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Applying Polyurethane Perfectly- Foolproof Method for Water and Oil-Based Polyurethane Application

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by the KRay Custom Refinish Blog today as I discuss the many questions surrounding applying polyurethane to wood furniture.

Applying polyurethane perfectly is something that takes a bit of time to master, and depends on a few factors.

Oil vs. water-based being one of the biggest ones. So I’ll begin with an overview of the 2 different types, pros, and cons, etc. Then I’ll show you the best method for applying them both without brush marks & bubbles.

We’ll be talking about applying polyurethane to either natural wood or freshly stained/painted wood. If you’re interested in applying polyurethane over a piece that was previously finished, head over to my post on Repairing Damaged Finishes. I cover polyurethane/varnish, shellac, and lacquer finish repairs.

Although I don’t recommend it, I know some of you may be interested in applying your polyurethane over an existing clear finish.

All I can say is please, please, please make sure you know what the existing finish is before you attempt the following method for applying polyurethane.

Again, you can find info on testing the finish of your piece in my Repairing Damaged Finishes post. Here’s a little infographic from that post to help with that if you’d rather not read the entire post:

Click the image to get a full-size printable version.

If the piece has lacquer on it, you will need to completely remove it before applying varnish or polyurethane. Polyurethane and lacquer are not compatible with one another.

If the piece has oil-based polyurethane on it, you can apply more oil-based polyurethane on top of it.

If the piece has water-based polyurethane on it, you can apply more water-based or oil-based polyurethane over it, as long as the water-based polyurethane has completely cured. (30-60 days)

If the piece has shellac on it, unless you know for sure that it is de-waxed shellac, don’t put polyurethane over it. Pre-mixed shellacs are usually not de-waxed, and not much will stick to wax. You can purchase this:

$ 0.00
$ 17.99
Gloss Sealer Bulls Eye Shellac Solvent Based Quart

which is a 100% wax free formula. Apply a thin coat over the original shellac and let it dry. Then you can apply oil-based or water-based polyurethane on top of that without issue.

For the best result, start with a freshly sanded & stained/painted piece without any other clear finishes on it.

Be sure to wait the minimum dry time necessary for the particular stain or paint that was applied to the piece. I prefer to wait at least 24-48 hours before applying poly.

If you don’t wait long enough, you might end up pulling off some of the wood stain or paint while you’re applying the polyurethane.

Related: 5 Game-Changing Tips on Sanding Wood Furniture

How To Stain Wood – Your Questions Answered.

Water-Based Poly vs. Oil-Based Poly – Pros and Cons

There are good and bad elements of both water and oil-based polyurethanes. Your final decision really depends on the piece you’re working on: color, size, shape, and where the piece will be– indoors or outdoors.

Oil-Based PolyurethaneEasier to Apply.
Slightly more resistant to scratches, moisture, and damages from heat.
Amber cast brings warmth to darker wood colors.
Amber cast may change the coloring of your piece.
Color Darkens over time.
Difficult Clean up.
Longer Dry Time.
Strong Odor.
Water-Based PolyurethaneFast dry time.
Easy soap & water clean-up.
Dries completely clear.
Little to no odor.
Difficult to apply without brush marks.
Less resistant to scratches, moisture, and heat.
Dark colored woods may appear cold and dull.

Not sure which to choose? Let me solve your problem!

$ 0.00
$ 19.99
ZAR Ultra Max Satin Clear Oil Modified Polyurethane 1 qt.
Waterborne Oil-Modified UrethaneSelf-leveling formula makes it easy to apply without brush marks.
2 Hour Dry Time.
Low-Odor Formula.
Easy Soap & Water Clean Up.
Slight amber tone adds warmth to woods but doesn’t discolor light woods as much as oil-based.
Outstanding wear and durability

First off, I’ve recommended ZAR products before, they truly are the best for wood stains and clear finishes. Their Oil-Modified Urethane is the best of both worlds when it comes to polyurethanes. Fast dry time, low-odor, and easy clean up were enough to sell me on it, but those aren’t even the best thing about this stuff.

It’s incredibly easy to apply without brush marks or bubbles popping up. I don’t even recommend thinning it before application as I will be for the oil-based poly! Definitely check it out, it solves pretty much every problem there is with both other types of poly.

If you’ve landed on this post you most likely already have a poly on hand that isn’t the oil-modified type as it’s not very well known.

So don’t worry! I’m still going to show you exactly how to apply both the water and oil-based polyurethanes for the perfect finish.

If you do have the Oil-Modified Water Based Polyurethane, follow the steps for Water-Based Polyurethane Application.

First up: Oil-Based Polyurethane. Using Water-Based Polyurethane? Skip Ahead to Applying Water-Based Polyurethane Perfectly.

Prep Before Polyurethane Application – What You’ll Need

$ 0.00
$ 4.27
3M Pro Grade Precision 2-1/2 in. x 4-1/2 in. x 1 in. 120 Grit Fine Block Sanding Sponge

If you’ve reached the polyurethane point of your project, it’s safe to assume that you’ve sanded your wood piece properly, stained or painted it, and it’s ready for the final finish. If not, check out my posts on How to Sand Wood Furniture, Preparing Wood For Staining and How to Stain Wood.

You shouldn’t need sandpaper any rougher than 120 grit once you’ve reached this point. Anything lower would remove stain or paint and definitely sand right through any coats of polyurethane.

You may need to use a sanding block to scuff up the surface before application.

$ 0.00
$ 6.85
TRIMACO 18 in. x 36 in. Tack Cloth (6-Pack), White

A tack cloth will remove any sanding dust leftover after scuff sanding. You want to remove any dust completely before applying poly. I also use an air compressor to blow any dust out of cracks or crevices. Dust can completely ruin a piece if it’s left on the surface, or if floating dust lands on the poly while it’s wet. So be sure to remove any trace of it beforehand!

Finally, to be sure you’ve cleaned your piece completely, I recommend wiping the entire piece down with a cloth wet with mineral spirits.

