Part 1 – Furniture Prep & Safety Tools
After over a year of running this blog, I’m happy to finally present you with my “Best of the Best list”. The Best Tools For Refinishing Furniture and much, much, more.
Creating this list only now has given me time to test out many different products in my day-to-day furniture refinishing business, and can personally name EVERY item on this list, as the best. I will proudly say that I have ZERO reservations, recommending any of the items on it.
One of the most important things for me; and many others I’m sure, is the price of the items I recommend.
I personally am a fan of furniture restoration products on the cheaper side, which are still quality items.
That may not be as important to some people, so I’ve got a bit of both mixed in. All products can easily be found and ordered on Amazon or at most local hardware stores.
I did my best to find the cheapest listings on Amazon for each product, so be sure to check out the link I’ve attached to each of them. I earn from qualifying purchases, but you will never pay more because of this!
So, skip ahead to what you’re really looking for, or read through ’em all! And don’t worry, I’ll be adding to these whenever I discover an item worthy of The Best of the Best Tools for Refinishing Furniture List.
The Best Power Sanders for Refinishing Furniture
In my post How to Sand Wood Furniture, I mentioned my favorite sander at the time, the Ridgid 5″ Orbital Sander, which is still a great sander as well definitely! Since the Ridgid, I have tried a few other sanders. The Makita 5″ Random Orbit Sander worked well for a while, but didn’t last long.
My number 1 choice now would have to be the Bosch Random Orbital Sander. I’ve had it the longest of all of my sanders and it is still going strong.
The dust collection is awesome, plus it comes with a carrying case which is always fun.
A few bonuses such as the dust collection bag setup is much easier, it’s way quieter, and seems a bit more powerful.
No matter the brand, a 5″ Orbital Sander will be one of your most-used tools when refinishing furniture.
With the right grit sandpaper, (we’ll get to sandpaper next) a 5″ orbital can handle basically, any job. Whether you’re removing paint from a wood piece, smoothing out repairs, or even distressing fresh paint; the Bosch 5″ Random Orbital Sander is your best bet, in my opinion.
There are a couple of instances in which you may not want to use the orbit sander, so, these next 2 sanders will cover those for you 🙂
Occasionally while working on furniture, you may need something stronger than the orbital sander. If you need to level off a tabletop, or if you’re working on a wood veneer-covered piece, you may decide that it’s easiest to sand straight through it to the hardwood.
That’s when you grab the belt sander. For me, personally, the Skil Brand Belt Sander is one of the only belt sanders I can actually use easily. It’s 3” x 18”, whereas most are 3” x 21”, or even 4” x 24”.
I’m a pretty small woman. I’m stronger than I look with all the DIY tasks I do every day, but I can barely hold the 3” x 21” Black & Decker Scott uses. When you’re using the belt sander you want to be sure you can keep it balanced and even across the flat surface you’re working on.
With a low enough grit, (even with a higher grit), belt sanders will remove a serious amount of wood rather quickly if you’re not careful. So for a smaller, lighter belt sander, I definitely recommend the Skil Brand Belt Sander.
A ¼ Sheet Palm Sander comes in handy for finishing off sanding a piece. I normally go Belt Sander (roughest grit)– Orbital Sander — Palm Sander — and then quickly hand sand with the finest grit sandpaper/sponge.
The only reason I don’t stick with the orbital sander until the end is the chance of getting those little circles/swirls (ugh) we’ve all gotten from the orbital sander. The palm sander will smooth those right out, and if you happen to miss anything, the quick hand sanding I’ll be talking about next will get it.
Head over to my post for more game-changing tips on sanding wood furniture without swirls & scratches.
The Best Hand Sanders for Refinishing Furniture
I absolutely LOVE this little hand sander, I use it for everything! It’s super soft/spongy, so it fits perfectly in your hand, and into all those little crevices you’ll find when working with furniture.
This kit comes with 70 sheets of 40-320 grit sandpaper with hook and loop attachment which is awesome. But when you get in a bind and only have say round sandpaper left over, you can easily cut it and attach it to this. (I’ve even used a full circle sheet on it to get the sidewall of a cabinet once, worked great.)
