Take a subject you’re familiar with and imagine it as three photos in a sequence. Tackle the subject by describing those three shots.
In the bottom photo is a painted antique kitchen cabinet. What you do with this depends on what you want to happen to it. Do you want to sell it or keep it? If you want to sell it, you may not want to touch it, as the original finish sometimes sells for many more dollars. If you want to sell an item, never paint it. You can touch up with a scratch cover product, maybe run some tongue oil over it to revive the wood, but other wise, leave it alone, and place your mark-up on it and a sale sign, and you won’t have it very long. It will be snapped up!
If you choose to keep the piece that you bought or maybe inherited, and you want it to compliment your living space, and you are pretty sure you will not sell it for a long time, then you may want to consider refinishing it.
Most woods that I have done in my own shop I have hand-finished. Dipping furniture is a lot easier, but it loosens glue, and a lot of glue was used in earlier pieces, so I never dipped furniture.
I bought liquid strippers for the most part, with using a small can of semi-paste gel type of stripper, that holds its shape while doing its job. Hopefully, if you are lucky, there is only one layer of paint on your item. If there are more than one layer, then one layer is what you can take off at a time.
One of my first pieces I bought and refurnished and placed in my store for sale, was a ladder back chair. It was painted heavily with an enamel paint, and I thought, this was going to be a snap, but it wasn’t. The first coat was a snap, but there were ten coats of different paint colors underneath in total, and I had to strip each layer off one at a time, but the reward underneath, was worth all of my work. A hand carved Indian head was carved into the wood. This piece finished was beautiful and brought me bigger dollars than I had thought.
Tools that you may include to refinish any piece of furniture will be cheap paint brushes, all sizes, chinese eating sticks, detail miniature pointed tools, old towels, wash rags, trash bags, sandpaper, sanding stone, drill with sanding attachments, clean soft rags, rubber gloves, metal cans, large,( I used an old horse trough so I could sit section by section inside the bucket in order not to spoil the grass or ground, and to be able to re-use the strippers), water hose, stains, tongue oils,soft scrapers,(plastic), furniture putty. These are the basics, I had a lot of odd pieces I found at sales, and at home, that I used for picking out paint of tiny lines and curves and crevices. Never use anything sharp. There are very few woods that can not be scratched, when softened by the strippers and being wet!
So, you put the stripper on, and you make sure you are in a well ventilated area, better yet outdoors,and always in warm weather. Strippers don’t work in cool weather, and if they do work at all, it takes a lot longer. You let the stripper set according to direction times, and while it is setting you take pointed tools, and with the gel-type stripper on those intricate, detailed areas, you start picking and wiping, removing the paint. When you get most of those small areas done, you can then go ahead and let liquid strippers run over it and keep wiping the paint off.
All of this takes time. You really have to have a love for antique furniture in order to do this type of work. A lot of strippers smell to high heavens, and if you are bare-legged, the back splash can burn, like a mosquito bite on your legs or arms. I never did, but some use face masks to protect the lungs.
After the paint is totally off, the strippers that I have used, can be washed off with clear water. When you see no more paint remaining, dry with a soft cloth, and let sit for 24 hours to dry the wood completely. You will not be drenching the wood, so don’t worry, it will dry nicely and not lose its shape.
When this has all been done, you can put a finish all over the piece. Some come with a luster glaze in them, some are water proofed for drink marks, but what I do if I am especially going to sell the item, is run lemon oil, or tongue oil completely over it.
My favorite pieces to own are completely natural looking, back to what they looked like originally. This is the only type of furniture I sold.
I had my own business for several years. I bought and sold antique furniture, and refinished it for clients wanting work done. I also helped to run auction houses, and sometimes bought antiques to flip in the business only. We all need a quick buck sometimes!
The love of antiques is in my blood, and if a customer came to me once again, I can tell you this, it would stir my blood up to a boil once again, just thinking about the joy I get out of it.
So the pictures above are in three stages, painted cupboard, beginning to strip the piece of furniture, and finally the finished product.