$ 0.00
$ 7.97
Klean-Strip 1 qt. Odorless Mineral Spirits

Skip Ahead to Water-Based Polyurethane Application – What You’ll Need

Oil-Based Polyurethane Application – What You’ll Need

$ 0.00
$ 19.99
ZAR Matte Clear Oil-Based Polyurethane 1 qt.
$ 0.00
$ 33.41
NORTHERN WHOLESALE SUPPL 3 in. Badger Fine Finish Natural Bristle Paint Brush
$ 0.00
$ 8.99
Ampersand Art Steel Wool Set | Michaels
$ 0.00
$ 7.97
Klean-Strip 1 qt. Odorless Mineral Spirits

Applying Oil-Based Polyurethane Perfectly – Step by Step

First off, wipe your entire wood surface down with mineral spirits.

This will remove any sanding dust, dirt, wax, or anything else that may have ended up on the surface.

Wait until the mineral spirits have totally dried before attempting anything else.

Mineral spirits may feel oily as you apply them to the surface. Don’t worry, it won’t affect the polyurethane finish as long as you wait for the spirits to completely evaporate from the wood. Usually takes no longer than 30 minutes.

While you wait for the wood to dry, create your wiping poly DIY Wiping Poly.

Any brand/strength oil-based polyurethane can be used, but there is one rule to make sure you follow:

Don’t thin semi-gloss or satin polyurethane as they contain flattening agents. According to FineWoodworking, “varnish containing flattening agents should not be thinned beyond what it calls for on the can. The flattening agents will not stay in suspension and white streaky areas may result.” If you want a satin or semi-gloss finish, you’ll need to do a full-strength brushed on, final coat.

Mix it 50/50 with mineral spirits. Stir gently with a stir stick and try not to create too many bubbles throughout the process. Definitely don’t shake. Ever.

Using a lint-free cloth, or old t-shirt, dip into the wiping poly, lightly coating it.

You don’t want the rag to be soaking wet with poly. But enough to apply a very thin coating to your surface. As long as it’s a brand new container, you can lightly press the rag against the side of it to wring some of the poly out. Just be sure everything you do is slow and light, you don’t want to stir up too many bubbles in the poly.

For the first 2 coats, you just want to get the poly on. The best advice I’ve read compared it to a “kid working as a busboy quickly cleaning off a table.

Swirl it on lightly, don’t try to apply it in straight strokes. If you find that you missed a spot, don’t try to fix it. Just cover the table the best you can and then do not touch it. The surface shouldn’t look like it’s soaking wet when you’re finished. You also shouldn’t see a bunch of brush/cloth marks if you’ve done it correctly.

Below is an example of correctly applying the 1st 2 coats of wiping poly.

Wait until the surface is dry to the touch before applying your second coat.

Try lightly touching the surface with your finger. If nothing comes off, you can apply your second coat the same way as your first.

After the first two coats, wait 24-48 hours.

The longer you let it set, the better.

After letting it cure for as long as possible, you can lightly sand the surface with 320 grit sandpaper.

Just lightly sand it until it’s flat, don’t go overboard with sanding. Yes, you’ve applied two coats, but at only half strength. Meaning there’s really only close to 1 full-strength coat on the surface at this point.

Remove all sanding dust, then apply 2 more coats exactly the same as the first 2.

Same way as before, lightly swirl it on.

After these 2 coats, again, lightly sand the surface with 320 grit sandpaper.

If there are any serious flaws or cloth marks, you can lubricate the 320 wet-dry sandpaper with water and lightly sand the surface.

We’ve now completed 4 light coats of wiping poly, amounting to 2 full coats of regular polyurethane.

For some pieces, this is enough protection. But I’d recommend at least 1 more full coat for even the pieces used less frequently.

For the next coats, you’ll need to mix up a new Polyurethane: Mineral Spirits Ratio, 5:1.

4 parts Polyurethane to 1 Part Mineral Spirits. The 5:1 ratio leaves a bit thicker of a coat, for more protection, but still flows easier than full strength polyurethane.

You should also use a paintbrush for these coats as well. That Natural Bristle paintbrush I recommended earlier– you were wondering when that would come into play, right?

Starting with a clean brush, dip into your thinned poly mixture.

Coat the brush, then let it hang over the container for a bit and drop off some of the excesses. Try not to touch the brush to the sides of the container at all as that may introduce bubbles or dried poly that has settled on the edge.

Once it has stopped dripping, bring the brush to the center edge of your surface and drag it to the edge.

Slowly and lightly dragging the brush across the surface.

Next. moving the opposite direction, start a little to the right of where you started the first stroke. Drag the brush back to the opposite edge of the surface.

So your first stroke moves to the right side of the surface. The second stroke moves toward the left side of the surface.

Dip the brush into the poly again, let drip, and repeat.

Starting in the middle of the surface directly below your first line, slightly overlapping it by 1/2″ or so. Move toward the right, then back to the center, then to the left.

If that confuses you this video may help:

Once you’ve covered the entire surface, don’t dip your brush again. Use the dry brush to “feather” the entire surface.

Lightly drag the tip of the brush down each line from left to right. You don’t want to apply much pressure at all. Just softly scrape to spread out any puddling or bubbles. One time for each line and nothing more!

Then leave it alone for 24 hours.

Do not try to fix any spots with brush marks or bubbles. Just go clean your brush with mineral spirits and leave the area for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, sand with 320 wetdry sandpaper.

For serious brush marks or bumps, wet sand with a little bit of water and a drop of dish detergent. Use a sanding block, not a power anything.

Once you’ve got it as smooth as possible, spray and wipe down the surface until it is completely dust-free. Then leave the area.

Don’t return to the work area or have anyone else around the work area for at least 2 hours. This will help keep the area completely dust-free.

You’re on to the final, final coat now. So take a bit more care in everything you do for this one if you want it to truly come out perfectly. NO DUST!

Using the same mixture you used for the last coat, roughly 5:1, you’re going to wipe on this final coat with a rag.

Make sure you keep a couple of extra rags nearby also, you will need a dry rag and the rag you use to apply the poly. Wipe the poly onto a small area of the surface.

After a few moments, use a dry rag to wipe the poly off of the area. Then continue wiping on the rest of the surface.

Use a clean, dry rag to wipe the poly off. This seems pointless, I know. But in fact, you’re not wiping off all of the poly. A thin layer will be left on the surface of the project and will leave you with a perfectly smooth end result. Let it dry and voila! If you’ve done everything correctly, your surface should be glass smooth and gorgeous!