The next best would be this one:
For all the same reasons. It’s great for tight corners with its triangular shape, it does reach some spots better than the rectangle one alone.
A sanding block like this one is also a great thing to have (I know, how many do I really need? Right?) But, I use every one of these multiple times a day. You just never know which situation you’ll need which for, but trust me, it’s always nice to have options.
You can use any grit sandpaper on this, and it needs to be the non-hook-and-loop type you’ll find in large sheets. This way you can cut the sheets to the size you need, and get a lot more out of 1 sheet.
These sponges are perfect for distressing paint. You can use them for either wet distress, or paint layering without taking off too much paint. They’re meant for sanding table legs, spindles, and other contoured areas, so they are super bendable, which I love.
They don’t last forever, but you can definitely get quite a few uses out of them by washing and reusing them after they dry. After a while, they’ll get a little flimsy, and you’ll know it’s time to toss them. They’re pretty cheap, and you can usually find multipacks as well.
The 3M Sandblaster Flex Sponge is the sponge to use if you’re trying to remove paint by sanding. They are made for exactly that, so they don’t get clogged like normal sanding sponges.
They’re also super flexible, but they’re 1” thick, so they last quite a while. You can wash and reuse these as well, so if it does end up getting clogged after a while, you can just rinse it out and go at it again!
The Best Sandpaper for Refinishing Furniture
The Diablo brand is definitely my first choice when I’m buying sanding discs. They just seem to be the strongest out of the many different brands I’ve tried.
Especially the lower grit discs- they eat away at the wood like nothing! They last way longer than other brands, and don’t clog as easily with paint or stain.
I actually had a Diablo Disc the other day; the red side was still like new, but the hook and loop side gave out. I’d taken it on and off the sander so many times, that it lost its hook (or loop?) and kept falling off.
When the grit side outlasts the hook and loop side – that’s pretty impressive, right?
For Sandpaper Sheets I’d go for 3M, the Pro-Grade No-Slip sheets are my favorite. They stay put on the palm sander and the sanding block. Or you can use it on its own with no worries. They last quite a while and don’t tear easily like a lot of other brands I’ve tried.
There’s nothing worse than cutting your sandpaper, putting it on the sander or block, and ripping it right when you tighten it down. Ugh, no fun.
These aren’t exactly sandpaper, but I threw them in because I use them pretty often for finish work. When you’re using a water-based top coat, you don’t want to use steel wool because it will rust and ruin your paint or stain job.
So I began using these scouring pads instead; I never went back to steel wool after that! They work great in between coats of polyurethane to knock off those rough spots without scratching the surface or grinding down the finish. They’re almost foolproof, definitely check them out if you normally go with steel wool.
The Best Paint Stripping or Veneer Removal Tools for Refinishing Furniture
For my Stripping Paint Post, I tested several methods for stripping paint to see which worked best, and found that these “Sanding Discs” were actually one of the easiest ways to strip paint from furniture!
They attach to a drill, so you would need a power drill of some kind (I talk about my favorite here) to attach these to. But as long as you have one, they really work great! They are apparently meant to be used on contoured surfaces. But I’ve used them on non-contoured surfaces and they work fine.
The discs listed above are actually even better than what I recommended in the Stripping Paint post. These have an adapter that allows you to use the full face of the disc instead of the edge.
This pretty much made the discs my new number 1 choice for stripping paint because it’s almost impossible to gouge the wood surface now! Brilliant!
This guy is one I’d say is a definite must. For paint removal, and veneer removal. You can use just a plain putty knife, but the pointed edge works great.
Plus if you’re painting with rollers, they work great for getting all the paint off the roller. (I didn’t learn that one until just recently, oops.)
While I’m on the subject of removing veneer, a mallet is definitely helpful with that tactic. I used a hammer for a long time, but I’m sure you can see the dangers in that to your hands.
