Old wooden furniture, even if it is not of antique status, is often better than lots of newer pieces. First the old stuff is made of real wood, not compressed wood chips, splinters or sawdust. Even if the new furniture uses real wood, it is often from a less desirable specie. Plus the fact that many old things can be picked up at bargain prices at flea markets and garage sales. And, if you have to chance to select from Grandma?s attic, the price is really right! FREE!
To many folks, the way to reclaim old wood furniture is to strip and refinish or paint. There may be several reasons not to take that route. First of all,many of the older pieces have developed a look that experts refer to as ‘patina’. This is that rich, old look that wood gets after years of aging of both the wood and the finish. Stripping or even sanding can do away with the patina. Painting will completely cover up this good quality.
Let’s say you found a cute chair at a garage sale. All the parts seem sound but the finish is all gunky looking. You figure that this piece couldn’t possible have any redeeming quality, much less patina. Stripping would get rid of the gunk but maybe, there’s a good sound finish underneath the layer of filth. You can find out for about a dollar and in about five minutes.
The secret ingredient is paint thinner! Just regular mineral spirits paint thinner you can find in any paint store. Put a little on a rag and start wiping the furniture. You see, most of the reason for the glop on the surface is old wax and polish that has collected all sorts of air-borne dirt. Paint thinner dissolves wax, grease, oil from hands and lots of other stuff.
CAUTION: Paint thinner is flammable and should be used with plenty of ventilation.
Hopefully, when you get the piece clean, you’ll have a great looking chair that was repaired with almost no effort. And, it was probably a fun project. Even if the chair is not all that great, you probably would have had to clean it before you could refinish it anyway.
Your next step is to make up a story about the history of the old chair. Like maybe it was owned by George Washington or was brought over on the Mayflower by your great, great Aunt Penelope.