3 – DIY Refinishing

Marc: Welcome to a third episode of The Wood Whisperer video podcast. Today we’re going to cover a
topic that can be frustrating, perplexing, dangerous
and extremely rewarding all at the same time,
and that’s refinishing. My original intention was
to keep these videos in a nice and neat order,
starting with milling lumber and then moving on to
some more complex topics. But my plans were unexpectedly
changed recently when a last-minute refinishing
job came into the shop. Some of you know this already
but as soon as your family, friends and neighbors hear
that you work with wood, you’re bound to get some
requests for refinishing. It’s up to you whether or not you even want to embark on that path. But refinishing jobs
are a great way to make a few bucks with very
little material investment, and they’re also a means to practice your troubleshooting and your finishing skills. And let me tell you, once you refinish a few pieces you’ll
have a real appreciation for how simple it is to finish new wood. And as you’ll see,
refinishing projects also teach us a lot about
woodworking in general. We can really absorb a great deal of wisdom from these old pieces of furniture. What’s that? You want
to give me some wisdom? (swinging saxophone music) I’m pretty sure I’m an embarrassment to the entire woodworking world. Inspecting an old piece of
furniture like this gives us a chance to observe
how well certain types of joinery hold up to
years of use and abuse. I haven’t been woodworking
long enough to see how my techniques hold up after 30 years, but with a 30-year-old piece of furniture, I can quickly see what joinery
truly stands the test of time. As a result I’m preventing a
smart-ass guy like myself from pointing and laughing at my
failures 30 years from now. As I see it, refinishing
may not be the most fun way to spend your
time, but motivators like money and knowledge are
enough for me to take on just about any refinishing
job that comes along. Put on your respirators
and gloves and let’s get ready to point and laugh at someone else’s mistakes, because
it’s refinishing time. Although most of what I
do is custom furniture, I occasionally have the
opportunity to work on a refinishing project,
such as this antique table. What I’m going to do
today is take you through the various steps of analyzing this table, determining what might be wrong with it, where we can actually
increase the stability and also address issues with the finish. Deciding what type of
finish this actually is, and even more importantly
sometimes, determining if this is a veneer or if it’s solid
wood, because the two things are going to be very different
in how we treat them. One of the first things
I like to do when I get a piece like this in the
shop is turn it over, I want to see what’s on the underside. Usually there are some telltale
signs on how the table was made, what type of material
it is, how it was stained. I do see evidence of that here so let’s check out some of these details. The first thing that I notice
when I look at the underside of this table is the fact
that there is pretty much mahogany everywhere, and
that’s a really good sign. In a lot of cases when the
table has a veneer on the top, you look at the underside
and you’ll see that it doesn’t look like a
same species of wood. That’s a telltale sign
that it is a high-quality veneer on top, but they
used a lower-quality veneer, some other species, on
the bottom of the table. The fact that I see mahogany
here is a really good sign and tells me that we could be
a little bit more aggressive with our techniques for
removing the finish, because we don’t have to worry about
burning through a veneer. I also noticed that the leaf mechanism is stored under the table. We’ll show you how that
works later, but essentially the two leaves on the sides
pull apart and this middle piece folds out and expands
to take up that gap. Another thing I notice on the underside of the table is the fact that somebody was a little bit messy with their staining. If you look over on this side
here, along the edge on the right side, you can tell
that this stain was applied by hand as opposed to a
manufactured spray process. Another thing I noticed
looking at the underside are these really nice turned legs here. The key things that actually
concerns me a little bit is the fact that it’s not the same wood
species that I see on the top. In fact I think, just looking
at the grain patterns, that this is probably pine
or some similar soft wood. Generally it makes sense that
they would do this because to make a giant turned leg like
this and this large cross brace, to make that out of mahogany
would be prohibitively expensive, or it would just make it a
very, very high end table, and they have to pump these things
out and make them affordable. In order to make the
mahogany look like pine they have to throw on
a bunch of extra stain. I personally don’t like that technique and I like to use the same wood throughout, but I understand the reasoning
behind it in this case. That’s going to be one of our
challenges as we go through this. When we refinish it we
need to make these legs look similar to the
top, and I really don’t want to lay on a thick
layer of stain to do that. We’ll approach that
challenge when we get to it. Taking a closer look at the top of the table I see a few interesting things. First of all, more evidence
to this being a nice, solid piece of mahogany is
the profile on the edge. If this were a veneer it would
be very difficult for them to get a mahogany edge this
thick, this would have to be an applied piece of solid
material on a base of some sort of sheet good, and there’s no
realistic way that they can get this smooth of a grain flow throughout,
so that’s another good sign. A few other things I noticed. There’s a lot of flaws in the top that we’re going to have to remove. And most importantly it
looks like when they attached the hardware to the bottom
of the table they may have either pre-drilled and
counter-bored a little bit too deep or they just used
screws that were too long, because we’ve got a few
holes here that are clear indicators that a screw has
come up a little bit too high. We’ve got ways of dealing
with little issues like that, so that should be no problem. The other thing I’d like to take
a look at is the center leaf. It’s a little bit hard
to pull these apart, and that’s part of what
I’m fixing in this process, but we’ll see if we can get it there. I’ll show you how this whole thing works. Maybe not. Can you help me? You can leave it on. Nicole: What do I do?
Marc: Just pull both sides and wiggle. Nicole: Did you break it? Marc: No, it’s already
broken, I’ve got to fix it. Okay, forget it. There we go. Okay, thanks. The lovely and beautiful
Nicole Spagnuolo, everybody. I don’t know if you can see
the details of this shot here. This is pretty cool, I’ve
actually never seen this before, but I don’t do a whole lot of
refinishing so that might be why. If you check it out this
part of the leaf is actually secured with some sort of a
