way to refunish without losing patina

cateyanneAugust 9, 2007

I have a few old pieces of furniture that were passed down through my family that I would like to use in my home. most of the things are well preserved but the finish on them is in need of some work. I would like to display them without the "cover ups" I've been using and have always planned on refinishing them myself. I really don't want to loose the lovely rich color they have acquired over the years. Stripping and re-doing the finish will probably remove it. What is the best method to get a nice finish without sacrificing patina? they are in various states of need, from a few water marks on a side table to a very "pebbly" effect that has appeared in the varnish on the piano.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

At the risk of being told that there is only one way to do that and that is to have a professional "restorer" make a new finish...I will tell you what I do and have done.
Mix up shellac thinner ( denatured alcohol) with laquer thinner, 3 parts alcohol with 1 part laquer thinner. Brush it on the finish, it will melt the finish and you can wipe it off with steel wool ( at least 0000 grade...finer is better) and paper towels. It will not raise the grain nor remove the stain nor will it get out water marks if they are through the finish into the wood. And you can just wipe away almost all but not all the finish if you find a point where it pleases you.
Then let it dry, steel wool if it's not smooth and apply the finish of your choice. I like an antique oil finish which is a boiled linseed oil with siccative dryers added. Steel wool again and apply another coat if you wish.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 2:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Currently, I'm using Briwax which is a natural wax that is used by many to restore antique wood furniture finish.

It's fairly easy to use and gives a beautiful finish plus it brings out its patina. Just apply a thin coat, let it dry, and use a clean cloth such as an old t-shirt to buff it up. I'm using it on all of my other wood furnitures now.

For more details, follow the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.briwax.com/tips/tips.htm

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 12:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The "patina" that you're talking about is "the finish" . That old finish if you could remove it like a piece of Saran Wrap would be cloudy,hazy,yellowy ( nice word) and Organge . All of this creates that "haze" that people call a "patina".
Your not going to make things better with a "wax" . You would just be putting wax on top of an already cloudy surface.
I'm a furniture refinsher, Linda hates me because I do it the right way instead of using gimmicks like trying to "melt" a finish.
She thinks all I want to do is convince my customers to refinish their furniture. I have more people thank me for telling them ,their piece is not worth spending the money on or having me tell them we should restore their piece and not refinsih it.
I don't believe in the "snake oils" or the hobbyist remedies when it comes to the furniture you love.
Melting a finish gives you absolutley no control over the amount of finish you will be able to keep on the surface, much less the mixture you've created of new and old finish.
There's really not a simple and quality solution to what your asking to do. Are there half hearted attempts to make it look better, I think so. I just don't subscribe to those methods.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 10:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

According, to a leading authority on Arts and Craft furniture -- there are two types of patina -- one in the wood and one in the finish. Heavy sanding and stripping will remove the patina in the wood. Refinishing will remove the patina in the finish.

Actually, Stocky, he recommends Linda's method many times in one of his books. He is a professional restorer, spokesperson for Minwax and as appeared several times on the New Yankee Workshop.

Don't want to disagree with you -- but other professionals also have differing opinions.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 4:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Not a problem, not gonna go with a guys opinion just because he's written a book and been on tv.

What makes him a "professional restorer" ? I make my living at it, YOU could call me a professional, I act that way towards my work and my customers. Does that make me the ulitmate authority . Nope. I'll continue to do it my way,it seems to work for all of NY,NJ and CT.

As a spokesman for Minwax , you, me and he will say anything for a the almighty dollar.

I refinshed furniture for 10 years for Minwax to be used in their literature.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 4:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There are all types of "old furniture". Some items I would gladly pay a professional to restore, either because of monetary or sentimental value. The only thing that would prevent that would be the cost. The reality is, there are many other pieces that I would not warrant the cost of a professional restoration. This doesn't mean the item is not worth anything to me or anyone else and should therefore be thrown away or stuck in the back of a barn and used to store paint cans. lol! I have pieces that are lovely additions to my home and a little restoring from me is all they need to find a useful place. Obviously, I am not the only one who feels this way. I have yet to come across anything in life where there is only one way to do it right. One of the reasons I love this web sight so much, lots of people with experience helping others without the experience! Years ago "Formbys" sold a product I think was called "furniture refinisher" it was different than some of their other stripper type products. Part of the advertising stated it would give your old wood pieces new life without stripping the patina "color" achieved through age. I used this on an old table that my grandmother had used to put plants on. It was covered with water rings but other wise was a beautiful dark honey brown. I have also stripped pieces, which really removes the old finish completely and restores the piece to a "like new" look. There are certain items I would rather not strip away the old color. Part of that old color is it's charm. I want to retain it but give the finish a refreshed look, getting rid of marks and unevenness that has occurred over the years. Formbys product worked great but I can't seem to find it anywhere. I was wondering if there was another product like it out there or a combination of things that would achieve the same result. Perhaps someone with experience in this particular type of renovating? lindac, your method sounds a lot like what I'm talking about. I do remember using the fine steel wool, after you mentioned it. You've always provided wonderful advice and do your best to help the people here when they reach out for it. It is very much appreciated. Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 7:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

AMEN! Cateyanne.