So Many Projects Going At Once, You Don’t Know What To Do Next??
Download These Free Printable DIY Project Planner Pages & Get Organized!
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continue Reading: Applying Water-Based Polyurethane

The Best Sander For Stripping Furniture Paint, Stain, & More in Minutes

DISCLAIMER: I was not compensated for writing this post. I have no professional affiliation with Restorer Tools, I just really think this is the best sander for stripping furniture. Any other affiliate links below did not, in any way, change the opinion expressed in this post. But, again, I may receive a small commission if you purchase a restorer through any of the links below at zero added cost to you! Thanks!

Hi all! I hope everyone is happy and healthy during these lovely times. I apologize to anyone that tried to visit my site in February. I switched to a new host and had a few technical difficulties for most of the month. But I’m all situated now with a site running faster than ever thanks to A2 Hosting. Now, onto furniture!

We’re back on the topic of stripping furniture!

 It seems like I’ve discussed this a few times already,  but it really is one of the suckiest parts of furniture refinishing. Don’t you agree?

If you’ve read my post on Which Paint Stripping Method Sucks the Least, you know that I tested out orbital sanders, heat guns, and one of my top choices (but not number 1), this Paint Stripping Drill Attachment:

3M 051144094134 Sanding Disc Pad, Paint/Varnish Remover ~ 5″

from: Hardware World

It worked great, but the shape of it just didn’t work great on flat surfaces like dressers or cabinets. 

In the end, I decided the best method was a chemical paint stripper method, which I really wasn’t happy with for a lot of reasons.  

I haven’t stopped searching for better options for stripping furniture since my first experiment. 

Until now, I haven’t had much luck. I resorted to using a belt sander on my last few pieces, which, let me just tell you again: sucks. Straight sanding a painted furniture piece is a nightmare.

Especially if it’s an older piece, with multiple layers of paint and stain. No matter what the sandpaper package says, the paint will stick to it rendering it useless after just a few strokes. 

Yes, there are ways to remove the paint gunk build-up, like this Cleaning Stick  I recently learned about, but it still isn’t enough for me to enjoy sanding paint. 

So as you could’ve guessed, the sander was not high up on my list of Best Paint Stripping Methods.

And finally! I do believe there is an official “Best Sander for Stripping Furniture.” 

And even better, it’s way more than just a regular old sander.

This Tool is a Portable Drum Sander, Stripper, and Polisher in one.

It not only strips furniture paint and rust, but it’s also great for sanding abnormal wood surfaces, texturizing wood, and even polishing wood or metal. 

The name of this impossible tool? The Restorer. 

I’d say it’s the perfect choice for a name, right? If you haven’t heard of it yet, you can find it in most local hardware stores. Craftsman and Porter Cable both have the restorer tool available, or you can purchase the original Restorer Tool here

At you can truly see all of the different applications for this tool. From stripping a wooden deck to automobile rust removal to polishing metal jewelry and even glass! But for restoring furniture, you’re almost 100% covered with this thing.

First, let’s go over the Restorer Tool’s features and handling.

Size-wise the tool is slightly smaller than the average belt sander and definitely lighter at only 4.5lbs.

I have trouble using the belt sander on most jobs due to the weight and size of it, so that’s a bonus for sure.

The setup is nice with a gripped trigger handle for one hand, and a soft-grip handle on top for the opposite hand. This makes the tool easy to control whether you’re working on a flat surface below, a curved surface above, or even vertical surfaces in front of you.

On the side of the trigger handle, there is a lock-on button to help with hand fatigue and keep the roller power steady. As long as you keep the restorer moving forward and backward along the grain of the wood, you shouldn’t have to worry about gouging the surface of your piece.

You don’t want to put much pressure on the tool as you move it along the surface.

Just like most other sanders, the weight of the tool is enough for it to do it’s job correctly. Pressing down on the tool while it’s on will most likely slow the motor speed down, cause more friction and heat, and may even damage the motor if you continuously use it incorrectly.

The variable speed is actually variable with 6 different speeds!

The speed knob can be set on 1, for the slowest speed at 1000 RPM, all the way up to MAX, the fastest speed at 3200 RPM. There isn’t a huge jump between RPMs with 6 different settings, but just enough to find the perfect sweet spot for each surface.

While removing heavier finishes, or sanding rougher surfaces, you’ll want to stay in the lower range of speeds to keep the heat from rising too high. Too much heat can cause sandpaper clogs and possibly, damage to your work surface.

For sanding surfaces that are smoother with little to no finish, you can use the higher speed settings.

The Restorer tool has a dust port on the back for easily attaching a vacuum hose for dust removal.

This feature is nice, but I would’ve been happier if it had a bag or dust canister like my new Bosch Orbital Sander. You don’t have to attach the tool to a vacuum, it will still operate without a hose attached.

The only reason I have trouble using the vacuum attached to the tool is the noise. Being a stay-at-home mother I usually have to do all of my work out in the garage at night time. A little noise is OK, but having the two things running at once is a bit much for me and my neighbors!

I was worried that the dust would shoot out the back of the restorer while it was running, and leave me in a dust cloud the first time I tried it. Luckily, this did not happen.

As you can see at the end of the video below, without suction from a hose on that end of the tool, the dust pretty much just settled behind the roller and fell into a pile on the surface I was sanding. It surprisingly doesn’t blow around a lot, but you do need to stop and clean off your surface pretty regularly.

Testing Out The Restorer Tool: 60 Grit Sanding Sleeve

This was legit my first time trying out the tool, as you can see by the video, it took a bit of getting used to but it really wasn’t hard. I was amazed at how quickly the sanding wheel removed the paint.

I thought that the Paint and Rust Removal Roller Wheel was going to be the best attachment for stripping furniture. But I’m honestly not sure anymore after trying them both!

The 60 Grit Sanding Roller Sleeves ate through the paint like nothing. When I tried the Paint and Rust Removal Roller Wheel with the same pressure, it did next to nothing on the same cabinet door.

Related: 5 Game-Changing Tips on Sanding Wood Furniture

Testing Out the Restorer Tool: Paint and Rust Removal Wheel

The paint and rust removal wheel isn’t just a sleeve. You have to switch out the roller completely, so the roller wheel is a lot harder than the roller wheel used for the sanding sleeves. I think you just need to put a bit more pressure on it for the same result. I had Scott give it a try, and he had much better results.