dowel that’s into the sides of the apron, and the whole
piece rotates on that dowel. They’re hinged in the middle
with a pretty unique hinge here, and actually allows
this piece to fold out. All along the side there’s
dowels here and along the left side leaf, so that
once everything is down you should be able to pop
everything together like that. That’s pretty good for
such an old table to be this level, that’s
pretty good condition. One other thing I look
for is on the inside edges of a leaf I try to follow
the wood grain down the side and see if it’s
actually the same material. In this particular case
you can see that the manufacturer really hasn’t
applied much finish, hardly even any stain on the inside, and that actually works in
our favor because now I can very clearly see that this
is mahogany straight through. It may seem like I’m
putting a lot of emphasis on this top being made out of solid wood, but if you refinish a
few pieces of furniture and you’ve dealt with a veneer top, you’ll know exactly what
I’m talking about and how easy is to burn right
through that veneer, go into the sublayer of the
sheet good that the material was made out of, and the
piece is just destroyed. The only choice is to really, if you have some clever way of
covering it up you could do that, or you just re-veneer the top. A solid top is going to help
us avoid that altogether, and really give this customer a nice completely refinished, brand-new surface. One of the first things I like to do is determine what type of finish is on this. Is it a lacquer, is it a polyurethane, is it some industrial
vinyl something or other that we’re never going
to be able to get off. That’s going to tell me
a lot about the approach that I need to take
and how involved I need to get in actually
getting this finish off. You could always strip
it, just about anything is going to come off
with a stripper, but that stuff’s pretty nasty,
it’s extremely caustic and I’d rather not use
it if I don’t have to. The first thing I’m going
to do is wipe the surface down with a little bit of lacquer thinner. Just from looking at it I don’t
think that this is lacquer. After a while you get a good idea of the appearance of different finishes, shellac, lacquer, polyurethane, and you can tell. If this were lacquer, the
interesting thing about lacquer, it is a solvent-based finish
so now matter how old this lacquer is, if I put lacquer
thinner on that surface, I actually will re-melt the
lacquer, re-activate it, and I should be able to wipe it off. With enough lacquer thinner I
could wipe down to the bare wood, and in some cases if
it is a lacquer table, I might do that because I’d
rather deal with a little bit of lacquer fumes or
lacquer thinner fumes than actually deal with the nastiness
of a chemical stripper. Just confirming what I thought, this stuff isn’t budging at all. That indicates to me, I’m pretty confident that this is a polyurethane surface. Nothings coming off, I’m cleaning the table and that’s about it. I will also mention
just a quick safety tip. Obviously if you’re using
lacquer thinner or any kind of chemical that has a
strong odor like this you want to wear a respirator,
want to protect your eyes, protect your hands, may even
want to protect your arms, any place you have exposed skin. That was just a short
duration and it’s hard for me to talk to you with a respirator on, so I’m going to forego one for now. Now that I know that this is
probably a polyurethane surface, the first thing I like
to do is see how easy is it going to be to
just scrape the material off prior to doing a
little bit of sanding. Again, I’d rather use that
method than use a chemical. I have a few different tools here, two different types of scrapers. A standard card scraper that’s
been sharpened so that it has a little microscopic metal
burr, that is a metal hook that effectively will slice
the grain as I go through, in this case just slicing off the finish. And this is a number 80 cabinet
scraper made by Stanley, it’s a pretty classic tool but
essentially does the same thing. This can be a little bit more aggressive, at least the way that
I’ve got mine tuned up. We’ll use these and see how easy this finish is going to be to scrape off. (scratching) I can see I’m pulling
off most of the finish. I know I definitely want
to scrape most of this top down before I hit
it with some sandpaper. There’s just no reason to
waste all that sandpaper and put all the polyurethane
dust in the air. I’ll probably go through
and scrape the entire top. I may switch to something
like my cabinet scraper, which again as you can see
here is extremely aggressive, with one stroke I was able
to get down to bare wood. If I use this guy I’m probably
going to have to go over it afterwards with a little bit
more of a gentle scraper, and then go over the whole
thing with maybe a belt sander and a light grit, or possibly
my random orbit sander, just to smooth the surface out a bit. Another note about this cabinet scraper. Clearly with this level
of aggression, if we had determined that this was a
veneer surface there’s no way that I would even use this,
this would stay on the shelf. I may scrape some of the
finish off with this, but when it’s a veneer you’ve got a whole extra level of things
to be concerned about, because that would have probably
burned through my veneer and we would have had a
serious problem on our hands. But again, having the solid top I can be a little bit more aggressive. One other major concern
I want to mention when you’re refinishing an
antique like this is lead. You need to be concerned about
what that finish has in it, if it’s a paint, if it’s a clear
finish, possibly the stain, any of those could contain
some lead components if the finish is old enough and it
just happens to have lead in it. I’m not sure the exact
year, I believe it was in the late ’70s is when they
decided to actually ban these products from having
lead in them, so it’s a realistic possibility that
something that’s not even really a true antique could
still have lead in it. Make sure you know the history of the piece that you’re working with. This particular piece,
I spoke to the owner, I kind of have an idea of its history, and you can see based on
its condition how old it is. I don’t have any fear that there
is any lead material in this, but just to be safe I
probably will use one of these little lead test kits to
double check and make sure that there is no lead in there,
you just can’t be too safe. These little kits are available
at the big box stores, Home Depot, Lowes, anything
you’ve got around you, even a regular hardware store. I imagine they’re not perfect
but certainly when you can sand the surface a little bit
and create a bunch of dust and use that as your testing agent,
you’ll probably get a pretty accurate reading as to whether
there’s lead or not lead. The bottom line is if there’s
some lead, just let it go, you’re better off not
working on the piece at all unless you absolutely
know what you’re doing and you’ve got experience
working with lead. You have to wear a special
respirator, you have to make sure any of the dust that