Stocky, I don't think Linda is the only one that does not like you. Although, I don't know why she's not really bothered by you (I've asked her once). I guess, she's just too nice and learned to just... ignore you.

If your way is the "right" way and the "only" way as you made it sounded to be, how come you have so much time spending on this forum? I guess, what I'm trying to say is, how's your business? If "your" way is the only "right" way, you'd probably have loaded of people coming to your rescue, don't you think? And, shouldn't you be too busy working rather than to be here on this forum insulting people's techniques?

I'm only restoring 1 dining set and yet, I can't find time to go to bed before 12 midnight. At times, I had to force myself to rest so I don't over exhaust myself. That's when I spend time in here try to learn. But your insults to others people's techniques are quite aggressive and abusive. It gets to a point that I don't even care for your technique whether it's right or not. Except for this time (what a mistake), I normally just ignore the comments you make. Have an open mind, that's how you get to be wiser.

And sorry to say but you're WRONG about wax over wax. The key word is applying it thinly. Of course, when you apply too many layers of wax, it gets cloudy and you'd need to clean it up. But in my case, it didn't have too many layers; so, wax over wax was just fine. I am applying Briwax over the original finish and it looks as beautiful as it can be. Wanna argue about that now?!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 10:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My mixture of laquer thinner and shellac thinner acts very like Formby's...but cheaper.
I didn't invent it. I first learned about it some 35 or more years ago from the books by George Grotz.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 11:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

To the original OP and cateyann: I am not a professional. I have stripped and refinished many, many pieces of furniture (a hobby). I am not an advocate of stripping/refinishing any and all antiques, especially if $ value is a factor. On several pieces that do not warrant a complete strip/refinish I have used Restore A Finish and am pleased with the results. Had I just seen it on a shelf somewhere I would have viewed it as snake oil, or something as-seen-on-TV. I learned of it when I took a drawer from a piece in to a local antique dealer to ask their advice, the finish was compromised but did not warrant a strip/refinish. Owner whipped out a can of RAF in walnut, poured some on a rag and wiped down the drawer. Wowed, I promptly went to Sears and bought some ;) After I use it, I always follow up with either a coat of Trewax or Howards Beeswax (good stuff).

Below are photos of a piece I bought, a vintage cherry 1940-50 Penn House hutch a local man had on eBay. Inspected in person, it was structurally perfect, but finish looked pallid. Most of the finish was in near excellent shape except for years of built up kitchen grease and smoke film overall, a few minor scuffs, a light watermark on the horizontal surface and an area where a liquid of some type had been allowed to set too long. I used R-A-F in mahogany tint with #0000 Superfine steel wool (I tested cherry tint at first but it was too abnormally red, not enough brown, mahogany is a better tint with more brown.) A caution: test steel wool in an inconspicuous area first, also use adequate ventilation, if indoors use a fan in a window as exhaust blowing toward outside or do it outside in garage, etc. (I do not use steel wool on all pieces, application with a rag is more appropriate on some pieces.) I have found the best selection at Sears Hardware, although my local Ace does carry some tints (there are many tints, which will subtly affect overall color, as well as clear). Link to RAF below (click on Product Knowledge for more info as well).

Here are photos of the hutch, unedited:

Before (photo from seller's ebay listing)

After RAF (mahogany tint) and Beeswax:

