Easy How To Raw Wood Furniture Finish

10 Materials
1 Day

I've always loved the look of raw wood furniture and the charm of the farmhouse feel. With sandpaper and a little elbow grease, you can turn your antiques pieces into a style you can incorporate into your modern farmhouse and preserve the natural beauty without painting. Read on...

It's been 38 year since my Mom purchased this for me. I was 16 years old at the time and the furniture bug had already bit me hard. I begged Mom to buy this for me. I'm sure it shocked her that I had even asked. The price tag was $75 (that was a lot of money back then) and I just knew that Mom would say no. To my surprise she said yes and I was a happy girl. I was the proud owner of my first piece of furniture. Through the years it has followed me from home to home and it has lived in the guest rooms where I knew it would be safe. I've always wanted to paint it, but for some reason it didn't happen. Now I know why.

I had done this raw wood furniture finish once before on an old armoire, but it had been painted. That involved stripping and nasty, stinky chemicals. This was way easier! I didn't even know how old this piece was, but the varnish had turned almost black. That's a sign of a very old piece and I knew it. The drawers were dovetailed and it was as solid as it was 35 years ago and it was old then. This was the perfect piece for this makeover.

I started my project with my electric Orbital Sander and a 180 grit sandpaper. Carefully I sanded all of the surfaces that I could reach. The old varnish sanded down easily on the top surfaces but underneath where it was more protected was a bit harder. I changed out the sanding pad frequently to keep if from gumming up on the pads. When sanding, I was careful not to sand all of the old varnish off. Just enough to see the raw wood. I left some areas with the old varnish to add character that only an existing aged finish could give.

The corners and tight areas would have to have another tool to get into those tight areas. For these areas I used my Dremel Tool. It came with a triangle sanding head and pads. It worked like magic. The raw wood furniture finish was starting to come together! I left a bit of the old darkened varnish in the cracks and around the inside of the corners. It almost looked like someone had glazed it in the corners. Nice!

The surfaces were carefully cleaned with denatured alcohol after sanding. The alcohol evaporates quickly and doesn't add moisture to the wood. This was necessary to remove all the leftover dust from all the sanding. I used a paper towel, but you can also use a cotton clothes or old t shirts. 

On the areas I chose not to sand, I added Old Masters Dark Walnut gel stain with a piece of cheesecloth. It covered all the scuffed areas on the existing finish beautifully.

To seal the raw wood furniture finish and to protect it , I used Dixie Belle's Gator Hide. Typically I would use this product over painted surfaces, but it worked great on the raw wood. Brushing it on with a soft paint brush and not to over work it was key as it dries quickly. The wood drank up the Gator Hide and when it had dried, the finish was smooth and beautiful.

It's funny how things play out over time. This project could have gone a whole other direction had I not just waited for the right time. Although I love to paint, not everything needs to be painted. I hope Mom likes it.

Thanks for joining me today.

xo, Do

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 14 questions
  • GMS
    on Jan 15, 2020

    I also would like to know if you put some type of polyurethane on it after to protect the wood - did you? This is beautiful, I too have a hard time painting older wooden furniture, I love wood look of items. I have a piece at home I may try sanding down and using the Dixie Belle's Gator Hide you used. But again, can you or did you apply a finish after?

    • Mary Russell
      Mary Russell
      on Nov 3, 2020

      I think the 'gator hide' IS the top coat.Just wonder if it could be thinned sufficiently to spray on,and if so,how it would look with several coats of ultra thin sprayed on coats.Also,the wood appears to be poplar,which doesn't have a particularly showy grain pattern.Just wondering if it is in fact,poplar?

  • Stacie
    on Jan 22, 2020

    I am going to wait for any of the previous questions to be answered before I ask one. Otherwise, what’s the point?

  • Maxine Waller
    Maxine Waller
    on Nov 3, 2020

    How did you do that wall behind it?!

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