you make is taken care of, and if you vacuum it up
consider the fact that that dust material is
going to go right into that vacuum filter and
it’s just going to be recirculated every time
you turn your vacuum on. It’s really not worth the risk. A lot of times just learn
to live with the antique, rustic beauty of the
piece rather than try to refinish it if you know
that lead my be an issue. I decided to do the lead
test on camera for you so you can get an idea of what to expect. If you’ve never done it before, the results are pretty
clear cut but you’re never 100 percent sure, is that
pink, is that orange. You’ll see what color
we come up with here. The first thing I’m
going to do, especially in this area that I’ve already pulled some material up, I’m going
to start standing it. I’ve got just a 220 grit sandpaper here. Don’t have to be real
aggressive, just make a little bit of dust and get down
into that finish layer. According to the instructions you have an area in the front to crush. There’s actually a glass vial
in there but the cardboard is thick enough that it’s
not going to hurt you. Crush the back, shake it up
so you mix the two chemicals. Whatever reaction has to
take place, takes place. And you squeeze it just until you see some of that liquid come out at the tip. When it does go down into that dust that you’ve made and swirl it around. Give it a few minutes. A few seconds, maybe a minute. According to the instructions
if there’s lead present it’s going to turn pink, and
the color that I see here is definitely not pink, it’s orange,
it’s pretty much the color of the chemical when it came
out of the stick to begin with. At this point I would be
really confident to go into this just wearing
my standard safety gear and protect myself in
the standard methods, as opposed to going through all kinds of hoops trying to protect myself from lead. The first order of business is to carefully disassemble the table. I start by removing the
base from the apron, which involves removing a small screws. Then I detach the two
table top halves from the support braces, which
thankfully were not glued down. It’s never a good idea to glue anything to a solid wood table top in
a cross-grain orientation. Screws and oversized
holes on the other hand, allow the top to expand
and contract while also allowing us to easily
detach the table top. I decided to try scraping
the finish of of one of the top pieces just to show
you how much fun it can be. My tool of choice for this is
a number 80 cabinet scraper. You could also use a standard card scraper or even a belt sander. With a little bit of patience,
a whole lot of elbow grease, and a tiny pinch of magic the
finish will be off in no time. No time at all. Sometimes you’ve got to get creative. Come on buddy you can do it, come on. Come on, you’re the
Rachael Ray of woodworking. Get it done, go man, go! I certainly do admire anybody who would scrap that entire table top by hand. Fortunately I’ve got some
high-tech tools that will save me a lot of time and
certainly save my back. We’re just going to use the drum sander to buzz this entire top down, get it down to bare wood with maybe two or three passes. All the waste goes right
into the dust collection bin and it’s really going
to save us a bunch of time. Let’s head on over there. The drum sander is an
awesome tool that basically consists of a rotating drum
wrapped in sandpaper and a conveyer belt that passes
a piece of wood underneath. It makes quick tasks of
tedious sanding tasks. Not everyone will have one of these, and if you don’t you might want
to find a friend that does. You can see after just
a few jobs like this, a drum sander pays for itself. Check that out. Super smooth. I was just getting myself a
little bit of sandpaper and I saw something that you
guys might be interested in. This may be old news for
a lot of you but this is just a little sandpaper
tearoff jig that I made. I use this sanding block a lot and it just requires a certain length. Actually it’s evenly divisible
so there’s really no waste, but if you get just some scrap plywood, a nice new hacksaw blade and
you screw the blade to the end, then you get a piece of
plywood as a stopper for the exact spacing that you need
for that piece of sandpaper. Just push it up against
the edge like this. Tear down just like it’s cellophane or aluminium foil in the kitchen. When it’s all said and done
you’ve got these perfectly-sized strips of sandpaper ready to
go for whatever system you use. One really cool trick that you have to be a little bit careful with is if you have a complex profile like we have here, it’s a roundover and a
little bit of a cove. I’m sure they used a
single bit to create this, and I don’t happen to
have this bit on hand but I do want to clean up most
of this extra material here. Since this is end grain
this is going to be really stubborn and pretty
difficult to get the extra stain and the poly
out of those deep corners. One quick way to do it,
and again I have to stress you should be very careful,
especially if you’re working on an antique and
something with history, you don’t want to destroy this
piece and you really don’t want to change anything, you
just want to lightly touch it. The idea here is to take
any router bit that you have in your collection that
might just graze the surface. You don’t have to do the
entire thing in one shot, but maybe for instance, in
this case I’ve got a roundover bit here, and the roundover
has a bearing on it. That bearing is going to
ride against the surface, and as it goes it’s going to
re-establish this curve here. In fact, it’s really not going to change it much at all, it’s
just going to take off enough material so that
it cleans it up for me. It makes it a lost easier and a
lot less sanding for me to do. Let’s give it a shot and
see how it turns out. (mechanical grinding) You can see there’s a
nice clean edge here. All I have to do is give
it a light sanding and that doesn’t really need
to be touched any more. Where we do have a
little bit more material to remove is in this corner here, right as it wants to slope up
into this next section. Difficulty here is the fact
that I don’t have a bit that’s going to allow me
to do that in one shot. It would be nice if I did, but I don’t. I’m going to draw my
scraper here across the edge and very carefully, very
slowly go back and forth. That’s going to help me
clean that up as well. If you have any areas here
in the front that need to be removed, the
scraper is great for that. If you don’t have a router bit
that fits the profile, this is the way you’re probably
going to have to go about it. Use a scraper to remove
the excess material until you can go down
to a piece of sandpaper. I’m going to follow this
up using another bit. Probably this little cove bit,
also known at a corebox bit. If I use that in conjunction
with this little router fence I can actually get it in
a nice straight line using the edge of the table
as my guide, come across here and that’s going to
clean up this inner edge. Really, the only thing
