Refinishing Furniture – Save Money Through Creativity

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Refinishing Furniture to Save Money

Refinishing Furniture High Chair

Have you had the experience of refinishing furniture? I am a softy for my boys. I want to be a good example to them. I want them to learn from me and never question whether or not it’s the right things I am teaching them. I want them to experience the things I have gotten to experience. In some cases, I want them to have some of the same things that I have had. Now that Ethan is older, he needs a place besides his Bumbo to eat. I am a pack rat. I don’t like to get rid of things, especially sentimental things. Because of this, I still have the wooden high chair that I used when I was a baby. Yes it showed its age and was in disrepair. But, when I looked at it, I saw “showroom quality.” In another one of my brilliant moves (note the sarcasm), I decided that I was going to refinish my old chair so that it could stay in the family for another generation. I wanted to preserve it so that Ethan would be able to hand it down to his children as well.

If you haven’t refinished a piece of wood furniture before, you may not have the same appreciation for this refinishing furniture process as someone who has done it. In either event, I will walk you through the process that I took so that you can try this for yourself. The first thing that needs to happen is the removal of all hardware. On this particular chair, there isn’t that much to contend with. The system of clips and rails that holds the tray on was basically it. Also, I decided to disassemble the chair anywhere that had wood screws. I figured that by breaking it down into smaller pieces, the other steps would go smoother.

My Refinishing Furniture Process

Once the chair was broken down, I began to sand by hand so that I could get to the original wood. I did use a Black & Decker Detail Sander in a few places because that made it easier and more uniform. I simply couldn’t get my hands into those spots. The sanding process is actually the toughest part of the whole project. In order to prepare the wood properly, I used three different grits of sandpaper. I used 80 to take the finish off and get down to the wood. Once that was done, I used 120 to smooth it out and make the surface a little more even. After I had sanded the whole chair for a second time, I used 220 to make the surface completely smooth.

As soon as the sanding was done, I took a break for about a week! I was sick of the project and I knew that if I kept going with refinishing furniture, the quality of my workmanship will dramatically deteriorate. After my sabbatical, it was time to stain the chair. I decided to stain the chair a darker color than it was originally. I did this because it matches the decor of our home better, plus I like the deep rich colored woods more. For the first coat, I used a foam brush to apply the stain. I didn’t like the way it was streaking so for the second coat, I simply doused an old t-shirt with the stain and wiped it on more uniformly. That did the trick. I let the stain set up for about 30 minutes between coats and then for 24 hours after the second coat.

Clear Coat Your Work

Refurbishing Furniture MinWaxNext, I used a MinWax clear coat to protect the wood when I’m refinishing furniture. I applied a first coat liberally to be sure the whole chair was covered. After the first coat, I had to go back to my 220 sandpaper and give it a good once over. After the sanding, I hit it with a second coat and we were good to go . Back in the old days, they didn’t see things the way they do today. For example, I played on a swing set with rusty bolts and rode a bike without a helmet. I also sat in a high chair with nothing but the tray to hold me in place. Here is where the creativity comes in! I was trying to figure out a way to keep Ethan in the chair when it hit me. I went into the garage and grabbed an old dog collar. I adjusted the collar to the appropriate length and then cut it in half right in the center of the leather. Then, I used wood screws to attach one portion to the tray and one portion to the bottom of the chair. It’s working like a charm!

The Results of Refinishing Furniture Are Worth It

Was this a royal pain? Yes. Did it save me money? Yes. Could I have spent a hundred bucks and saved myself the time and energy? Yes. But….I wouldn’t have the sense of satisfaction in knowing that 30 years down the road, Ethan can tell his child that “You know your grandpa re-did this whole chair by hand just for me and now I want you to be able to use it.” To me, that is priceless.

What kind of creative things have you done to family “heirlooms” that have saved you money and been successful? Have you experienced refinishing furniture? Do tell!  ~David

Photo Credit: TheNextBestThing

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  1. we just got one and my fiance is redoing it for our kids

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