refinishing solid wood interior doors

stannleyMarch 1, 2011

We have what appear to be cherry (extremely heavy!) doors in our 1924 home. They are not ornate - no trim - so it's not outside the realm of possibility that we attempt refinishing ourselves. DH has done a couple with polyurethane and it appears to work, but I'd like to retain that 'old wood' look and refinish it with shellac or varnish which is what I presume was used at the time.

Obviously those that the dogs have damaged will require sanding, and more elbow grease, but is there a way to freshen the ones up that have not been seriously scratched with solvent and then more finishing material?

We probably have 50 doors in this house....anything to make it easy will be helpful!

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More likely mahogany than cherry. Mahogany was considered then like pine is now, a substandard but acceptable wood for trim/woodwork in homes.

Probably some kind of varnish, since shellac is very labor intensive to apply on large surfaces.

Try this on the back side of a closet door:

Sand lightly with 180 or 220 grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block. All you need to do is scuff the surface evenly. Wipe with a rag dampened with paint thinner. Using a really good 2&12" tapered brush(I prefer Purdy brand--and I use artificial bristled models), apply a coat of good oil based varnish. You can use gloss, semi gloss, or satin as you choose.

Gloss will look NEW, semi gloss will look New, and satin will look new for comparison.

The secret to finishing with oil based varnish(Sherwin Williamd makes a couple good varities and Ace Hardware makes a decent variety) is to apply evenly with a minimum of over brushing. Three strokes over any area is sufficient. More strokes begins to cause the finish to not self level.

By practicing with closet doors, you can get the technique perfected.

Water based varnish is made, but that is poly based and causes that plastic look, IMHO.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 12:00PM
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Try Sikkens finish. We personally don't like using it because it takes forever to dry properly but it might give you that old world look again to your wood doors.

Here is a link that might be useful: Custom Mahogany Doors

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 1:30PM
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thanks handymac and cejayv! I suspect that these doors could be mahogany - explains their incredible weight. I hope to follow up with how they turn out. Maybe even share some pix!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 5:31PM
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We found an old stained glass door in our home. After removing the old hardware, we trimmed it to fit and stripped off the old finish. There were a lot of holes to fill, like where an old door lock was and a door knob. Now that it is all sanded smooth, we want to refinish. When I was young, my late parents used a product that you painted on and when dry, you applied a glaze and whipped down making the finish appear like it was grained. At the hardware store, no one knew what to do and looked at me like I was nuts. I know that the putty will not take a stain, but what can I do? We have natural original woodwork and hardwood floors so we don't want to paint this door.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 10:21AM
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