I’m going to have to clean up manually should be
this outside corner here, and that’s really not
too bad, considering. You can see along this curved
edge I run into a problem using my corebox bit to remove
material on this upper edge. As I’m running the router
along this edge I can only get so far before
it becomes ineffective and I can’t actually remove
the material anymore. As I was sanding a few of the other boards I started to realize how much this stinks, and I need to rely on some
freehand skills and actually clean up this curve
freehand with a corebox bit. Wish me luck, hold your breath, this is not for the faint of heart. See how it goes. That is much better. Got a little bit more here that I’ll get, but you get the idea. If you’re confident
enough with your freehand skills you can get away
with something like that. If you’re not confident I recommend practicing some inlays for a while. If you do freehand inlay a lot, something like this really
isn’t too difficult. That’s one solution on how
to get that curve cleaned up. Something I wanted to show
you guys is some of the difficulty I ran into while
pulling apart the base. Whenever you’re attacking something like this you’ve got to look
for numerous things. Not only the original joinery,
trying to figure out how it was actually put together,
but to also look at some of the homeowner intervention,
and see, at some point if this was loose somebody
probably just drove a screw through or added a
little bit of extra glue, hoping that would tighten everything up. That is in fact what I found. Not only was there extra
glue around the joint, but I found a few screws that were driven up at an angle to give it more support. I pulled all of those out,
and now I’m back to the original joinery that was
done when it was made. I have a little screw cap down here, and there was a standard
screw inside that hole. Inside this larger cap
I actually thought that this was an interesting dowel or something that went all the way through the piece. Turns out it actually is just a
very meaty hand-made screw cap. Inside of that was a lag bolt, and that’s actually holding
this support piece on. The problem that I had with
this was as I was trying to loosen the joint I
actually split this piece. I want to show you this because this is something that can very easily happen, and it happens in the refinishing
industry all the time. It’s just a product of
banging parts apart, and knocking joints
apart, but one of the key things in woodworking is not
necessarily just how good of a woodworker are, it’s how
well you hide your mistakes. I’ve already spent about 20
minutes sanding this leg, and I’ve got two of these
to do so I need to come up with something that’s
a little bit faster than just sitting there by hand
and trying to clean it up, that’s going to take a long time. That certainly is possible,
and a lot of you are probably going to have to do
something like that someday, and there’s really not a
whole lot you can do if you don’t have certain tools,
that’s just the way it is. In this case, since it is a turned leg, there’s still marks on here. I actually could chuck
this up on my lathe, and I don’t have a really big lathe, it’s just an inexpensive Jet Mini lathe, but in a case like this
it’s more than adequate. I could just chuck it back
up into the lathe and very gently re-turn it, kind of
like I did with the router bit, just kiss the surface
to remove that material. If you don’t do that
you could still get the job done but it probably
won’t be as clean, especially where you
have areas of end grain. It’s really hard to get
that stain out of there. That end grain just pulls the
stain, pulls the finish in, and it’s really, really penetrated deep, so it’s very difficult
to sand all that away. We’re actually going to go
ahead and take a little bit of time to try and sort of re-turn
this, but be very gentle, I don’t want to change any dimensions, and I certainly don’t
want to do any damage. I want to make this look
better than it looked before. That’s essentially what we’re going to do. I’m going to jump in here and
probably we’re going to use an array of tools, starting
with my super flute bowl gouge. Turning tools, there’s a
ton of them, but I actually only use three or four to
do all the work that I do. I’m not really a huge turner,
I enjoy it once in a while, it’s a nice break from the norm. My wife likes to turn a
lot, so maybe she’ll do an episode for you later,
but we’re not going to get into the details of the
actual turning at this time, we’re going to save that
for a turning episode. I didn’t even think I was
going to have to do this but this leg is taking
me a little bit too long, so we’re looking to save
time- (crashing) where we can I’m going to officially
announce that if my wife doesn’t clean up this garage
sale crap from this area, let’s say by the weekend, I think I’m officially going to freak out, so be looking for that on my blog. Thanks. (bluesy rock music) Now after about five minutes
of turning and five minutes of sanding we’ve got a piece
that’s ready for the next step. Maybe a little bit of cleaning up to do here and there but it looks pretty good. I’ve got another time-saving and finger-saving tip here for you. I don’t know if I’ve shown these before but these are little
profile sanding moulds. They’re made out of rubber
and they only cost a few bucks for a pack, and there’s maybe
four of five different sizes, and you have both concave and
convex curve shaped units here. You just wrap them in
sandpaper and you can conform to any profile you
happen to need to sand. You’ve also got these skinny,
pointy ends here which are great for getting into these
really tight curves like this. I’ll be using these to get
through the rest of this project. All of the pieces that are left have a nice little spot that
these are perfect for. For just a few bucks it’s a really good investment to save your fingers. After a full day of using
sandpaper like this you’d be amazed at how sore your
fingers are going to get. Spend the money, it’s worth it. Now that I’ve done the bulk of the polyurethane and stain
removal it’s time to do a final sanding,
probably up to 180 grit. Before I even do that I’m looking around and my shop is quite a mess. I’m sure you guys have
confronted this numerous times. You get to this point in a project and everything is all over the place. A wise man once told me
that if every time you come into your shop you
take just 10 things, pick any 10 things and put
them away, you’ll notice a huge difference in the
cleanliness of your shop. Then also of course that makes the shop a little bit safer to work in. First let me pan around, my wife’s not here to move the camera so bare with me. If it bothers you tune in to another channel. It’s pretty messy. I’m going to put 10 things away and we’ll see if this actually works. Wow, who would have thought, putting stuff away actually makes it cleaner. Awesome. I’m at the point now that
everything has been rough sanded. Most of the material, the polyurethane and the stain has been removed. You can see it’s in pretty