Testing Out the Restorer Tool: Paint and Rust Removal Wheel Take 2

So it seems you just need a bit more pressure for the Paint and Rust Removal Wheel, at least on wood surfaces. For something like metal furniture rust removal, I think this would be the perfect option.

Related: Refinishing Metal Furniture – Things to Know Before You Start

As for stripping furniture, I think I’ll stick with the Restorer’s sandpaper sleeves.

They’re available in all of the normal grits: 120, 220, 80, 60. Stripping furniture definitely requires a lower grit, but with the variable speeds on the Restorer, I may be trying it out for finish sanding as well.

If you need help with sanding, staining, or painting wood furniture, be sure to check out my many posts on Furniture Restoration.

So there we have it! The best sander for stripping furniture: The Restorer Tool. Hands down. What do you think? Have you tried out the Restorer tool? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

And don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list to receive updates on future blog posts!

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Repairing Scratched Clear Coats | Lacquer vs. Shellac vs. Varnish vs. Polyurethane

Since I began my custom refinishing business, I’ve been amazed by the number of requests I’ve gotten for help with repairing scratched clear coats on dining tables, coffee tables, etc.

It is a relatively easy job, but at the same time, it’s a little intimidating. Especially on an expensive piece. 

Which is completely understandable! Wood tables are the centermost gathering place in your homes. You’re nervous to be without them for too long. And, of course, you don’t want to screw the table up worse than it already is! 

So today I will discuss repairing damaged clear coats. More specifically; lacquer, shellac, varnish, and polyurethane finishes. I will help you first – identify the clear coat your piece has– and second – repair each of those clear wood coats.

Related: Applying Polyurethane Perfectly | Oil-Based or Water-Based Polyurethane

Lacquer, Varnish, Polyurethane, and Shellac are the 4 most common clear coats found on wood tabletops.

It’s also becoming more and more common to find waxes on wood furniture pieces. Wax doesn’t provide anywhere near the protection as the finishes I’ll be discussing today, but some people do use it alone to seal stained wood pieces. 

Wax can be used, but I’d recommend using it only for polishing a completely dry film coat.

Wax applied on top of other clear coats like lacquer or shellac, helps to polish it up nicely. Although it needs to be reapplied over time, it’s actually a nuisance to completely remove.

Always check for wax, and remove it, before applying any solvents to your piece to figure out which clear coat you have.

Related: Antique Wax Glaze on Chalk Paint

If you can scratch the clear coat with the back of your fingernail or a coin, without much effort, there is probably wax on it. Clean the wax off with mineral spirits before attempting to identify which clear finish you have. 

DO NOT sand the piece if there’s wax on it. 

It will not remove the wax, only spread it around more, and push it deeper into the surface of the wood. It’s difficult enough to remove wax completely from wood, don’t make it harder on yourself!

Use lots of clean rags and mineral spirits, changing frequently. If the rag feels waxy, it’s most likely spreading wax around on your piece even more. Change to a fresh one to avoid this annoyance.

Once you know your piece is free from wax, you can perform a pretty simple test to narrow down your clear coat.

You’ll need 3 things: 

Lacquer Thinner

Denatured Alcohol


Be sure to test your piece in the exact order I have here. Some solvents work for multiple finishes, so this order is the best way to narrow it down correctly.

How To Identify Lacquer, Shellac, Varnish, and Polyurethane Wood Clear Coats.

1. Apply a drop or two of Denatured Alcohol to an inconspicuous spot on the piece. Let it sit for about 10 seconds, then check it.

  – If the finish is shellac, the surface should be soft and sticky. 

-If the denatured alcohol just sits on top of the finish, or nothing happens, try the next step.

2.  Apply a small amount of Lacquer Thinner to a different, inconspicuous spot on the piece. 

– If, after a few seconds, the clear coat softens almost to a liquid form, or is soft, sticky, or mushy,  you’ve got a lacquer finish. If the lacquer thinner beads or sits on top of the clear coat, you’ve most likely got a varnish or polyurethane finish. 

3. At this point, if you know it’s not a lacquer or shellac finish, then you’re looking at a varnish finish. Believe it or not, polyurethane is just a type of varnish. 

Yes, the two are different, but it honestly doesn’t matter a whole lot whether it’s varnish or poly based on how you will repair it. 

The only thing you might need to know is whether it’s water-based/waterborne or oil. Varnish is an oil-based resin that is great for outdoor furniture. Polyurethane can be either water or oil-based. To be sure, try out the xylene.

– Apply the xylene to a different spot on your piece, and leave it on for a bit longer than the lacquer thinner or alcohol. If the area becomes sticky, you’re looking at a water-based polyurethane.

– If nothing happens, you’ve got a varnish or oil-based polyurethane finish. Both can be repaired the same way, which I will discuss later in this article.

Once you’ve figured out the clear coat you’re working with, you can attempt to repair it.

Each clear coat has to be repaired in it’s own specific way. I will explain each one separately for you next!

Before I do though, I just want you to make sure, one more time, that you only need to repair the clear coat, and not completely refinish the entire piece.

If the scratches on your piece go all the way down to the wood, you may need to sand and re-stain your piece as well as redo the clear coat.

Most often, damages to clear coat finished wood tables, are only surface scratches. 

Sometimes it may even be damage to the wax or furniture polish on top of the clear coat!

If you look at the scratch from an angle, it may appear white, but the wood beneath should not have any discoloration. If this is the case, you’re looking at a surface scratch. 

If the wood itself looks lighter beneath the clear coat, it may also be damaged. In that case, you would have to completely refinish the table, including stripping and/or sanding and re-staining the wood. 

To be completely sure the scratches are superficial, clean the surface thoroughly. 

I usually try mineral spirits first-off either way. Just in case there are any waxes anywhere on the surface. Afterward, warm water and dish detergent should be sufficient enough to remove any other oil or dirt build-up on the surface. 

Scrub reasonably hard. You may be surprised! More often than not, a “scratch” is just dirt or whatever “crud” happened to get stuck to the table. Be grateful if you’re that lucky!

Work quickly, and don’t soak the wood too much with water. Instead of pouring the water over the wood, wet a cloth and apply it that way. Too much water can cause a white haze on lacquer and shellac finishes. 

