Latest Project Completed 8/7/2017

This project was one that comes my way all too often, and that’s fixing someone else’s mistakes.  My clients hired a interior decorator when they first moved into their new home, and she suggested that their breakfast nook table should be refinished to better fit their new décor.  The table and chair were high quality, and it made sense to refinish the set.  The original finish was a deep hunter green with wood stained seats and table top.  They were suppose to be changed to a satin black, with the chair seats and table top to remain a wood stain.  The problem arose when she recommended someone who took shortcuts, didn’t know what they were doing, and totally overcharged.  Here’s some photo’s of what I first saw.

I could literally remove the finish with my finger nail, and to top it off, they used a semi-gloss polyurethane on the seats of the chairs, but left the table in a satin finish.  My clients said that initially the set looked fine, but within a few months the finish started to chip and peel.  They contacted the decorator, and the person who refinished the set, but they made no attempt to rectify the problem.   The paint finish only continued to deteriorate.  This type of situation makes me so mad, and as I said, happens all too often.  Had the person refinishing the set taken the proper steps this never would’ve happened.  Even if they didn’t strip the furniture down to bare wood, they should have at least used TSP (Tri-sodium Phosphate) to remove any oily buildup, then painted with primer, and a high quality latex paint.  I wouldn’t do it this way, but at least the finished product would’ve lasted more than a few months.

I knew to repair this mess the proper way, I was going to have to strip the chairs and table down to the bare wood.  Out came the chemical gloves, and quite a bit of Citristrip.

If you decide to use Citristrip for your next project, make sure you put it on thick and let it sit on the piece to do it’s work (don’t rush the process, patience, follow the directions.)  Once the paint is all nice and bubbly, and with chemical gloves on, use a medium grit steel wool to remove the paint.  You’ll go through quite a bit of steel wool for a project of this size (I went through about 5-6 packs.)  On flat surfaces you can use a plastic scraper, but I personally prefer steel wool, scrapers of any kind can cause gouges in the wood because any type of wood stripper will raise the grain of the wood.  Once you have the paint off, then you must deactivate the paint stripper.  You can use a paint stripper wash, or Odorless Mineral Spirits with a stripping pad.  I use Odorless Mineral Spirits.  Now comes another have patience moment, and this is important…let the surface completely dry.  A few days if working in high humidity.   Next step, Hand Sanding.  This can be tedious work, but throw on some good music, and have at it.  This really is an important step because you want to make sure all of the old finish is off, and out of all the little nook and crannies.  If you’re going to all this work, you don’t want one tiny area to fail, and have to refinish it again.  I start with a 150 grit sandpaper, then move up to a 220, and finish with 320.  You don’t have to use the 320 grit, but I like to use it on horizontal surfaces, such as table tops and chair seats.  Make sure to tack cloth every piece to remove all the dust, you don’t want any grit left on the pieces when you start the finishing process.  Here’s some photo’s of the sanded pieces.


Heading into the final stages!  I covered up the seats of the chairs and table top with rosin paper, and FrogTape.  Taping around the spindles can be a pain, but if you go to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, and go to their paper craft departments, you can buy different sizes of hole punches.  Find the sizes you’ll need for your spindles.  Punch out a larger circle of rosin paper, and then punch out the center of that with a whole punch the size of the spindle, and then tape it down.  I was going to do a video to show how to do this, but was on schedule to finish the project, and unfortunately didn’t have time.  I promise to load a how-to-do video of the process very soon.

Once everything was covered that wasn’t getting painted, it was time to paint.  I used a compressor and spray gun to do the black paint, and used a high quality latex paint/primer in a flat finish.  The reason for the flat finish is because I was going to use a satin polyurethane on all the pieces to protect the surfaces.  If I used a satin finish paint there would’ve been a difference in the sheen of black paint to the stained seats and table top.  If you’re using a compressor and spray gun, you’ll have to thin the paint, and there are a ton of YouTube videos out there to view, or you can check out (search: How to Thin Latex Paint.)  If you don’t have a compressor and spray gun, you can use a brush.  A few recommendations for a better finish is to always use a high quality brush for latex paint (I like Purdy brush) and use an extender/leveler additive (XIM is great).  The extender/leveler will help eliminate brush marks, and give a nice smooth finish.

When the paint was completely dry, I then stained the chair seats and table top.  I used a combinations of stains to get the color needed on this project.  On this one it was a combination of Minwax oil based gunstock and red oak.  When I finished staining the pieces, I let them dry for about 2 days before doing the polyurethane.  Photo’s below are before the poly went on.

Now it was time to polyurethane the entire set.  I use a water based poly thinned down, and again used the compressor and spray gun.  You can use a brush to do this, but again, I would add the extender/leveler to the poly to eliminate brush marks.  I sprayed three coats of poly on the set, letting each coat dry thoroughly, then sanding lightly with a 320 grit sandpaper, and then tack cloth to remove dust.  These last photo’s are of the finished pieces.

My clients were pleased with the finished product, and I wish them many years of good use from their dining set.


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave me a message.


Author: Kelli

My name is Kelli, and I am the Owner/Designer of Aunt Ruh's Attic LLC. Aunt Ruh's Attic Restores, Refinishes, and Repurposes furniture. The business was named after my mother, who was the master of taking something old and making it new again. She instilled in me a love of art and design from a very young age, a love that I enjoy to this day. The love of art and design led me to study Interior Design at the University of Mount St. Joseph where I received my B.A, and then to the University of Cincinnati where I received my M.F.A in Fine Art. After working for years as the owner of my own residential interior design company, I discovered my true calling. So many of my clients wanted to dispose of perfectly good furniture simply because it didn't fit into their new décor. I began refinishing or re-imagining those pieces, and returning them into the new décor. Thus, began a new business...Aunt Ruh's Attic LLC.