good shape at this point. What I need to do now is do
the final finish sanding, the last step prior to adding a finish, a stain, whatever the
plan is for this piece. For most of these odd-shaped parts I’m probably going to do it by hand. I’m going to go from where
I’m at now to a 180 grit, and probably just use
some hand sanding tools, like this block sander here. For the larger surfaces like
the table top, we’ve got four or five different table top
pieces, they’re all nice and flat. A tool for that, the best
suited tool for that is something like a random
orbit sander, this guy here. This differs from your standard
quarter sheet sander and a belt sander, some of the more
traditional sanders, in the fact that it actually sands in
a random orbit, hence the name. What that means to the
woodworker is since it’s going in not only a circle but it’s
shaking and vibrating within that, so it’s creating a random scratch pattern. The interesting thing about
the eye, the human eye will only see consistent
straight line patterns. If it’s all little squiggly lines your eye just doesn’t pick it up. You go to a nice fine grit,
180 grit, your eye isn’t going to actually see that if you
use a random orbit sander, it’s just little squiggly
lines all over the place. Kind of a very cool tool. If you are getting a lot of
dust in your shop, and if you are going to use a tool
like this you probably are, you want to make sure you get some sort of dust collection built
in right at the tool. It’s always a good idea to wear
your dust mask or some sort of respirator, but if you can
collect the dust straight out of the tool you’re going to
stop it from getting in the air in the first place, that’s
definitely an awesome way to go. What I’ve done is I’ve
used the dust collection port that’s built right into the tool. I get a little coupler here,
actually I think I got this one from Home Depot, connects right
into the end of my Shop-Vac. Shop-Vac’s not the perfect
tool for dust collection, I’ve probably gone
through three of them just because I almost solely
use it for this purpose. There’s so much fine dust that
I don’t think a Shop-Vac is really intended to pull in
that much super-fine dust, even with a high-grade HEPA
filter that I have on it, it still doesn’t seem to
last as long as it should. The first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to hit it with a 120 grit paper. To explain my reason and my
choice for that, the drum sander was the last thing that
touched those table tops, and I believe the last
grit I used was 120 grit. The thing to keep in mind is when you use a heavy-duty machine to do your sanding, either a belt sander or a
drum sander like we used, it says 120 grit but it
tends to put in a lot deeper scratches than
another comparable tool might use, or even
doing something by hand. If you finished at 120,
make sure that when you move over to a hand held sander
that you either start at 120, you might even want to start at 100 grit, go a little bit lower and
then progress your way through the grits up to
where you want to be. In this case I finished off at 120. I’m going to start at 120
with my random orbit sander and I’m going to finish
off with a 180 pad, and that’s going to give
me a really nice finish. One other note about random orbit sanders is what makes this
different than a regular quarter sheet sander, a
regular orbiting sander. Essentially it’s the
action of the pad here. Not only does it spin
in a circle but it also does an orbiting, vibrating
action which really, essentially all it does
is it fools the eye. It’s such a random scratch pattern that the eye doesn’t even see it as a pattern. Therefore to our eye it’s an
invisible scratch, essentially. It’s a very effective tool if you’re working with large, flat areas. You could certainly use it on
the front of these legs here. Any flat surface like that,
these tools are just awesome for. I use this on every
single project that I do. I’ve just finished sanding
the entire project, all of the table top pieces, with a random
orbit sander to 180 grit. Things are feeling nice and smooth here, it seems like we’re ready
to go with our top coat and our clear finish,
but there is a problem. We have to keep in mind the
grain structure of this wood. In this case we’re working with mahogany. Mahogany as well as walnut
and oak are open-pored woods. We have to think ahead
about what that’s going to look like if we put a
high-gloss top coat on, are we putting a matte finish on it. You have to think about these things ahead of time and know what’s
going to look right and what’s going to look a little bit off. To me, nothing looks weirder or just not right to me than a high-gloss finish on an open-pored wood, it
just doesn’t look right. If you’re going with a high-gloss
finish that you want to look like basically a sheet
of glass over your wood, you can’t have little pore pockets
in it, little divots in it. You need a continuous, flat surface to get that really nice sheen
that you’re going for. If you’re going to hit it with
a matte finish material, or you’re going to knock down the
gloss to something like a matte finish, the pores may not make
that much of a difference. You may want that natural
look if you’re going to hit it with a Danish
oil or pure tung oil or something like that,
you may not mind those. You want a very close-to-the-wood finish, you’re not building a
huge finish up on top of the wood so it doesn’t
really matter so much. Right now we’re going to talk a
little bit about pore filling. There are a number of methods out there for filling pores in a piece of wood. Ask 100 woodworkers and you
might get 100 different answers, but for me I have two methods that I use depending on what
type of top coat that I’m going to be using
on that finished piece. These two methods work great
for me so I stick with them. The first one is a more
natural finish method. It doesn’t involve any
commercially-available pore-filling products,
but it’s pretty cool. I’m going to show it to you. That’s not actually what I’m
going to use on this refinishing job, but it is one that I
do use pretty frequently, so I think it’s worthwhile
to go through that process. Then I’ll show you the
one that I’m actually going to use for this
project specifically. Instead of this piece of
mahogany we’re going to work with this nice piece of
quarter sawn white oak. Look really close and
there’s a lot of really wide open pores here that are
just begging to be filled, so let’s give them their wish. There are four things that
we need to get started on this oil varnish
pore-filling adventure. Oh nurse! Number one, sandpaper. Really any sandpaper will do, but my preference is automotive sandpaper. It’s a wet-dry material so
you can actually get this submerged in oil and it
won’t start to fall apart, the grit’s going to stay intact, it’s going to do a real good job. You could start with
320, you could use a 220, even 180, anything that’s going to create sawdust mixed with our varnish and oil. Next we need varnish. Any polyurethane varnish
will do, you just want something that’s going to