If you’ve dried it thoroughly, and see this haze, you can try getting it off with 0000 steel wool and linseed oil.  

Once the surface is completely clean, test the scratch with mineral spirits to decide it’s depth.

If the scratch turns darker than the surrounding area, there is damage to the wood. 

If the scratch doesn’t change color at all, then it is definitely only surface scratch.

If the scratch does change color to match the surrounding area, then it’s a bit deeper than the surface, but not through to the wood. 

As long as the scratch doesn’t turn darker than the surrounding area, you should be able to overcoat it with a matching clear coat.

If it turns out that your damages are to the wood itself, and not just the clear coat, you will need to completely refinish your piece.

Luckily, I’ve got some info on that too! Check out my posts on:

Stripping Paint (and other finishes)


Restoring Wood Veneer Furniture

How to Sand Wood Furniture

Preparing Wood For Staining


How to Stain Wood Furniture

Then come back to this post and complete your finish!

Evaporative Clear Coats vs. Reactive Clear Coats

Lacquer and Shellac are evaporative clear coats. Varnish and Polyurethane are reactive clear coats. 

Evaporative clear coats harden into their final film coat, once the solvent that’s used to thin it evaporates. 

Lacquer’s solvent being lacquer thinner, shellac’s solvent being denatured alcohol. 

This means that if they come in contact with their particular solvent, even after completely drying, they will re-dissolve into liquid form. This has its benefits and its drawbacks.

It certainly helps if you need to repair the clear coat. But it also makes these finishes less durable than other, reactive, clear coats.

Reactive clear coats cure through a chemical reaction. 

Once this chemical reaction occurs, there is no way to reverse it. Therefore, no solvent can re-dissolve varnish or polyurethane. 

Again, making it more difficult to repair, but much more durable than evaporative clear coats.

Because of these differences, it’s very important, again, that you figure out which clear coat you’re dealing with before attempting to repair it!

Evaporative Clear Coats:



Reamalgamation can be done to repair cracks, scratches, & marks on finish only. (Not damage to the actual wood)

Reactive Clear Coats:



Overcoating with a varnish or poly to match. Reamalgamation does not work on varnish or polyurethane.

I created a nice little printable chart for you to hang up in your workspace 🙂 It will hopefully help you to remember the steps for identifying each clear coat, and what you can do to repair them!

Sign up for my mailing list below and receive a free download of this Printable Clear Coat Finish Identification & Repair Chart, and a bunch more, including DIY Project Planner Pages, Wood Identification Cheat Sheet, and Sandpaper Grit Cheat Sheet just to start!

Repairing a Scratched Lacquer or Shellac Clear Coat: Amalgamation

Reamalgamation can be done on lacquer or shellac clear coats that have cracks, scratches, or have alligatored or crazed over time. Usually due to excessive sunlight or temperature changes.

If you’ve ever seen a clear coat that has alligatored, you’d know right away what I mean. You’ll see a bunch of small, intersecting lines that resemble the rough skin of an alligator. Clever right? 

Crazed clear coats are similar, but have less of a pattern than alligatored clear coats do. The lines are all over the place in a “crazed” pattern. 

Either way, these little cracks are in the finish only, not the wood. Again, making the amalgamation process possible. 

Amalgamation is pretty much re-liquifying the clear coat, and then letting it harden again.

It will then harden into a new, solid, flat surface, without the original cracks or scratches. 

As we talked about earlier, lacquer and shellac both have their own solvents for re-liquifying. 

Lacquer clear coats can be reamalgamated using lacquer thinner.

Shellac clear coats can be reamalgamated using denatured alcohol.

If you think your piece has both lacquer and shellac on it, you can use a mix of 3 parts denatured alcohol, to 1 part lacquer thinner.

How To Amalgamate a Damaged Lacquer or Shellac Clear Coat

Time Needed : 24 hours

How-to Amalgamate a Damaged Lacquer or Shellac Clear Coat

  1. Clean the area thoroughly.

    Use mineral spirits to ensure removal of any waxes.

  2. Using a 100% clean, new, natural bristle paint brush soaked in solvent, apply to surface.

    Apply it to the finish in long strokes, working with the grain.

  3. Go over the damaged area 1-3 times in long strokes.

    Work quickly, and don't let your brush dry out. Try not to focus too much on individual spots, or you'll end up removing the clear coat.

  4. Allow to dry for 30 minutes or more. The surface should look dull, not glossy.

    As the clear finish dries, most of the cracks will disappear on their own. You may need to repeat the process again to remove them all. 

  5. If damages are still visible, repeat steps 2-4 until your clear coat is solid and smooth.

    Use only a small amount of the solvent, and try your best not to remove more of the clear coat in the process.

  6. Once all marks have been removed, allow the finish to dry until it’s no longer glossy. Then lightly buff the surface with 0000 steel wool. 

    Working with the grain, with medium to heavy pressure.

  7. If the finish seems thin, you may want to apply another coat of the same clear finish on top. Just clean the surface well with a tack cloth before applying. 

    Once the second coat dries, again, buff it with 0000 steel wool.

  8. Finally, wax the surface with a hard paste wax and clean cloth.

    You can stick with the steel wool for this as well if you'd like, I usually switch over to a nice cloth. It's easier for buffing in small circular motions without worrying about scratches.

  • 0000 Steel Wool
  • Brand New Natural Bristle Paintbrush
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Denatured Alcohol/Lacquer Thinner

It may seem simple, but amalgamation takes some serious practice for a nice end result. 

If several amalgamation attempts don’t remove the damages to your piece, then the damage is probably to the wood itself. 

Meaning you’ll need to completely refinish it and repair the wood, before reapplying your stain and clear coat. 

As I said earlier, if your piece has varnish or polyurethane on it, amalgamation won’t work. 

These reactive clear coats can only be overcoated to hide the damages to them. You can do small areas on the piece, or the entire surface. 

Overcoating small areas on a piece is sometimes much more difficult than overcoating the entire surface.

If you choose to repair only a small spot or multiple small spots, you will have to get it to blend in with the clear coat that’s already on the piece. 

Clean the area with mineral spirits, or denatured alcohol to remove wax and dirt. Then lightly scuff it up with fine grit sandpaper, or  0000 steel wool.

