Asked on Feb 2, 2020

Do I need to strip this bench before staining it?

DfmPhaedraSwan Road Designs


1800’s solid oak storage bench has cigarette burns and paint splatter. No shine so doubt it was varnished. Want to clean and lighten it with a lighter stain. Do I need to strip it or just sand it?

12 answers
  • Cheryl A
    on Feb 2, 2020

    I would clean it good with TSP (found at walmart, home depot, etc) to get all the crud and dirt off it then you can sand lightly to get out the burn marks and paint. You could chalk paint it, stain it or varnish it. The wood grain is beautiful here are more ideas

  • Nan W.
    on Feb 2, 2020

    Diedre: What a beautiful bench! While I love paint... I would never paint it! --- that wood grain is amazing...

    I agree with how Cheryl would prep it!

  • That wood grain is fantastic. If you want to lighten the stain, yes, you’ll need to sand the piece to remove the old stain.

  • Deidre
    on Feb 2, 2020

    Thank you all! Its my first big project and I’m intimated by stripping so sanding it is. It’s called Tiger Oak. My goal is to lighten it but keep the tiger “stripes”.

  • Redcatcec
    on Feb 2, 2020

    I would also use the TSP to clean it thoroughly and see what you have under all the years of crud, see if any of the paint splatter comes off, you might try a store card or an old credit card to lightly scrape. From there sand with a light touch.

  • Deb K
    on Feb 3, 2020

    Hi Deidre, this piece is fairly dark, so I would recommend just sanding and cleaning it up, you will want to use a transparent stain that has a white tint in it to lighten but still keep the lovely wood grain. If you don't want to keep the grain, I would chalk paint it a nice shade of solid grey!

  • Sharon
    on Feb 3, 2020

    That's quarter-sawn oak referred to as tiger oak in the PNW. A nice piece. Sanding it won't allow you to lighten the stain, you would have to use a stripper like Kleen-Strip that removes stain but its very toxic. It will lose value if you do this.

    To remove the paint splatter you could try a round plastic kitchen scrubby and some hot water sparingly.

  • William
    on Feb 4, 2020

    Stripping will only remove surface finishes. You would need to sand down to raw wood. Then you can use a lighter satain and sealer.

  • Swan Road Designs
    on Feb 6, 2020

    DO NOT sand. Strip to discover the loverly oak face. Sanding can destroy some of he lovely wood grain, just strip it. My late husband an I spent about 30 years restoring furniure and the last thing you want to do is to sand it. Use a good quality stripper and see what it reveals. You might be surprised. Then clean it thoroughly and see what the wood gives you. You might be surpised.

    Once you have the wood that is revealed, let it dry. If the wood is rough, use some steel wool to smooth it then, if you like the grain, just add some tung oil and rub in well. You will be pleased at the beauty and glow you get.

  • Phaedra
    on Feb 7, 2020

    I vote no on sanding that gorgeous quarter sawn oak bench. And double no on painting it

    Heres an article on using Denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner to rejuvenate an old finish. Your technique will depend on how bad the finish is on your piece. The benefits of this method are that you retain the old finish and the old patina. Basicly youre just dissolving the top coat and redistributing it.

    It takes a little practice but you can even out an old finish so that it covers the worn spots. I would start on the back till you get comfortable. The more of the old finish you remove the lighter your piece will be.

  • Dfm
    on Feb 7, 2020

    Do not sand! Most of the tiger oak is a very thin veneer, and you may sand it off.

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