and gave it a uniform look of color which tricks the eye. If you look closely at the after photos I think you can still see some of the previous damage, although it's not nearly as obvious as it once was. A second coat would most likely take care of that.

  • Queenbee
    on Dec 10, 2018

    Joann montez I was mistaken. Looking at the picture again it is the drawer sitting on its back that looks like the top of the dresser until u look closer and see where the drawer knob was taken off. Sorry. The gel must build up bc she said sanding in between layers, so it must fill in the missing veneer with the hell stain??? Never worked with the stuff...

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