Rehabilitating Old Furniture
Some old furniture pieces are so nice they deserve a second chance at life - here's how.
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By Rosemary Sadez Friedmann
Scripps Howard News Service
Some old furniture pieces are so nice they deserve a second chance at life. It might be an heirloom; a good bargain at the thrift shop or just a plain old, tired piece in need of a new lease on life.
Let's assume the piece or pieces are in good condition but need to be repainted or re-stained.
The first step probably is the hardest; stripping the old paint. With a lot of patience and a bigger amount of ambition, this could be a do-it-yourself job. Most people opt for having this part done by a professional. The pros usually remove the old paint by means of the dip-and-strip method; they literally submerge the furniture in a vat of remover.
After a bit of soaking, the furniture is hosed down and the old finish is then gone. Most people don't have a vat filled with furniture paint remover in their garage, so there are other means by which to accomplish the same end.
If this is to be a do-it-yourself job, some precautions need to be followed. Always work in a well-ventilated room. Always wear rubber gloves. Keep all stripping products away from the reach of children. Always test a small, inconspicuous area first to be sure the products being used are compatible with the wood.
There are basically two types of products available: the liquid no-wash stripper and the water-wash stripper. Both types are fairly simple, albeit messy, and claim to get the job done in less than an hour. The reality is that most of the old paint will come off easily, but getting all of it, particularly in the crevices, will take a little elbow grease. Here's where patience comes in handy. You could be wishing you had that vat of paint remover in your garage by this time.
After stripping, the natural color of the wood might be appealing enough that all that needs to be done is oiling. If the natural color is almost but not quite right, perhaps bleaching it will do the trick. The bleach will make it a lighter color. Or you can stain it if a darker color is preferred.
Painting the furniture is another option. Different types of paint will yield different results. An oil-based paint covers well and provides a hard, wear-resistant finish. Enamel paint is another choice and comes in satin, flat and glossy finishes. Lacquer paints give extremely smooth finishes but require very careful surface preparation because any little blemish will be magnified under the lacquer.
So make that old hope chest a real heirloom by preserving it, using it again and then passing it on to the next generation. You might want to include these restoration instructions in your gift.
For a copy of newsletter Refinishing Second Hand Furniture, send $3 plus a long, self-addressed stamped envelope to L&M Publications, PMB 229, PO Box 413005, Naples, Fla., 34103-3005. Be sure to mention the title.
(Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, an interior designer in Naples, Fla., is author of a newly released book, Mystery of Color.)
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