Here is a link that might be useful: Restore A Finish

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 9:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Where would ya like to start, my opinion/technique. Abrassive maybe, the only way , NO . Linda likes the home remedy method,and clearly doesn't think that refinishing should be done on anything ( generalazation). I know that if I stopped in and asked all of the furniture refinshers that I know if they use "lindas method" they would laugh and ask why ?
I can't guarantee to my customer that the finish will hold up if I'm "melting" it. I need to have a virgin surface.Also my customers are not people that want old looking pieces. The want and old piece with a new finish.
99% of what comes thru my shop doesn't have a finish left on it. If you left a drink on the DR table, it would leave a ring.
As for my business, I own/run a 8,000sqft shop that if your dining room set came in today ,it would be minimum 8-10 weeks turnaround time. Meaning ( knock on wood) there is that much work ahead of your job that just came in.I have employees that have worked for me for years, they are my family and I am part of theirs. They would do anything for me as would I them.
Trust me, you don't need to be concerned about my business.
Linda's first questioned my integrity when I stated that I was in possseion of a Roux sideboard. She wondered how 2 people on the same forum could have such a rare piece. When I posted pictures and tried to contact her regarding the piece I was ignored.
As for waxing over a dirty old finish ? WHY ?
What's the point ? Would you wax your car without washing it first ? I guess you do .
Let me know if you need help with your dining room set, I would'nt want ya to get exhausted.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 12:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Some years ago I purchased a rather ornate chip-in-dale style secretary at a church bazaar. Not an antique but probably from the 40ties. Paid $40. It was virtually black and checkered but I could see it as a diamound in the rough. I was familiar with the Formby's products and my local Ace hardware handles it but a quart of their Restorer was about $20. The paint dept. guy said that ACE had a similar product in gallons for less than $10. Two gallons later I uncovered a beautiful mahogany secretary complets with curved drawers. The process left the beautiful original patina and it now stands in our dining room and my wife store linins in the drawers and collectables in the top glass enclosed shelves. Inside the flip down desk are a variety of small drawers. Figure the piece is now worth $1,500 or so. Have $60 in it and some elbo grease.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 9:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Moonshadow, I too would recommend Restore A Finish. For a heavy buildup of old wax, I use 00 steel wool with it. It takes out water rings. I think it's wonderful for pieces that aren't really damaged to the point that they need to be stripped and refinished. But to bring the wood back to life, it's great.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 5:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i to refininish furniture as a profession(around 20 years)Its in my blood handed down from my grandfather who restored and refinished furniture for over 50 years,Im new to the forum and dont want to gain any enimies.Ive never used RAF myself but know alot of dealers who do.Im wondering-like stocky,do you put it right on top of the old finish or do you remove the old finish first?Theres alot of years of wax build up and dirt on alot of pieces that come through my doors.Most people Want to have their piece refinished when it comes to me.Just wondering.Im open minded to all sugestions and tips, Proffesional or not.Grandad allways told me -You can live 110 years and still learn something new.And moonshadow-your hutch looks great.I would say keep up the good work but that could put me out of buisness-lol

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 3:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How far would you get trying to pass of a "melted" finish to one of your customers.
You'd (We'd) be out of business.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 9:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Im sorry to say but your right.I do tell my customers if i feel they shouldnt refinish a piece and i do make sugestions to them what they can do.I do lose a few customers.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2007 at 12:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Of course we might loose a customer, but we've gained a friend who will tell their friends that we were honest and straight forward with them and that's not a common practice these days.
You and I are on the same page.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2007 at 12:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

tallmanrus, nice to meet you ;)

Thanks for the compliment ;) Would you believe the other day I opened an upper door on that hutch, bumpted a pewter tea pot that sent the pot and lid flying out and down, and as I went to grab it the tea pot bounced off my hands and against the hutch and now have two nice dings smack in the front of it. I was sick, that hutch lasted all those years with nary a ding like that :/

I didn't remove the finish before using RAF. I really cleaned it thoroughly first, though. I should have mentioned that for benefit of OP, sorry :/ I cleaned the above hutch first with mild detergent/water and then Formby's Build Up Remover. Then did the RAF.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2007 at 9:26AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Need help identifying blue bowl
Does anyone recognize this maker's mark? It is on the...
Antique/Retro Fridge Loud Vibration noise
My retro 1946 Frigidaire fridge started making very...
Tina Jansen
Help identifying a vase?
Does anyone know anything about this vase.It has no...
Melissa Mcintosh
not a 3 headed dragon candelabra
We have had this brass candelabra for over 30 years,...
Value of Crocker chair?
Can anyone tell me the value of this Crocker chair?...
Sponsored Products
Jessica McClintock Home Accents Provence Provencal Blanc Three-Light Bath Fixtur
$191.90 | Bellacor
Hopson Leather U-Sofa Sectional (5 piece) - Brighton Energy Pink
Joybird Furniture
Solid Bronze Toggle and Decora Plate - Bronze Patina
Signature Hardware
Isola Dining Arm Chair, Patio Furniture
$395.00 | FRONTGATE
Robert Abbey | Kinetic Table Lamp
$212.30 | YLighting
Meilleur Patina Bronze Linen Shade Plug-In Wall Lamp
Lamps Plus
Designers Fountain Pendants & Hanging Fixtures Chambery Hanging Outdoor
Home Depot
Bird on Ball Garden Lantern
$170.00 | Horchow
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™