solidify in those pores, stretch itself out and give you
a nice clean, smooth surface. Gloves. Any gloves will work. Oil. Okay, that’s great if
we’re making a salad. Oil. There you go, tung oil. You could also used boiled linseed oil. These oils don’t dry real fast, it’s going to mix with our varnish and give us a nice long working timing to
work with our slurry. Another thing that you
can use to save time so you don’t have to mix it
yourself is Danish oil. Danish oil is actually a
pre-mixed oil varnish mixture. It’s basically everything
there in one step. We pour it on the surface, start
sanding away, we’re good to go. I start the process by using
a paper towel to spread a liberal amount of
Danish oil on the surface. I’m using a dark-colored
Danish oil in this example so that the effect of the pore
filling is much more obvious. Next I use a sanding block with 320 grit wet-dry sandpaper to
sand the entire surface. Our goal here is to create
a slurry of oil and sawdust that will essentially
serve as our pore filler. I use 320 grit here but you could just as easily use anything from 150 to 320 grit. After a few minutes of sanding the pores are pretty much filled. I could look at it with
a light coming across the surface this way, that’s
referred to as a raking light, and I can see that the pours almost are invisible at this point,
in terms of depth, it looks pretty much flat,
so that’s a good start. Although the pores are filled
they’re not solidified yet, the oil varnish mixture hasn’t cured, so if we rub across the grain at this point and remove this excess material, in all likelihood we’re
going to pull stuff out of the pores, we
don’t want to do that. I’m going to let this sit for 24 hours. When I come back to it
tomorrow, going to put a little more oil on the
surface, get some more sandpaper and go through
that process one more time. Any of the pores that had been filled from the first sanding are definitely going to get filled during the second sanding. I’m going to let that
sit for a few minutes, then I’m going to wipe
off the excess either using burlap, that’s
the best thing to use. I personally don’t have burlap in my shop but I do have paper towels. I’m probably going to scrape
the excess off the surface, using some sort of a
plastic scraper like this, and then let it dry for another
few minutes, and come back with a paper towel and
lightly rub across the grain. I always go across the grain because if you go with the grain you’re going to have a tendency to pull out
that pore-filling material. At least 24 hours after your
last wet sanding is what I would recommend before
you actually dry sand this in preparation for
your stain or finish. The second pore-filling method
that I like to use involves the use of a commercially-available
pore-filling material. Something like this
oil-based paste wood filler is perfect for this type of application. This particular one is natural,
there’s no tint or color. In fact it’s a very dull,
un-wood-like grey color. The point is that you could tint this to whatever color you want it to be. If you’re doing walnut you can go brown, if you’re doing mahogany
you can go a little bit red. We’re actually going to
use a few different dyes here to make our own
custom-colored pore filler. Then we’re going to spread it on the surface and go through the whole process. I keep a lot of these little
plastic cups in the shop. They’re disposable,
they’re great for epoxy, any types of glue you want to mix up, any pigments or dyes you want to mix up ahead a time before you
add them to a finish. In this case it’s going
to be where we’re going to mix our pore filler and
our actual dye material. I highly recommend
getting yourself a set of these little measuring
spoons, they work great. If you can use these
you get to a point that you start almost making
recipes for things, and you get repeatable quantities, tablespoons, teaspoons, what have you. These are usually available
in your kitchen, and if your wife starts asking questions
you just do what I do and … “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Go ahead and take a few scoops of this. I’m only going to make enough
for the one panel here, I’m going to do the rest
of the panels later. Put that on the side. I have a dark mission brown
TransTint dye and a reddish-brown. I’m probably going to add, say
a two-to-one mixture of this. For every drop of dark
mission brown I’m going to do two drops of the reddish-brown. Let me go with two drops of dark mission. Four drops of the reddish-brown. Give that a little bit of a mixy mix. Now we have a much more pleasant brown color, a little bit of a hint of red. By the time this dries it
gets a little chalky looking, but once you put a finish over top of it again it will bring out that color. We do want to get to a color that’s going to blend nicely with this surface. It’s a real good idea to work
on a small section at a time. This particular leaf is
just about the right side. If you were doing a large piece
I probably would recommend doing a section about
this size, going through the whole process and
then moving down the line. The idea is basically
drip some on the surface. Now you use this little plastic spreader. I try and get anything I can for free when I can get it for free. This particular spreader came with the lettering on my truck for my business. The sign company gives these out
whenever you buy the letters. I figure what the heck, it’s perfect. Another thing you can use, a very popular thing to use is actually old credit cards, if you don’t mind keeping one around. In fact the best thing to
do is use the fake ones you get in the mail, and
use those to spread glue, spread finishes, whatever you need. My final strokes here are going to be across the grain like so. If you go with the grain
you have a tendency to actually pull the material
back out of the pores. Give it about three minutes, the range is three to five minutes. When you live in Arizona, they
give you a range, always take the lower end of the range,
everything dries faster here. What I’m going to start doing
is going across the grain pulling off this extra pore filler here. It’s not a bad idea to get your cup over there and take some of that extra stuff because you could reuse
it for the next panel. This not only removes the excess but it does a real good job of packing the pore filler
down into the pores. At this point in the game
you could leave it as is, let it sit 24 hours and
be ready to go tomorrow. The problem with that
is that we still have a good amount of residue on the surface. The scraper got most of it
off but anything that’s left on here we’re going to have
to sand through tomorrow. The idea is not to cover
the entire surface, it’s just to get material in the pores. When we sand tomorrow we
want to sand down to bare wood on the areas that
are adjacent to the pores. After letting the pore
filler dry overnight I begin by sanding the
surface with 120 grit paper. Notice how chalky and
dusty the pore filler is. The dust is a lot like
