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Conquering My Fears of Refinishing Furniture

Fear...

- it can really cramp your style, can't it?

Think of all the things you could achieve if fear wasn't a factor. Fear steals our dreams and eats away at our confidence like nothing else can!

This is true in SO MANY areas of our lives!! But for the purposes of today's post...

Case in point: My Fear of Refinishing Furniture

Sounds silly, right? To be afraid of something so benign... and after all, I have painted lots of pieces...so I must know something...but refinishing? Uh, never.

Fear was holding me back saying, "It's too hard, you can't do it". "It smells and it's messy". "You're going to mess it up, better leave it to the pros".  "Sure Miss Mustard Seed makes it look so easy, but you're not her", "blah, blah, blah".

My project: A $20 dressing table from the thrift store. Overlooked by others for obvious reasons...but all cosmetic. This is a well-made piece by Brandt furniture, with the label inside. I knew I could  make this piece beautiful! So I decided to go for it.



I really, really wanted to refinish the top and paint the base. The top had a lot of scratches and marks on it.

The plan was to try to sand off the top layer and see if I could remove all the scratches and get to nice, smooth solid wood, which I would then stain a rich, dark walnut. To be honest, I had no idea if I would be successful. Plan B was to paint the top if I messed up :)

I did have an ulterior motive to learning how to do this. I have a dining room table that is badly in need of refinishing and I hope to do it myself (the table top and all 3 leaves that came with it). I wanted to experiment on a smaller piece first.

I started sanding the top with my palm sander, and was seeing results. Within about an hour, I had the entire top sanded. I changed my sandpaper to a finer grit and went over it again to smooth things out even further. I really didn't think my little palm sander was up to the task but it totally surprised me. I didn't even need to change out the sandpaper. One sheet was enough to cut through all the poly. All those scratches? Gone!

You can see here the progressions of depth after adding each coat of stain. I first conditioned the wood and let that dry overnight. Then I used Min Wax Gel Stain in Walnut. Each coat was brushed on fairly thickly, let to sit for only 3 minutes or so (about the time it took me to finish the piece) and then the excess wiped off with a rag. It had to dry 8-10  hours between coats and I did three coats total. See how in the third picture, the side pieces are a different shade? I think they might actually be a different wood altogether than the main piece. I was really worried that they wouldn't stain uniformly...but they did. And I think that's where the conditioner really helped.


At this point the temperature dropped so I brought it into the house to paint the base. I mixed up a creamy white homemade chalk paint and brushed on three coats. After sanding and lightly distressing, it was time to wax. I used two different waxes for this piece. My favorite is Min Wax Furniture Paste, which I used on the top, two coats. The reason I used something different for the base is that over white, many waxes can harden to a yellowish tinge. The SC Johnson Paste Wax is the best cheap wax on the market that stays truest. It also has a very strong smell so I try to only use it when absolutely necessary because I get a headache from it.

If you've never waxed a piece of furniture before, it is so rewarding! You either rub it on with a cloth (Min Wax because it's more solid) or brush it on (SC Johnson) because it's goopy. Each wax gives its own instructions for time to wait between buffing but it's only 10-30 minutes or so. Buffing is a great workout! You use a lint-free cloth (like an old cotton t-shirt) and just start rubbing and buffing. You will instantly notice the areas you buff will take on a beautiful soft shine (not glossy like poly).  As the wax 'cures' over the next 3 weeks, it will continue to harden and create a nice protective surface for your piece. Try not to place anything on the top for about 3 weeks {I staged my piece for a few quick photos and then took everything off and it is now curing}.Wax is not as protective as a poly and does need to be redone - maybe once a year or so.

Do you want to see the finished piece??? I am dying to show you!


What a difference, right?! Look at that dark smooth top - no more scratches! The creamy white paint really sets it off. And you actually notice the curves and pretty feet now!


I kept the original hardware but gave it a good cleaning with Bar Keeper's Friend (that stuff is amazing!) 


I am using this piece as an entryway table..the drawer is perfect for holding keys, sunglasses, mittens, etc.



I think all of us DIY enthusiasts have these types of fears. Someone is always going to be better than us. More accomplished. But does that mean we shouldn't even TRY??

Of course not! Trying is half the battle!

If you are feeling self-doubt today or intimidated by a project you really, really want to do...don't give up! Because YOU can do it! You can learn it! Follow the blogs of gals you admire, Google the subject matter and read all you can about it. Ask questions. In the words of that great icon, Winnie the Pooh :)...


One more picture, just to show you where I've come this past week...

console table with stained top, white-painted bottom

I am so glad I tried!




P.S. I was going to include pics of all the products I used...but this post was getting too picture-heavy. I did provide links so you can view the products. I was not compensated by Lowes or Walmart for this post. If you have specific questions, just comment or shoot me an email and I'll be happy to answer :)


37 comments:

  1. Oh. My. Goodness! That is a wonderful transformation! I love how you refinished the table top but painted the bottom. DIY Chalk Paint is a fabulous thing, isn't it?

