How to Refinish and Stain Wood

Today’s post is all about how I refinish and stain wood.  There’s a little more work involved in this one, but the results are well worth it!

Here's where this piece started:

With a little love and sandpaper, here is the finished result!

Every wood worker has their own tips, tricks and secrets when it comes to refinishing wood and getting a consistent finish every time.  It took me a while to figure out what worked best for me, so I’m sharing that with you. If nothing else, it will give you a good starting point, and from there you can add your own ways to do it.

My favorite (and maybe one of my trademarks) look is a refinished wood top and a painted base.  Here are some of the reasons why: it’s a more classic, timeless look.  It’s appreciating the beauty of the wood, and it’s more durable.

Affiliate links are included in this post to help you find what you need!  These are products I have tested and used myself or something comparable.

Materials Needed:

Pad Sander
● Sandpaper:
80 grit
120 grit
220 grit
400 grit
● Damp Paper Towels
● Cotton Rags (at least 2)
Stain (my favorite color is Minwax Dark Walnut ) UPDATE: my new favorite is a water based combo of General Finishes Antique Oak & Walnut Water based stain.  
General Finishes High Performance Top Coat
Purdy XL Cub

One thing to figure out and something I reference in the video a couple of times is a solid piece of wood, vs. a veneer top.  A veneer is just a very thin piece of wood over top of a wood base.  It’s very thin, usually 1/8th of an inch, and you can usually see it along the edge of a piece.  IF YOU HAVE VENEER, you need to be more gentle with the sander as you can pretty easily sand through that thin piece of wood.  In that case you’ll start with 120 grit as your stripping paper and then finish up with 220 grit.

IF YOU HAVE A SOLID PIECE OF WOOD, you can be a little more aggressive with the sander and start with 80 grit and go down to 120 and 220 if desired.  In the video I show you this method.

You have to be patient with sanding, sometimes it’s easier than others to get down to raw wood. In fact, the first piece I tried to use for this video tutorial gave me so much trouble!  The varnish was so thick I couldn’t get through it with sanding.  That’s not usually the case, but sometimes it happens.  Here are a few things to keep in mind for a good sanding: ALWAYS GO WITH THE GRAIN, don’t push down to hard on the sander, let it do the work for you.  Change out the sandpaper often, and empty your dust collector. 

My most used stain color is Minwax Dark Walnut.  You can find it almost anywhere.  It’s a dark rich brown that goes with almost any paint color.  The only thing to watch is that it’s oil based and quite smelly.  Make sure you have proper ventilation and dispose of your rags properly.

The top coat is really what makes the wood come alive, it almost glows.  My favorite is General Finishes High Performance Topcoat in either the Flat or Satin finish. I like to do 3 coats. 

I’d love to see before and afters if you try it, we are partying this summer with before and afters using #refinishthis and #notuglyforlong (on Instagram and Facebook). 

If you love this tutorial, please PIN to share!

Blessings and happy sanding!