If you’re dealing with scratches that are right at the top of the clear coat, and don’t go very deep at all, steel wool would be the better choice for you. 

It’s easy to go too deep through the finish to the wood –which you don’t want to do– so sand very lightly if you plan to only do a few small spots instead of the whole surface. 

Whatever clear coat your piece originally had, you will need to reapply the same on top of it.

Varnish must be overcoated with varnish, polyurethane must be overcoated with polyurethane (water or oil). 

One thing that you can change to make it easier for yourself, is to make your varnish or poly wipe-on capable, by thinning it. You can purchase it, or make your own for much cheaper! 

Wiping varnish/poly is much easier to apply for a smooth finish than brushing varnish/poly.

Wiping varnish/poly is thinner than brushing varnish/poly so you’ll need to put on more coats when wiping it on. But I personally think that the ease of application makes up for that little fact. 

All you need to do to turn your varnish or poly into a wiping version is mix in some mineral spirits if it’s oil-based, or mix in water if it’s water-based.

A mixture 50/50 for the first couple of coats works perfectly. For your final coat, you may want to thicken it up to 2 parts varnish/poly to 1 part mineral spirits/water. This will make the final coat thicker and stronger.

Related: Refinishing Metal Furniture – Things to Know Before You Start

How To Repair a Damaged Polyurethane or Varnish Clear Coat

Materials Needed: 

Mineral Spirits, Clean Rags, 320-600-grit Sandpaper, 0000 Steel Wool

1- Clean the entire surface with mineral spirits and a clean rag to remove any wax or dirt. 

2- Lightly sand/scuff the entire area that you plan to apply a new coat on. Use a fine-grit sandpaper 320 or higher. This will give the new coat something to grab onto and may blend in some of the surface scratches you’re trying to repair.

3 – Wipe all of the dust off of the surface, make sure you get everything before applying your first coat. Try not to blow the dust into the air around your workspace if possible. 

4 – Pour wiping poly/varnish onto the surface, and spread it over the area using a dry cloth. 

Once the surface is well moistened, use another dry cloth and lightly wipe off any excess poly/varnish from the surface. Don’t apply any pressure to the surface, just lightly dab the excess off.

5 – Let that first coat dry for at least 4 hours.

6 – Lightly sand off any dust nibs or bubbles out of the first coat with 600-grit sandpaper. I recommend using wet/dry sandpaper lubricated with water for this. Otherwise, the dried finish will build upon your paper pretty much instantly, causing even more damage to your finish. Once your sandpaper gets that dry finish build-up, stop!

If not, you’re bound to create scratches in the clear coat you’re trying to repair.

1-2 passes with the sandpaper in hand is usually sufficient. You’ll be able to feel the roughness with your hand. Once it’s nice and smooth you’re good.

7 – Wipe off any dust with a tack cloth or you can suck it up with a vacuum. Again, avoid the dust getting into the air you’re working in.

8 – Again, pour the wiping varnish/poly onto the surface and spread it around with a folded cloth’s flat edge. Leave a little more on the surface this time than the first coat. 

Continue levelling it with the folded cloth, and don’t wipe with the dry cloth this time. Be sure to get it as thin and level as you can. 

You can remove any excess slightly with a dry cloth, but then continue spreading with the folded cloth.

9 – Allow the coat to dry overnight, or at least 4-6 hours. 

10 – Repeat steps 6-9 until the area matches it’s surrounding areas’ thicknesses, or you are satisfied with the thickness. 

11 – The final result should be glossy. If the existing clear coat doesn’t match that, you can use 0000 steel wool to dull the surface, and buff with paste wax to reach the desired sheen.

And there we have it! I know I haven’t even come close to covering it all when it comes to repairing damaged clear coats but for now, I’ll stop here.

Lacquer, Shellac, Polyurethane, and Varnish are 4 products that come up on a day-to-day basis while refinishing furniture. All 4 are great in their own way, but not perfect that’s for sure! Hopefully, I’ve shared with you some knowledge that will help you with future wood clear coat repairs.

I know a lot of people that jump immediately into completely refinishing a piece of furniture when the surface clear coat is scratched. That’s fine, but I wanted people to know there is an easier, cheaper, and faster way. No matter the clear coat!

Recent Post: Applying Polyurethane Perfectly

Do you know of any repair tricks for lacquer, shellac, polyurethane, or varnish? Please comment away I would love to hear them!

Be sure to join my mailing list for future posts on wood finishes.

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Until Next Time,


How to Paint Particle Board Furniture | Faux Barn Door Coffee Table

How To Paint Particle Board Furniture After You’ve Removed the Wood Veneer Top… I know this is a super-specific topic that probably isn’t the smartest “blog-traffic” move according to many.

But, I found ZERO help online with this exact problem a few months ago. Therefore, I will now, be the ONE post on how to paint particle board furniture! And hopefully help a couple (literally), people. 

So, you may or may not have read my post on Restoring Wood Veneer Furniture. If not, check it out and learn the ultimate method for removing veneer, (if you haven’t removed it already that is.) 

So, you’ve removed the wood veneer, and it turns out, your piece is not 100% hardwood as you originally had hoped. 

Uh-oh. Now what? Toss it? Re-veneer it? (haha, good luck with that.)

Now, in my Restoring Wood Veneer Furniture post, I explain ways to ensure that your piece is hardwood BEFORE you remove the veneer. I thought those methods were foolproof but, of course, nothing ever is when it comes to furniture restoration you’ll come to learn. 

So do not feel bad if this has happened to you!

I was tricked into removing the veneer on the coffee table I was working on recently, because all 4 edges of the table were in fact, hardwood. 

The particle board was wrapped in 2”x 4”s of pine. 

Once I had removed enough veneer from the top to allow the particle board to show, it was too late. No going back on that one, unfortunately. 

So, I finished removing the rest of the veneer…

And afterward, the table sat in my garage, untouched, for a couple of months…**crickets**

I stopped Scott from bringing it to the dump a few times. 

Although I had no idea what I was going to do with the table, I just knew that I couldn’t toss it.

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As I say on my Meet Kray Page; ‘Saving Wood Furniture Lives is of the Utmost Importance to Me. Nothing is ever too far gone in my book.’

I just couldn’t go back on that because of a tiny bit of particle board, could I? 

Don’t get me wrong, there are some 95% particle board, 5% hardwood pieces, that aren’t worth your time.