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    1. Thanks Ashley. It turned out just like I pictured it!! And it was so much easier than I thought.... cannot wait to do my dining table!!

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  2. You did it! Anytime you have a curvy piece of furniture it looks beautiful painted and this is a fine example of that. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I love curvy furniture and was so excited to find this one! Thanks Di :)

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  3. Soooo pretty! One of my favorites of yours!

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  4. What a gorgeous piece. I love the curved legs and it looks great in your foyer.
    Patty at Home and Lifestyle Design

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    1. Thanks Patty, I'm a sucker for curves and they always stand out more when they're painted! Love that :)

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  5. I'm glad you tried this too! It's so pretty now! Good job!

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    1. Thanks Carrie :) I'll be so much braver the next time!!

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  6. Oh, I am so loving this piece! I am new to your blog but will become a follower now! First, what a deal for $20.00...just love the piece.....but the finish is beautiful! and perfect in your entry......my husband just built a hutch using an old desk as the base....love repurposing don't you?
    Happy V*Day!
    Lois

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    1. Oh, I adore new followers! Thanks for joining Lois!! I'm kinda in love with this piece myself...and repurposing is what I love best!! Thanks for stopping by!!

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  7. I'm completely in love with this piece of furniture! Fantastic find & an amazing makeover.

    Angela @ Number Fifty-Three

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    1. Thank you Angela :) I don't often find great furniture at Goodwill anymore so this was a great score!! Have a great weekend :)

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  8. For a professed refinish-aphobe, you did an amzing job! I would love it if you would share your project at my new link party DIY:Done! at FlyingC-DIY.com It;s open through SUnday, and every weekend from Friday to Sunday. Hope to see you there!!

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  9. I'm glad you conquered your fear! It's beautiful!! Thank you for sharing. You are one of the features today at The Round-Up at The Dedicated House. Here is the link so you can check out your feature. http://thededicatedhouse.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-round-up-from-before-and-after_18.html Hope to see you again tomorrow at Before and After Wednesday! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

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  10. WOW! Yay for getting over your fear because it turned out beautiful!!! Now I can't wait to see how your dining table will turn out. Thanks for linking up to The Makers!

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    1. Thanks Katie...I'm eager to get to my dining table as soon as the weather warms up!

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  11. I know what you mean, I am trying to face my fears and sock it to them! :D You did an awesome job on the table! It's so pretty!

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    1. Haha, just DO it Heather! Thanks for the comment love :)

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  12. I have an oak kitchen table I want to update--you've given me some courage! I'm visiting via The Maker's Link Party, and am glad I did! Blessings, Diana

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    1. Diana, I'm so glad you've been inspired..and motivated! I can't wait to get to my kitchen table as well :) Good luck!

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  13. This looks amazing! Way to conquer your fears! I really like the two tone. Thanks for linking up at The Makers.
    Corey @ TinySidekick.com

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    1. Thank you Corey! I am so happy with how it turned out and can't wait to start on my dining table once it warms up outside :)

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  14. Cindy, WOW! Just imagine if you didn't go for it - and it came out so beautifully!!! What a great job - I love the contrast of the base and the top, and that top came out so pretty!!! Thanks for linking up to Best of the Nest, so glad to see your project and find your blog!

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    1. Thanks Lisa, I'm so glad I decided to just go for it! Now I realize it's not that bad and I'm excited to try more projects!! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting :)

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  15. Wow that looks amazong...!! I love how you started this post too about being afraid that yours won't turn out right and yada, yada.. I too have that fear..!! I've been buying items to redo but yet to have them completed course I'm also a procrastinator and with the crazy weather we've been having... any great work, bet your glad you tried...!!!! Now you can save yourself alot of money by doing it yourself...!!!

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    1. Tammy, I'm a procrastinator too...so I'm always thrilled to get another project done! Thanks for stopping by!!

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  16. Wow. Not only was that a beautiful piece before you started (despite its warts) but it's beautiful in its new incarnation! You did a great job.
    I have to remind myself if I FEEL I failed, I'm just working with paint. Big deal.
    I read an aphorism somewhere that you've reminded me to bring back to the fore:
    What would you attempt if you knew you could NOT fail?
    That's huge, isn't it?

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    1. Thanks Christine! Knowing I could always repaint it is what got me going with this piece...plus the fact that it only cost me $20! But you're so right...if we knew we could NOT fail, just think what we would accomplish!! Sure puts fear in its place, doesn't it?

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  17. That is Awesome, Cindy! I have "fear of furniture refinishing!" I'm way too impatient, but I have been thinking of trying it. I'm pinning this since for when I do!

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    1. Amy, you need to try it!!! It's really not as hard as you think it will be (at least a flat surface isn't, not sure how hard those curvy legs would've been :/) Thanks for the pin!!

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  18. There seems to be no other way to conquer your fear but to face it and you’ll be glad that you do so. Thanks for sharing.

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