the dust from drywall mud. This is not something you want to breathe so be sure to take the proper precautions such as dust collection and a respirator. After removing the bulk of
the pore filler I switch to 180 grit and then sand
until I reach bare wood. Now that the surface is
sanded nice and smooth, we’ve got most of that filler off there, just blow off the extra dust. This guy is ready for our finish. Now that all the pore filling
is done, all the sanding is done, these pieces
are ready for the finish. What I’m going to use is
a pre-catalyzed lacquer, it’s what I’ve got in here. I’ve actually added some lacquer
thinner in there as well, just to dilute it and make it
a little bit easier to spray. The first thing I like to do. Here’s my little spray cup. I actually like to filter the finish, because there could be
little bits of sediment, pieces of the flattening
agent or even just dirt inside of the can that we really
don’t want that in our finish, so it’s a good idea to strain it. What I use for this is just
a standard paint strainer, finish strainer that you can get from any paint store, hardware store, whatever. It’s going to be a little
messy, you expect that. Put the cap back on, get ready to spray. Now that the part that
had potential splashing is over with I’m going to
put on my safety lenses. I start by spraying lengthwise with the gun about six inches from the surface. In order to get a smooth
and consistent finish it’s very important to
keep your arm locked so the angle of the gun never changes. It’s also important to start spraying before you actually touch the piece, and continue spraying
at the end of each pass. If you start and stop while
positioned over the piece you’ll most likely end up
with heavy and light areas. During each successive pass I try to overlap the previous pass by about half. Just a quick safety note,
be sure to check into the regulations in your area
concerning sprayed finishes, and always wear the proper
protective equipment. Before I reassemble the entire table there’s a few things I’d like to show you. First of all, the little wooden
gears for the pull mechanism under the table, these things
were shot to hell pretty much. There were six teeth missing off of this one and four off of this one. I talked with the customer and asked them what would they rather me do. I could build new ones and
actually cut new ones out, which would have been very expensive
for them, or I could just try to rebuild the teeth
using whatever I have around. They decided to have me rebuild them instead of cutting new ones. It wasn’t quite the right surface for me to actually rebuild it with wood. It was just too small and
it would have been a mess. I decided to actually rebuild it using a really, really hard wood filler. I use this stuff for
structural wood filling. If I’m doing something that is
going to be for looks there’s other wood fillers that aren’t
necessarily as strong but the color matching and the
ability to accept the stain is quite a bit better, so they’re
more suited for that task. This in particular,
this Minwax wood filler, I like to use that when
it’s a structural issue and I really want to get something
in there that’s going to be as strong as wood and it’s
going to last a long time. This particular material
is a two part mix. You’ve got a hardener and the
grey, milky filler material. You don’t have to use
very much of the hardener, just about a little quarter
inch dot goes to, I think they say a golf-ball-size amount
of filler, so not very much. Interestingly enough this
hardener is just benzoyl peroxide. This is the same stuff that’s in Oxitan. Don’t ask me how I know this,
because I have perfect skin. The interesting thing about
this wood filler is if you look at the ingredients,
and anyone who’s in the automotive repair
business or auto body repair probably would recognize
this stuff right off the bat. It looks an awful lot like Bondo. Looks like Bondo, smells like Bondo. I did a little bit of homework and found that pretty much this
is Bondo relabeled as wood filler and costs
about three times as much. For about the same price,
maybe a couple bucks more, you could go to Home
Depot, Lowes, wherever, and you can get a can of
Bondo that’s about this big. Who knows how long it’s
going to take you to use it, but the bottom line is it’s
a heck of a lot cheaper so find some friends, buy
the big can, split it up, let everybody take some and
it’s definitely a better investment than this
little can for 15 bucks. The last thing I’d like to
show you is how I’m going to treat the moving parts of the
under table pull mechanism. As these pull apart they
rub against each other, and you’re going to have friction there. It’s our goal to reduce that
friction as much as possible so when someone pulls the
table it’s an effortless task. Usually what I’ll do is I
will coat the sides of this, any part that’s going
to touch, coat that with maybe a two pound or a
one pound cut of shellac. It’s a nice brittle finish,
especially if you’re doing a drawer slide or something on
the interior of a case or box, you don’t really want anything that’s going to retain any odors, and oil finishes tend to retain
those odors for a long time. Something like shellac, once it’s cured, doesn’t smell like anything. Once the shellac is dry then
I’ll sand it lightly with a 320 grit sandpaper and maybe
some four ought steel wool, and I’ll hit it with a
little bit of paste wax. Once you do that it’s
going to be silky smooth and those pieces are going
to slide back and forth against each other, it’s
going to be awesome. It looks like this table has
turned out really nice, I think the customer is going to be
pretty happy with the result. After the finish cured I
was able to glue everything back together using a
structural epoxy, in this case, in refinishing projects
I generally recommend structural epoxy over a five minute epoxy, or even something like
just regular wood glue. When you’re dealing with these
old joints sometimes there’s dried finish, maybe a little
bit of dried glue, things that can actually inhibit the bonding
power of stain or wood glue. I definitely recommend going with epoxy. Just a note about the color matching, I really didn’t have to do a whole lot. Pine and mahogany are never
really going to go great together, the grain patterns
are just too different. But once I put a new coat
of lacquer on it the actual background colors are
pretty darn close and were good enough that I wasn’t
going to mess with it. Sometimes you start down
that road of changing the color and it just
turns into a nightmare. I checked with the customers,
they were very happy with this result and the wanted
the sort of rustic look that the base has, and they think
the table top looks perfect. Customers are going to be
really happy with this one. I hope you’ve enjoyed
our refinishing episode. Remember to stay subscribed and check out our website at
www.TheWoodWhisperer.com. If you have any questions
or comments please feel free to e-mail us at
[email protected] Now go build something, or maybe you could settle for just refinishing something. (warm blues music)

