An Easy Fix for Antiques or Old Pieces – Restoring Wood Furniture DIY!
To start off a month of DIY projects, I wanted to restore a beautiful, old, colonial wooden rocking chair I purhased on Kijiji. The chair itself was the perfect look, size and age that suited my style. It is a beautiful piece, I’m sure with some stories behind it from its previous owners, but with those lost memories, it also came with some scuffs and a bit of wear. Knowing I didn’t have the budget to get the chair professional re-done and knowing it was likely not worth the effort, I knew this would make a great DIY if done properly. Here’s what I did to take this discoloured, marked up chair and restore it to its former glory!
Step 1 – Clean The Surface
The first step is to remove the built up layer of dirt, dust and discolouration on the wood. There are a few ways to approach this, but the method I chose was to use Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. It took about two erasers to do the whole piece from top to bottom and I also kept both a damp and dry paper towel on hand to wipe up as I went. I learned after that using vinegar is also another good way to remove grimy layers of build up on wood and would have added that this step to reduce my elbow grease output!
Ultimately though the Mr. Clean Magivc Erasers “stripped” the layer on top of the wood. While allowing me to get down to the wood’s natural grain, I also noticed the eraser left a residue, most likely some of the grime smeared around. This did a great job of removing build up, but I did get nervous at how the wood looked so dull and dry. But, that takes me to step 2!
Step 2 – Polish The Wood
This step involves using a wood cleaner that will restore its colour and lustre and protect it. I read about a variety of products, including DIY options, but I wanted to make sure the wood had the best colour possible when done. So I used an orange oil knowing it would produce results and this was reassuring to me. For my piece, the oil worked great. You want to spray the piece and wait a few minutes so it can break down any remaining grime. I thinkg my chair had once been waxed and that what was remaining (even after the Magive Erasers) was making the surface dull.
The trick is to have a few terry cloths on hand; one to wipe the oil with the grain of the wood and one to wipe off excess behind. You need to wipe off excess to avoid a greasy finish that would actually collect dirt and dust and also make the chair awkward to sit in! The best outcome was that the wood no longer had discolouration. Also, I was able to get the oil to leave a nice lustre without any slick feeling.
Just a note though, I have tried the oil on finished wood even just as a cleaner and it doesn’t produce noticeable results and therefore is a waste of time and money.
Step 3 – Finish & Protect
The next step is to apply a “new” surface to the wood. Again there are multiple options here, but the finish will keep the piece from fading or collecting dust (dust collecting on wood furniture is the worse).
There are a variety of oils you can use, but you have to keep in mind some are meant for treating the wood – they don’t dry, while others are meant for actually finishing the wood – they dry nicely. There are some who advise against using wood oils altogether. The other option is to use a paste wax applied lightly and buffed into the wood. I think that I would use this approach if the piece was more delicate, valuable or in need of love. Either way there is no one way to restore wooden furniture.
I would opt for tung oil, specifically one with no dryers in it. Who hasn’t heard of tung oil for finishing wood? This oil does more than make wood shine, it prevents it from discolouring period! The best part of it is that it provides a waterproof protection to the wood. I think I like the idea of this better than even the wax! I’ll be tackling this step in the next few weeks after one more good oiling of the wood.
Step 4 – Maintain The Piece
After completing steps 1 and 2, the finish on my chair has remained just as great as the first day. I’ve noticed that it has maintained its colour well and there has been no fading or darkening, though it is not as shiny as the picture showing just after oiling it. Adding the tung oil will help keep the shine. But I have not had to clean, polish or dust it since.
Sometimes when I tackle small projects like this I’m not sure how it will turn out and I end up learning areas for improvement along the way. That being said the chair looks great and has helped complete our home. Once the tung oil finish is complete, I’ll be sure to update this post!