Painting Wood Furniture
My mom spends about half her weekends going to garage sales, estate sales, and auctions looking for furniture. She likes older wooden pieces and doesnít mind buying things that are a little battered because she knows she can bribe me with dinner if I come over to her house and fix them up for her. Itís a good trade: I get to have fun with paint and sand paper (Iím weird, I know) and a free meal, she gets a piece of furniture that has been painted and repaired so she can then sell it for five or six times what she paid. Itís a win-win situation for everyone.
Repairing furniture is hard and often requires tools that not all craft lovers own, so weíre going to concentrate on painting wooden furniture.
- Rough grade sand paper
- Fine grade sand paper
- A water based primer
- A water based paint
- At least one 1-2 inch wide paint brush that preferably hasnít become ruined with previous use.
Make sure the furniture isn't antique.
Painting antique furniture can seriously devalue the piece. You should know where the piece comes from, and if you think it might be an antique, examine it closely. Most antique furniture has a makerís mark stamped onto the wood in an inconspicuous place like under the seat of a rocking chair or the bottom of a table top. If you find a makerís mark you should take a picture of it and look for information about the mark online.
Get to work
Most pieces of wooden furniture are bought second hand and will have either already been painted or varnished. Donít just paint over this, as it will typically make your finished piece look oddly rubbery and unprofessional. The idea is to end up with a painted piece of furniture that you or someone else will want to have in their home, so you need to approach this craft correctly.
Begin by using the rough grade sand paper to remove any chipped away varnish or paint that still remains on the chair. It will require a fair amount of arm strength and persistence, so donít get discouraged if it takes as long as an hour or two to remove all of the coating from the wood. Power sanders should be avoided because they will leave marks on the wood that will catch the light once the piece is painted; I learned this the hard way.
After youíve removed all of the old varnish or paint, you need to go over the entire piece of furniture with your light grade sand paper. This is to make sure you donít have any rough spots that will catch the paint as you apply it. Once you can feel the smoothness of the wood under your hand and youíre satisfied with your sanding job, you need to take a damp cloth (Donít use disposable wipes, they often have chemicals in them that are abrasive to the wood.) and clean the piece of any sawdust that might remain on it from using the sand paper.
That's the hard part. The first couple of times I did this, the muscles in my arms started to cramp and I had to wait a while before continuing. Next you want to apply the water-based primer, which will soak into the wood. Applying the primer will guarantee that the wood wonít show through the finished piece. Primer usually takes about two hours to dry, but check the label on the bucket to be sure. Once the primer has been brushed on and dried, take another piece of light grade sand paper and sand down any rough spots you feel on the primer.
At this point you can apply the paint if no wood is showing through the primer; if you can see the grain, I suggest another coat of primer. Take your brush and in smooth even strokes paint the piece of furniture from top to bottom. For very large pieces that you need to move to paint everything, you should finish painting one section and let it dry before moving to another section. If the color doesnít look quite right after the paint has dried, apply a second coat; sometimes darker primers will require two or three coats of paint to match the color you are attempting.
When youíre done you can go back with a stencil and give the piece of furniture any sorts of patterns you enjoy. When stenciling on furniture, using a different color paint that is slightly lighter than your base paint can give your furniture character more easily and subtly than painting green on red. For an example of how much painting can improve your wood furniture: my mom usually buys used rocking chairs for $5 and after I am through painting them, she has been selling them for $30 to $50