I can’t tell you how often people tell me they love my refinishing work, but they’d never have the time or patience to do it themselves. Personally, I love refinishing furniture. There’s no greater joy than bringing a piece of furniture back from the brink and restoring it to its original glory. That being said, it’s hard work. It’s hard, sweaty, chemical-filled, frustrating, time-consuming work. I can definitely sympathize with those who don’t have the time or skill, and believe me, if I don’t have to refinish something completely, I don’t. Sometimes when a piece is in rough shape, but not too far gone, it only takes a matter of minutes to get it back in fighting shape—and the process is easy enough anyone can do it. I’ll walk you through it.
A couple weeks ago I found this 1960s basket weave end table at a garage sale.
I didn’t love how love worn it was, but for $3 I couldn’t just leave it there. The finish was there, but heavily worn with chips and dings. The top was the worst with a lot of wear and some missing patches from moisture damage.
What to do, what to do? To touch up the large chips in the pine legs, I used medium walnut Watco Danish Oil to match the color—simply wipe it on and wipe it right back off. But for the walnut parts I decided to test out a new product, Watco Rejuvenating Oil. Unlike the Danish Oil that we’re practically spokespeople for, rejuvenating oil contains no colorants, it’s just slightly amber. Rejuvenating oil is intended for periodically touching up oiled wood surfaces—not typically for wood that has been finished with a film finish like this piece. But I figured I had nothing to lose.
I used an application process similar to how we typically recommend using Danish Oil. I flooded the entire piece with rejuvenating oil using a rag and allowed it sit for about 20 minutes. Then, using a clean cotton rag, I wiped the entire piece dry. The key to success here is making sure you’ve removed as much of the product as you can. The goal isn’t to thickly coat over the original finish—which would likely result in a sticky mess—but to allow the oil to seep into any scratches or fissures in the finish and help them blend away. After wiping it down, the difference was unbelievable.
Remarkable right? The sheen is a bit shinier than the original, but that’s a small price to pay. After seeing how well the wood was turning out, I decided to turn my attention to worn finish on the hardware. I couldn’t put that shabbiness back on it now.
One handle was decent and the other was worn completely. The woodgrain paint was chipping off and the brass was down to the base metal. I decided to turn to my trusty Behlen black satin spray lacquer. I love this stuff because it goes on perfectly and dries in less than 10 minutes. I gave these a once over with 400 grit sandpaper and two coats of black lacquer. Picture perfect.
Not too shabby, huh? I took this from curb ready to room ready in only 15 minutes. It’s important to note that the process only took 15 minutes, but the rejuvenating oil should really be left to dry for a couple days before putting the piece into service. But really, what’s a few days of just letting it sit compared to hours of stripping, sanding, oiling and clear coating? Of course this method won’t work on severely damaged pieces or on pieces with a finish that’s a significantly different color than the actual wood. For the everything else, it’s a 15 minute miracle.