I learned after a bit that the mallet works just as well, without the occasional damage. It’s also useful for a lot of other things. You don’t always want a hammer when you’re working with delicate furniture pieces.
Torches can be used for lots in furniture refinishing, but I personally use them most with wood veneer removal. My Ultimate Wood Veneer Removal Technique post will explain more about that.
It can also be used for wood-burning techniques. Check my Unique Wood Finishing Techniques post to learn how!
Not for stripping paint, but for stripping stains, I definitely recommend Minwax’s Furniture Refinisher. On the rare occasions that you can’t just sand down the stain on a wooden piece, this is your product.
It uses natural oils to safely remove wood stains, varnishes, shellacs, lacquers, or any other old finishes that have built up over time on wood furniture. It does not remove paint or polyurethane.
I wish I could recommend the safer, Citristrip-type products, but unfortunately, they just don’t come close to the chemical strippers like Jasco.
When using chemical strippers like Jasco, other than the normal scrapers I brought up earlier, I love using the Nylon Paint Stripper Brush as well.
The nylon brush works great on wood that you really don’t want to scratch or damage with the putty knives or 6-in-1 tool. I’d recommend using it with the Antique Furniture Refinisher as well. It will remove the paint or stain gently and without scratches or gouges.
You can also use stripping pads like these to remove the paint from the wood without scratching. They do sell plastic holders with handles that attach to pads like these to protect you from the stripper itself. But you should be wearing thick protective gloves either way!
Use it as a sanding sponge and it will lift the paint right off after it’s been soaking in paint stripper for a while.
The Best Wood Furniture Repair Products & Tools for Refinishing Furniture
These clamps are the first thing I think about starting this list of furniture repair tools. If you are gluing, drilling, or positioning a furniture piece somehow you want some of these clamps.
I never really thought about it before I began working on furniture. I kind of just thought people stood there and held stuff until the glue dried. Yeah, that glue takes a while…. so definitely not. 🙂
These are also great for spreading two pieces apart in case you need to clean inside a crack perhaps before you apply that glue. These make it much easier.
If you plan on doing repairs to wood furniture, the Kreg Jig is an absolute must-have. Its a tool used to create pocket holes when you’re connecting two pieces of wood. Since It strengthens the joint or cracks. I’ve used a Kreg Jig to fix a cracked dining chair seat, broken drawers in an old dresser, and a standalone cabinet shelf.
The best part about the Kreg Jig; there’s no glue necessary. That’s super helpful when you plan to stain a wood piece. Glue is never easy to hide or stain. (But if you have to; check out My Awesome Hiding Wood Glue Repair Tricks.)
Titebond 1412 Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue ~ 4 oz. – $3.31
Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue ~ 4 oz.
Speaking of wood glue, Titebond III has always been a favorite. It has never done me wrong. As long as you clamp your piece and wait for the recommended dry time.
It definitely works better in a warmer environment. Out in my garage in the winter, without heat, wasn’t great on a project. But I figured I’d give it a try so that you wouldn’t have to.
J-B Weld has come in handy multiple times trying to repair some furniture pieces. If you have a hole to fill on a metal bedframe perhaps, I would definitely go J-B Weld over Bondo. It depends on the application, but J-B works on multiple surfaces beyond metal. It’s also sandable, drillable, and filed after it cures.
If you need something strong, J-B Weld, for sure.
For larger wood furniture repairs, such as a complete corner missing, or spots that need to be remolded, I’d go with Bondo Body Filler. Not the wood filler- the one with the car on the front.
It’s easy to shape and mold to match another piece on the piece perhaps, and it will last. You would want to paint over it, stain wouldn’t great over Bondo. But it’s easily hidden with some paint.
I use this putty over any other when filling small cracks or holes in wood. It comes in powder form and you can use as much or as little as you need. Just slowly add water to it until it’s the consistency you need and spread it. It hardens fast, and will not budge from there.
I have mixed wood stain with this putty before applying it to disguise the normal white color and it works great. The filled spot will be a bit darker than the rest of the piece but usually blends right in.
