Old oak furniture is particularly beautiful because each and every piece is unique, including the knots within the wood, the thickness of the wood, the colour and the texture – and if you buy quality pieces from a company like Lights and Furniture they'll last a lifetime. Part of the appeal of oak furniture is that you can refurbish and renovate each piece, adding new stain or paint or tightening joints where needed – and it's easier to do than you might think. Want to renovate that beautiful dressing table? Read on for some advice.
Work out what needs to be done;
Some oak pieces will need more work than others, so firstly, you need to identify what needs to be done to the piece of furniture before you work on the aesthetic. Does it have woodworm? Is it dented? Are the joints sound? Woodworm can be identified by lots of tiny little holes with dust around them – and you can sort it out by placing the piece into the deep freeze. Check the joints – are the legs wobbly? If so, the old glue might need to be scraped off, the legs taken off and new glue reapplied, or you might need to re-screw the legs back on. If there are any dents or warps in the piece, you'll need to flatten them out before applying a finish – as wood warps, get rid of the dent or warping by applying a damp cloth to the dent, then put the piece of furniture in the sun for a little while. Alternatively, apply a slightly damp cloth and a warm iron. This way you'll flatten out the dent – and this means that you can get on with applying a finish.
Remove the old finish;
If the piece of furniture already has paint or varnish on it, and you want to apply a totally new finish, you'll need to remove the old finish first! Wire wool should be your first choice – use a selection of different grades and you should hopefully manage to scour off the old finish without using any chemicals. You might also want to use different grades of wet or dry sandpaper. Keep going until the old finish is gone and you have a smooth base to start from. Finally, wipe any dust or debris off of the furniture so that you don't get any dust or dirt in the new finish.
Think about what you really need to do;
Sometimes it is actually better to keep a little character instead of scrubbing everything away – an old dressing table should look like it has a bit of character, rather than like a brand new piece of furniture. You want to reflect the age of the piece, so if there are some unique flaws that add to the look of the piece, think twice about scrubbing them away. For example, old ink marks on a desk could actually add a lot of character. If you like, you could add artificial blemishes or marks using a specially made furniture stain.
Stain, varnish or paint?
There are many finishes to choose from when it comes to renovating oak furniture – but the main three are stain, varnish and paint. If you want to stain the piece, choose a warm oak spirit-based stain – these stains can actually sink through old glazes and in some cases they can also get rid of water marks. If you want a varnished finish, brush on some furniture wax using a shoe brush, brushing in the direction of the grain. Wipe the varnish away using a soft cloth, then reapply and repeat 2-3 times – you should be left with a soft shiny finish. As for paint, you should apply paint to furniture that has been sanded down so that the paint has a solid foundation to adhere to. Apply in very thin layers, so as not to overload the piece with paint, and wait for each piece to dry before adding a new layer. Some pieces look particularly pretty with the natural wood showing through, while others are best totally painted – although it's entirely up to you. Once painted, you could sand some of the excess paint away for a country-chic finish.
Finally, remember to always sand, paint, varnish and more in the direction of the grain. Let the piece dry and then take good care of it! Look after your oak furniture and it will last for years to come.