Refinishing Old Furniture.

In early March, Diane and I decided that we wanted to refinish the bedroom furniture. It was a collection of different hand-me-downs that I’ve collected over the years and we wanted the furniture and pieces to match and look like a real apartment, rather than a college apartment.
Since neither of us knew how to do this we did some searching and watched some videos. We were able to figure out that we were going to have to strip and sand the old coats off the furniture before we could stain and reseal them. A trip to Home Depot and we had our selves a sander, some gel stripper as well as various scraper brushes, paint scrappers, and other odds and ends (shop towels, some rubber gloves, etc).
There was a couple types of stripper out there and we decided to get the gel kind, I think this was a smart decision, it allowed  us to paint on the stripper and not worry too much about it running or getting all over the place like the liquid one would.
After taking off all the hardware we went to work. The stripper is some nasty stuff, it started to react with the latex gloves we purchased, which were like the same thickness as medical latex gloves, just in a powder blue color. We quickly upgraded to full out rubber dishwashing gloves but not after I got the gel on my arms and hands numerous times, its burns like a bee sting.
The process was simple: paint the goop on, wait about 15 mins then scrape off easily with a paint scrapper/putty knife. Repeat if necessary. For corners we used little brushes that were like mini-grill brush cleaners.

A 6 dresser drawers and a 4 drawer / 1 door Armoire; it made for a lot of surfaces to treat:

All ready on the Armoire.

Close up of the finish on the Armoire after it was stripped:

After the finish was stripped it was time for sanding. Like an idiot I first started sanding the finish without eye protection and sure enough off the start I got a piece of the stripper gel right in the eye, which hurt like hell. After that it was gloves, safety glasses, and even a breathing mask. I didn’t want any of the stuff near my skin anymore.

At this point we patched any knicks (and the old holes) with a wood putty and sanded again. Really evened out the knicks from over the years (especially the cat claw marks as it would try to jump to the top of the armoire).

After the surfaces were stripped and sanded, we applied a conditioner before staining. This was something we wipped on with a cloth and would open the pours in the wood allowing the stain to penetrate and also to make it cover more evenly.

Then it was on to staining!

Here’s the Armoire right before wiping away the extra.

After that it was 2 coats of Polyuerthane. For that we put it on, let it dry and then very very lightly sanded (by hand, sander was too powerful!) with a fine grit sandpaper before putting on the second coat. This prevented the little specs and burrs from building up as coat after coat went on top. Really evened out the finish.

Another step we took, which I’m glad we did, was wet sanding the finish. For that it was pretty simple. I went to a auto store and got some wet/dry 1500 and 2000 grit sandpaper. We filled a bucket with warm soap water, drenched the sandpaper, and then lightly went over the finish using a sponge as a sanding block. We did about 2 to 3 passes for each area and applied zero pressure downward. This took any imperfections out of the final coat and made the whole thing smooth as glass.

Then time to put the hardware on. Since the dressers and armoire were so old (they were my uncle’s in Highschool). We had to fill the holes from the old handles and redrill new ones.

Finally done:

There were a couple other pieces we did this for:

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