If you’d rather use stainable wood filler, this is my choice. The Minwax filler has never really worked out for me. Every time I’ve tried it I’ve had bad luck, but that may just be me.
I know they have matching filler to each stain now it seems so that may also be your best option, depending on your project.
Teaching me on my first furniture repair, Scott brought out the Pin Nailer and I fell in love. I just love the sound of the nail gun– that’s probably just me. But I felt super cool using it.
It shoots tiny headless pin nails into the wood that are almost invisible. They’re great added strength to a repair, and after painting, you can’t even tell they’re there.
You do need an air compressor to use a nail gun like this, along with a ton of other tools, so it may be a purchase you want to think about if you don’t already have one.
This air compressor is fantastic. Scott has had it for years, and I’ve never heard an air compressor so quiet. Most of them are awful when they refill, super loud, and not great for an apartment or sleeping child!
So, if you need something quiet I will personally vouch for this one. 100 percent.
If you don’t use a power drill too often like me, this is a great, cheap little drill to have. It’s cordless and pivots in different directions, which works out perfectly in the tight corners of a cabinet or drawer.
It also has a built-in light which I love. They should really put lights on more things! I certainly love being able to see when I’m working on something!
For something a little stronger, any of the Dewalt kits would do. I, of course, like the compact version, but any of them would do. The batteries are all interchangeable with other cordless Dewalt products, such as their nailgun, router, and saws.
The Best Supplies to Keep in Shop for Refinishing Furniture
Depending on your work area, you may not have the need for extra lighting. My garage is definitely a mostly dark workspace, so some serious LED lighting is necessary.
This dual-head setup works nicely, as most of the time while sanding, staining, etc, you want your lighting to go across your workspace, rather than right above it.
You can set the height easily on the tripod the lights are set on, with an easy to adjust head angle on both sides. The lights are also a neutral white 4000K color so it won’t affect your view of paint colors or stains while you work. For something on a smaller budget, the halogen version is a bit cheaper.
Shop Vacs are always a great thing to have in a workshop, especially if you do a lot of sanding. Which as a furniture refinisher, I definitely spend most of my time sanding.
Most sanders can be hooked directly to your Shop-vac hose which helps eliminate dust on everything. This Shop-vac is the perfect size for lightweight use and can hang on the wall out of the way. It’s also pretty cheap for a Shop-vac, which is always a bonus!
Of course, furniture refinish work also includes painting, and I definitely recommend this tape help with achieving clean lines, and decorative finishes easily.
The Best Safety Products for Refinishing Furniture
When working with chemicals you’re going to want the gloves listed above. For anything other than chemicals, the gloves below work great!
Working with antique furniture, there’s nothing safer than knowing whether or not you’re working with lead paint. These instant lead test swabs work great.
Once you know lead or not lead, you can go from there on which safety precautions you need to take.
These respirators from 3M have been my go-to for a while now. They are disposable but they hold up for quite a while under light use.
“They are NIOSH-Approved N95 for at Least 95 Percent Filtration Efficiency Against Certain Non-Oil-Based Particles and Aerosols, so you will be safe using these from dust and small particles.”
For safety from chemicals, you will want a full respirator mask. I use this one:
It is super comfortable and works great. Never underestimate the damage done to your brain when working with these chemicals without proper safety gear.
BONUS: The Best Cheap Paint Sprayer for Refinishing Furniture
Finally jumping on the bandwagon with this one, but it really is nice to have…Highly recommend this sprayer if you’re looking for a cheap option.
It comes with its own little compressor separate from the sprayer so the clean up is super quick. No worrying about hoses and running water through it a million times each time you use it. That was another big factor for me because I am horrible with cleaning up my painting tools, just ask Scott!
As for the paint application, it has 4 different nozzles and a flow regulator that works great. I used Valspar’s Oil Enriched Water Based Enamel slightly thinned with water and it went through like a dream.
And that is the end of Part 1
Please let me know if you think there’s something I missed, or know of a product that I need to try! I’m all ears!
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Thanks for reading!