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Wood Chest Renovation Answered

Hi There

I have a wooden chest that I was asked to restore. The chest is made of what appears normal pine, but it was painted over with a dark paint. The owner asked me to try and restore it to the original wood. My question is:

1. Obviously I would have to sand it, but what grit of sand paper do I use to get rid of the paint and to get the smooth surface?
2. What would be the best application after sanding, oil or varnish? The client is not a fan of a gloss finish so what would be the best option?



Temple Works

3 years ago

Thank you all for giving your advice.

I agree that a paint stripper is not the best option as it might damage the wood. From your advice and the local guy at my hardware store and because it is not an antique I have decided to do the following:

The paint on the wood is not very thick and because it is chipping off, it should not be to difficult to sand off. I will therefore start with a 80 grit sand paper to sand off the paint. If the paint is coming off easily I will switch to a 100 grit. When all the paint is off, I will start using a 200 grit sandpaper and gradually move to a 400 or even 600 grit to get the wood nice and smooth. I will then use a wood oil to bring out the colour of the wood, but I will only use one maybe two coats of oil. After the oil is dry I will coat the wood with some matt clear varnish to protect the wood and to enable the wood to be cleaned with a wet cloth when is going to be used as the client is currently using the chest on a regular basis.

The client does not like the whole glossy look so I hope that by using the wood oil and matt varnish that the chest won't be to shiny for her liking.


3 years ago

Can not recommend paint strippers for a restaration project, they always ruin the wood.
First check if the job was done old school: If Schellack was used the "varnish" will come off with alcohol, make it wet wait a minute rub off.
Sanding is a good start but it needs to be done right.
You only want to remove the damaged areas without actually sanding off a lot of the wood.
In many cases you will notice a water or alcohol based stain was used.
If that is case then you will notice between sanding when using a cloth wetted with alcohol - it should slightly "smear" the tint.
In any case you want to start with about 400grid paper as the chest seems to be in half decent condition.
Once done with this grid and all looks even use a cloth with methyled spirit to wet the wood.
Let fully dry and do another light sanding, the wetting will make the wood fibres stand up ;)
Now repeat the sanding with finer grit, including the wetting when done.
Depending on the desiered fiinish move all the way up 800grid or finer if you need.
For the stain I would use a dark brown to black finnish - don't be fooled by mahagony stain as it will cause pine to turn more red than brown/black!
Final finnsh I would do the traditional way using alcohol and schellack, a bit of pain to get it right, so I recommend "training" on some scrap pieces first.
You only need a really thin layer first that soaks a bit into the wood, the final "coats" are rubbed in and polished with a lint free cloth - I actuall prefer the purpose made polishing cloth rolls you get for your car.
You cloth piece will get extremely sticky when it starts to dry, so when you notice bad rubbing replace the cloth with a fresh one otherwise you get streaks that are really hard to buff out.
The real trick with schellack is to only use as much as is needed for a good finnish, unlike varnish you don't add coat after coat to make it thicker.


Reply 3 years ago

You can see from the interior it isn't really an antique. If it were, none of use would have recommended refinishing...


3 years ago

Paint strippers can eliminate much sanding, and especially help to avoid messing with the fine bevels, etc. They are way less harmful for the environment than strippers were 30 yrs ago. Finish sanding will still be necessary.

Before the final finish coat, look into staining. It can really make the grain pop, and stain can make whitewood mimic other woods: hardwoods, etc. Best to test stain colors somewhere on the wood inside...


3 years ago

Sandpaper: start rough (low grit number) and work smooth (high grit number). Stop when bored.

Finish: you can buy matt varnishes, and most oils give a matt finish. Or you could ask your client their preference (think: "customer service", also, it stops them blaming you for a finish they don't like).