Furniture Restoration

restored wood tableRestoring your furniture can be a very rewarding activity and is an excellent way to apply the Rx4 system: reduce, reuse, recycle and restore.

Furniture restoration can also save you some money and may even become your new hobby. You can start with a small project like this little table from the 60’s that was on its way to the dumpster, or a medium project, such as an old patio bench that your neighbors put on the curve.

All you need is some sand paper, some wood stain, some tools, and a ‘do it yourself’ attitude!



  • A project to work on (an old wooden table, dresser, mirror frame, or other wooden item)
  • Sand paper
  • Sander (optional, for larger projects)
  • Wood stain and/or clear coat
  • Brush (natural bristle for oil-based finishes and synthetic filament for water-based finishes)
  • An old rag or piece of fabric
  • Dust mask or hankie (to cover your mouth and nose)
  • Safety glasses (to avoid getting dust in your eyes)
  • Screwdriver, screws, wood glue, c-clamps, nails, hammer, etc. (depending on the project)

Once you have found a piece of furniture in need of restoration, the first step will be to evaluate its condition in order to find out what tools and materials you will need. For example, if it has loose legs or broken pieces, you may need some wood glue, c-clamps and/or screws. If it just needs a tune up or you just want to change the color, you will need sand paper, a brush, and wood finish.

Wood stain or/and finish: The color will depend on your taste, the style of the room, and the type of wood you are working with. You may choose a traditional wood stain, such as black, charcoal, espresso, cherry, walnut, beige, or white, or you may prefer something more adventurous like a fruit punch, a mustard, or a hunter green.

If you prefer a more natural appearance, you may only need to use varnish, wood finish, or clear coat to enhance and protect the wood. Always test your stain or finish in a non-visible location of your piece, the same product will look different on each type of wood.

DIY Wood Stain: Put a pad of steel wool in a glass jar, cover it with white vinegar and loosely place the lid on the jar (oxygen needs to enter the jar and gases need to exit the jar, if you tighten the lid, your glass jar might crack or even explode from the pressure). Let the vinegar and steel wood solution sit for a day or two (the longer you wait, the darker the stain will be). Note: This homemade wood stain solution is misleading. It looks very light in color, but it gets darker as it dries. Make sure that before you stain your wood item, you try the stain on a sample piece of wood. Apply a little wood stain in the back side of the wood or on a residue piece of wood and wait until it dries. If it is too dark, dilute the solution with some water. If it is not dark enough, let it sit for another 6-12 hours or a whole extra day and repeat the test. Once you have reached the desired wood stain color, get a brush and stain your master piece! Note: The stain color might be lighter or darker depending on the type of wood used.

Work place: This job can get a little messy so the ideal work environment is outdoors or in the garage. It is important to have good lighting and room to move around.

Hands On!

Furniture Restoration Level 1

Project: Side wooden table

furniture piece to restore

→The first step is to sand the piece of furniture down to smooth bare wood, removing all old stains and finishes from the surface. You may need to disassemble the piece in order to get in every nook and cranny.

sanding the shelfsanding wood shelfsmooth sanded wood shelf

Work the sand paper back and forth until you reach the natural color of the wood. With a piece of cloth test if there are any splinters or areas that may need some additional sanding. This step is the messiest and most time/effort consuming, but once it has been completed, you will be ready to paint!

→Once your piece of furniture is naked and smooth, wipe it with a damp cloth and make sure is clean and free of dust, old paint or varnish. Now is the time to repair any damage parts of the furniture (if there are any). In this project, a crack needed to be fixed, a shelf needed to be reinstalled, and a loose leg needed to be tighten. In order to fix the crack and secure the leg, glue and a c-clamp were used. To reinstall the shelf, an electric drill and some wood screws were necessary.

fixing crack and loose legglued cracked with clampsstained installed wood shelf→Now, your project is ready to be painted. Depending on the needs of your project, it might be easier to reassemble and paint, or to paint and reassemble. Lay some newspaper or cardboard boxes under your work area to avoid major stains on your floor. Get your brush, your stain or woof finish, and a rag.

Before you start painting, read and follow the instructions printed on your stain/finish can. You may want to use a rag to remove excess stain, this will reduce the amount of stain that your wood will absorb and help you attain a lighter color. If you want it darker you can always apply another coat.

stained shelfstaining table edgesrestored wood table

→Let it dry for a few hours or overnight and get ready to introduce your new piece of furniture to your house or office!


Furniture Restoration Level 2

Project : Cast iron wooden patio bench

Restoration Project: free 'garbage' patio bench

This is a wooden patio bench that was found on the sidewalk in front of someone’s house with a sign on it saying: “Garbage. Take this bench please! Thanks!” It had a heavy cast iron frame, old cracked wood, and rusty loose screws.

This project requires some measuring and drilling, and a small investment: high quality wood that can take the outdoors environment and an outdoor varnish to protect the wood from it (which will allow this patio bench to last for a few generations!).


  • Old cast iron wooden bench (project to be restored)
  • Sander (to smooth the wood planks)
  • Measuring tape (to measure planks and determine hole locations)
  • Drill (to make the holes for the screws)
  • Oak wood planks
  • Wood finish (to stain the wood)
  • Wood Varnish (for maximum protection and long lasting beauty)
  • Old piece of rug or paint brush (to apply finish and varnish)

sturdy high quality woodchoosing outdoors coat andwood stainpatio bench restoration materials





The total investment in this restoration was almost $50, which was spent on wood, varnish, and stain at the neighborhood hardware store. Usually the place that sells the wood, will also cut it for you at the store for no extra charge, so bring your measurements and do not hesitate on asking for help!

sanding wooddrilling screw holesstaining wood planks for patio bench





The same screws were reused (after soaking them in penetrating oil) and the original curved plank on the back rest of the bench was restored (sanded and refinished). Now, the bench is comfortable, elegant and sturdy, ready for spending a life time with you!

restored wooden patio bench