50 Replies to “3 – DIY Refinishing”

  1. Thank god you uploaded something, if I watched one more home diy video with some guy holding his camera with his teeth I would have died. I was seriously having wood whispering withdrawals.

  2. Holy. Cow. For some reason, I thought this was a 7 min video. Fifty-four min and 20 seconds later, I am thinking to myself, "that's it? Gimme more!" Seriously, great video… I really enjoy the detail in which you explain WHY you do certain methods. It was invaluable. Thanks.

  3. If anyone is considering refinishing an antique I would hope you don't try to follow this demonstration unless you are highly skilled with power tools and have no regard for the patina of the old wood.  As he said he doesn't do refinshing work and most people would not be happy about having drum sanders, belt sanders and routers just to get the finish off.  95% of people would ruin the piece before ever getting it stripped.  I don't think I've ever seen such an aversion to stripper.  I thought this would be way better considering this guy's skill level.  To be fair I quit watching after the "router stripper" ordeal.

  4. I have to share a tip with you that I used when I was refinishing an antique oak sowing table. As you had, there was a profiled edge on the top and shaped legs. When I was sanding off the finish from that hard oak, especially the end grain, I really regretted starting the job. Anyway this is so simple I'm surprised you didn't think of it. Profiled cabinet scrapers! I used the metal from an old disposable hand saw. Using a small angle grinder and some files I created a matching profile of the edges and then made the small burr! It worked like magic. I hope this helps someone out. Thanks for the great videos! 

  5. Great video. How much wld you charge for a job like this? Ball park figure is ok. Thanks again for putting quality videos up

  6. Great video, I find your videos very informative as well somewhat entertaining but mostly educational even for old guys like me (66) that may not have done as many projects as you do. I thank you for allowing us to learn from you.

  7. great video. I'm wondering what your method would have been if the piece had gouges or deep scratches in it? is there any good wood filler that will accept a stain and not be noticabley different? Thanks!

  8. You are an EXCELLENT instructor and you give very pertinent information about the process and what to think ahead about. I really enjoyed this video and would love to go out and finish an antique piece if only I had a place to work. Thanks for a wonderfully informative video.

  9. SERIOUSLY? 55 Minutes (30 of which was talking) and it didn't get FINISHED?!
    Lots of good info but still wanted to see it finished…. Or, is there another video I don't know about?

  10. I know he said he wasn't a refinisher, but geez, routers and belt sanders. I hope no one ever gives him a nice antique piece to work on. A professional grade stripper, not the kind you can get at a box store, and some wood bleach would have yielded the same results in probably 14 of the time. Plus, most likely wouldn't have had to refill the pores.

  11. Wood Whisperer,
    Do you have to strip an existing piece if your going to do an inlay on it?

    Love the videos. Cheers.

  12. I spilled paint brush cleaner on my project. I have been trying to apply spar urethane but it quickly dissolves even after vigorous sanding vigorous sanding. Does anyone have any ideas on how to neutralize the Klean Strip brush clean that has soaked into the wood?

  13. hello, I have a wooden table , the sanded and I am very well , wood notice a little dry , my question is , I can put oil first and then varnishing ??? if so what steps must follow and what needs to use??? tks

  14. Thanks for mentioning lead. Lead poisoning is a very serious problem. FYI 1978 was the year it was outlawed for use in home construction in the US. But it was still allowed in commercial construction. Also as we know stuff from China, India and other places still contain lead. So you're 100% right, it's best to test.

  15. You didn't show how you fixed the table leaf mechanism! You didn't even show that it opens easier. I watched for an hour and I was waiting for that all along. I'm so unsatisfied 🙁

    That said, your videos are well-made and full of great information. I'm glad I found your channel.

  16. My wife started watching Grey's Anatomy from the start… I have 10 years of your videos and a wood working shop! I AM THE KING OF THE WORLD!

  17. just commenting so you know these old vids are still being watched. I view start to finish to gain some knowledge about a technique or jig.

  18. On a safety note, not all chemical resistant gloves are created equal, some are better than others for specific chemicals. There is a lovely table from the department of energy that lists which gloves are good for protection from which classes of chemicals.


    Incidentally, his safety video on the use of his respirator is also a very good overview.

  19. I like your wood working videos but here you are giving some really bad advice. Just my 2 cents. Using a router or a time saver as a device for a refinish job can turn a project into shit in a second if you lose control.

  20. Often when working for a big box store we get many questions about refinishing, knowledgable in the craft but limited on time. My query usually is to ask the customer what their project is and what they wish to achieve? Again limited on time as the store is busy, I point out a few key points, what kind of surface are we talking about? Is it hardwood? Laminate? Soft woods? What kind of finish? Again, not much time sometimes does not allow me to go through the process. I often refer them to your channel to better understand what varnish or top coat they have to this video. Thank you for helping others, and explaining in detail about the process. When I have the time I do try to go over the steps with them.

  21. i put wood filler on a piece before staining. now i have light discoloration around those areas that i stained. i've tried restaining and still ligh colored. how can i remedy that before i poly?

  22. I just want to say thank you for what you do, just starting on your videos but I want to say well done. video quality is good. you take time to explain a lot of stuff like attending class or having an experienced worker guiding me, I am just an early retired guy, moved to the Philippines from las vegas, it will be frustrating here to find some of the tools and wood and I may have to have things like a jointer shipped from usa – ouch add about 50 percent of the cost but please keep it up

  23. Wow, I have never seen so much time wasted to avoid using stripper. I have been doing refinishing for years and I do not enjoy using stripper, however i do need to turn a profit or it's not worth doing. That being said, I have enjoyed many of your other videos, keep em coming!

  24. Old oak has such a great melo coloring. Stripping to bare wood seems to remove the old patina of the piece. Is there a way to refinish and not distroy the aged coloring.

  25. Marc…in exploring your 'vintage' videos, this one really caught my eye! I have always despised working with that nasty goop called 'grain filler.' I have always felt as though I were repairing dents in a '71 Pinto with that stuff! I really like the 'wet sanding' approach, and can't wait to try it out. Thanks!

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