How to Restore Old Wood

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How to Restore Old Wood

Perhaps you found a lovely piece of furniture at a jumble sale, or maybe your home has wood floors or old wooden beams. Chances are good that you have some old wood in your home somewhere that could use some restoration. Restoring old wood is an easy DIY project that can transform the look of a piece of furniture or other wooden object. With a few simple supplies, available at DIY shops or online at eBay, you can restore wood to its former glory without paying for an expensive rehaul or purchasing new furniture. Would-be DIYers should learn a few simple techniques to treat wood correctly and end up with beautiful results.

Clean and Sand

The first thing you need to do is thoroughly clean the wood surface. Use a cleaner that is specifically for wood, such as those from brands like Method or Guardsman. If you like the current finish of the wood and want to retain the old look of the piece, you may want to just thoroughly clean the wood with a cleaner and some fine-grade steel wool, and skip the sanding step. If the piece has chipped paint, or a finish you want to remove, you need to sand the piece completely. Start with a coarse-grain sandpaper and work with the grain. Once you remove all of the finish, go over the piece again with finer sandpaper. Thoroughly clean the piece after sanding to remove grit and dust.


If there are any holes or cracks in the wood, such as old screw or nail holes, you need to fix them with a wood filler or wood paste. Apply the wood filler using a small spatula. Apply only to the area that needs filling; you want to overlap as little as possible onto the undamaged wood. Smooth out the wood filler until it is flush with the surface of the wood. Allow it to dry completely according to the package instructions. Once the wood filler is completely dry, sand over the filled areas again with fine-grit sandpaper.


Next, it is time to condition the wood. This is particularly important for old wood, which may be severely dried out. Use an oil product, such as Danish oil, and an old rag. Generously apply the oil in the direction of the grain. Allow the oil to sit for about 15 minutes, or as long as the directions on the bottle specify, and then wipe off the excess. Continue applying coats until the wood does not seem to absorb any more oil. This may take as few as one coat or as many as three. Always follow the directions on the product.

Paint or Stain

When the oil dries completely, you can apply the final finish. If you like the look of the wood with just the oil, you should apply a simple clear finish, such as furniture wax or a clear polyurethane for protection. If you prefer to further change the look of the wood, choose a paint or wood stain. Apply a coat of the paint or stain in the direction of the grain, using whatever tool the product directions call for, usually a foam paintbrush or a bristle paintbrush. Allow the product to dry thoroughly between coats.


If you are happy with the look of the wood at this point, you can certainly stop here. A further step you can take is to distress your nice new finish. Sometimes a complete rehaul is necessary for old wood, but unfortunately causes you to lose some of the antique-looking charm of an old piece. This is a look you can create using a simple distressing technique. Use a medium-grit sandpaper to gently scuff the finish around the edges. Create some surface nicks in the finish using whatever metal objects you have around, such as keys or a bit of chain. Continue until you are happy with the look.

How to Buy Materials to Restore Old Wood

The materials you need to restore old wood are available on eBay. To find them, simply use the search bar on any eBay page. Enter search terms, such as "Danish oil" or " 400-grit sandpaper". You can then narrow your results by price or brand. You can also browse the DIY section for inspiration; you may find some interesting hardware to update a drawer with, or a new shade of stain. Do not forget to factor shipping into the overall cost of the items. Look for local sellers or free shipping offers to save. Restoring old wood can be a fun DIY project that achieves dramatic results for little cost.

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