But this piece wasn’t one of them. It was a solid table, made completely of hardwood other than this one area in the center. 

So you’ll have to use your judgment on the piece you’re working on. If it’s a complete particle board desk with fake wood laminate on top- don’t bother. 

If the piece is 75% hardwood or more, I’d say it’s acceptable as a quality piece. 

Which means it’d be acceptable for my new “paint particle board furniture technique.” Hooray!

You’ll want to remove any wood veneer covering the particle board on your piece if you plan to paint it. 

Once the veneer and any glues have been removed, sand down the area with a fine-grit sandpaper. 180-220 grit would be best. 

If you have an air compressor (definitely preferred), blow off as much dust as you can, especially in the crevices of the particle board. 

The most important part of this technique is to get the surface as flat as possible. 

Particle board is made from compressed wood chips, flakes, or shavings. They are tightly compressed and then bonded together with a resin. This means it will have a lot of tiny divots, cracks, and holes throughout. 

To paint the piece, without it being obvious that it’s particle board, we will need to fill those cracks as well as we can. 

I chose to fill these divots with paint because I planned to use them to my advantage in the style of the piece. 

You can also use a putty, or wood filler if you’d prefer. I’d recommend Durham’s Water Putty if you go this route.

If you choose to use paint go with thicker paint if possible. You’ll be using a putty knife to apply it, so it makes it a little easier to work with. 

Use the same paint color you plan to use for the entire piece, or a different color to create a layered look. 

Using a putty knife, slowly work the paint (or putty) into the crevices, and try to even it out with the rest of the piece. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you’ll be sanding off most of it anyways.

As the first coat dries, it’ll settle into the cracks. So you’ll have to apply a second coat in the same way. 

Make sure you press lightly because it’s easy to push the paint back out of the cracks as well when you’re applying it.

Once that dries, lightly sand again with a 220 grit or higher.

I used 400 grit just to be safe. You only want the paint off of the top of the piece, but left in the divots. 

Again it doesn’t have to be perfect. If some spots aren’t filled, they can hold dark wax at the end.

After sanding the top, again use your air compressor to clean out the crevices and remove as much dust as possible.

You’ll be staining the top next.

Choose a darker stain. It won’t be absorbed very well.

Apply it as you would for regular hardwood. Using a lint-free cloth, wipe it onto the particle board. Let it sit for as long as possible before wiping the excess.

For more help with wood staining, head to my post How To Stain Wood.

As you can see, the stain didn’t absorb much but darkened parts and brought out the painted crevices.

The oil-based stain also seals the entire piece nicely to ensure the next coats of paint adhere to the piece well.

From here, you have a choice to make.  I decided to turn this table into a faux barn door, meaning I had to measure out the lines and create faux wood boards. 

On some parts of the boards, I layered paint colors over one another to add to the aged look. 

On some parts of the boards, I layered stain colors over one another to create the aged look. 

You may choose to do both as well, or only one of these, it’s up to you. 

Check out my paint distressing techniques post with info on layering paint colors over one another.

Related: Refinishing Metal Furniture – Things to Know Before You Start

Wood Staining Steps For Painting Particleboard Furniture

Use the dark stain from the beginning of this process, and find another mid-tone stain to use as well. On each “board”, alternate between dark and medium stain. One dark, one light, one dark, one light.

You’ll need to do a couple of coats for the particleboard to finally accept the stain (for the most part).

After the final coat of paint or stain dries, apply a thin coat of white paint.

Slowly drag a wire brush from end to end of the piece, leaving lines in the paint similar to wood grain. Use your own discretion here, but you can scrape as much off as you think looks good.

This is just a good way to tie everything together and disguise the particleboard even more. Be sure to be as light with the wire brush as possible as the particleboard is pretty easy to scrape off too.

If you haven’t noticed yet, I changed things on this table about a million times. The first time I free-handed the lines for the barn door, and they were 100% WRONG. (I’m seriously embarrassed posting the picture of how wrong :-P) My “spatial analysis” is apparently non-existent.

My Horrible Free Handed Lines Were Easily Sanded Off & Blended Back In.

But in the end, it actually benefited the look of the piece. All of the layered paint colors look awesome, and they help easily convince people that it’s an old door having been repainted over the years. Which was exactly what I was going for.

Only parts of the layering weren’t sanded off in my fix for the faux barn door, but I used the wood staining steps on those spots and it tied together beautifully in the end :).

After Wood Stains & Paints Dried, Apply a Thin Layer of Paint Over The Entire Piece

Let this thin layer completely dry. Don’t worry, I know, it looks scary!

Use a fine grit sandpaper, or finishing pad like this:

3M 05114407415 Sandpaper – Wood Finishing Pad ~ 4 3/8 x 11 inch – $1.83

Sandpaper – Wood Finishing Pad ~ 4 3/8 x 11 inch

With a spray bottle of water, slowly blend and sand the paint, so that you can mostly see the wood grain beneath. The paint should should come off easily.

Finally, stain the entire piece with the darkest stain. It should look similar to this:

The oil-based wood stains should protect the particle board from the water you use in this step. But still, be careful not to get the particle board too wet while blending the paint above.

You don’t want the particle board swelling up, but I highly doubt it would happen.

Before waxing, coat any spots that will get frequent use with a polyurethane topcoat.

If it’s not going to get a lot of use, you can skip this step and stick with a clear wax before the dark wax.

I used this topcoat on my table, I’ve found that it has the least visible finish. It’s a matte clear finish that doesn’t change the coloring of your paint job at all.

It’s more durable than wax and doesn’t need to be reapplied over time.

Rust-Oleum 287722 Chalked Protective Topcoat ~ Clear Matte – $17.40

Chalked Protective Topcoat ~ Clear Matte

After the protective topcoat dries, a thin layer of dark wax works great to fill any leftover crevices in the particle board.

Once the wax has dried, and you buff the entire piece, the blended colors stand out gorgeously.

You most definitely wouldn’t think particle board when you look at this table anymore.

That’s for sure! What do you think? My Faux Barn Door Coffee Table is still for sale in my shop right now, but it won’t last long!

I hope that this helped you if you made a huge uh-oh removing wood veneer as I did. I definitely had to try quite a few different tactics before creating that beautiful table out of a yuck particle board piece. And I wished there was a tutorial like this one to help me!

So you’re welcome to those (2?) people that needed this post 🙂

Until Next Time,


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Best of List Part 2: The Best Cheap Paints for Refinishing Furniture & More

Part 2: The Best Cheap Paints For Refinishing Furniture. Plus: Wood Stains, Topcoats, Waxes, and, of course, the Best Paintbrushes for Refinishing Furniture

Hello everyone! I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of this post series: The Best Tools For Refinishing Furniture – Furniture Prep. I covered everything from the best sandpaper, to the best safety supplies.

Today, I’ll be covering the best paintbrushes for refinishing furniture, the best cheap paints for refinishing furniture, the best wood stains for refinishing furniture, the best topcoats for refinishing furniture, and the best waxes for refinishing furniture.

Once again, most of the products on my list can be found at for incredible prices. The few items that are not stocked by, I searched for the best pricing to share with you! Most items can also be found at your local hardware store as well.

So let’s get to it!

The Best Cheap Paintbrushes for Refinishing Furniture

Proform Tech PIC21-3.0 Picasso Minotaur Angled Sash Oval Paint Brush ~ 3″ – $12.94

Picasso Minotaur Angled Sash Oval Paint Brush ~ 3″

When I found this paintbrush on, for this price… I was shocked. I paid A LOT more for one of these paintbrushes, and I treat the thing like my baby. I absolutely love it.

I do believe it’s more for professional house painters than furniture painting, but I just don’t care! The brush’s oval shape is perfect for holding tons of paint without dripping. It’s skinny enough to fit in tight areas, and slanted for a perfect line. The Picasso is just the perfect name for it because you really do feel like an artist with it in your hand!

You may not always need to use this brush for furniture. But, you’ll be happy you have it at times, that is for sure. 

Wooster 0Q32110020 Angle Sash Brush, Shortcut ~ 2″ – $3.56

Angle Sash Brush, Shortcut ~ 2″

The Shortcut is another brush that fits perfectly in your hand. The handle is soft rubber so you can easily bend it to where it feels right for you. Plus it’s easy on the hands!

Besides the Picasso and Shortcut, the 100% best paintbrushes for refinishing furniture are the Zibra Brushes

The Palm Pro-Cut In is similar to the Shortcut, except it doesn’t need the rubber handle, because it’s built with the perfect shape. It was truly created with the customer in mind. 

All of the Zibra Brushes are this way. They are an amazingly innovative company, with every shape paintbrush you could think of. 

The square brush, triangle brush, and round brush are great for painting table legs, or chair spindles. 

They also have a chiseled wedge brush that is incredible for flat surfaces or trims. They’ve pretty much thought of everything when it comes to painting furniture…painting anything honestly! Hence why I love them!

Plus, they sent me this amazing item called the Open It! As a Xmas present last year.

I’ve got to say it may have been my favorite present of all that year. It came in SO handy for opening all of Alice’s toys on Christmas morning that is for sure! There’s nothing it can’t help you open! (Not exactly a paintbrush but I just had to throw it in here.)

The Behr Chalk Paint Brush and The Behr Wax Brush 

These are my favorite Chalk Paint and Wax Brushes. They’re easy to find at your local Home Depot, but I honestly think I use them more than any specialty brushes I’ve tried so far. 

The Chalk Paint Brush holds tons of paint and leaves a smooth perfect finish. I’ve had it for about a year now, and use it rather frequently. It still paints as nicely as the first day I got it. 

Most paintbrushes will last as long as you treat them well, and clean them out promptly. (I won’t lie, I have been known to leave a brush or two to harden oops.) But even so, the Behr Chalk Paint Brush has always snapped back to life after a bit of soaking.

A tip for saving your forgotten/hard as rock paintbrushes:

Try a fabric softener or laundry detergent soak. Leave the hardened brush in a 50/50 mix of hot water and 1 of those for a day or so. Rinse it thoroughly, run a Brush Comb Cleanup Tool like this:

PSB/Purdy 140068010 Brush Comb Clean-Up Tool – $4.87

Brush Comb Clean-Up Tool

(or a fork) through the brush, and it should come back to life for you!

If after a couple of days the bristles still won’t budge, refresh the mix with super hot water, a bit of Dawn dish detergent, and fabric softener for another 24 hours. Hopefully, that should be enough! If not, unfortunately, you may be out of luck 🙁

I wouldn’t recommend leaving paintbrushes in laundry detergent or softener for longer than 3 days. After that, you risk releasing the glue that holds the bristles in, and the brush will be junk either way. 

The Best Cheap Paints for Refinishing Furniture

Now of course I need to start out with my favorite furniture paint: MudPaint.

These paints cover like no other paint on this list, dry extremely quickly, and work great for blending colors. Check out my post MudPaint The Furniture Painter’s Paint to learn more.

Rust-Oleum 329207 Chalked Ultra Matte Paint, Coastal Blue ~ 30 oz – $13.04

Chalked Ultra Matte Paint, Coastal Blue ~ 30 oz

You just can’t be $13.00 for 30oz of Chalk Paint. Rustoleum is one of the first brands I tried when I started painting furniture. Yes, there are lots of awesome expensive chalk paints that you could purchase. I honestly don’t see a huge difference between those paints and the cheap ones.

FolkArt’s Chalk Paints are another one of my favorites. I purchased some from a local craft store, and it really impressed me! It covers great, sometimes with only 1 coat. It’s definitely on the cheaper side for chalk paints. Michaels had the cheapest price I found with tons of color options!

$ 0.00
$ 9.99
Folkart Home Decor Chalk Paint By Folk Art in Milk Jug | 8 oz | Michaels

My third choice for the best cheap chalk paint would be Waverly Inspirations line of amazing chalk paints and waxes. They have every color under the sun, and you only need to buy what you plan to use.

They have tiny sizes for small projects or larger tubs for big projects. Some of the unique colors you’d never use a giant amount of at once. So it’s definitely nice to have the option of just a tiny container for 2-4 dollars.

Howard CA0004 Chalk-Tique Powder ~ 4 oz. – $6.66

Chalk-Tique Powder ~ 4 oz.

The Chalk-Tique Powder was one of the products I was most excited about finding on I was given some of this by a friend recently, and I fell in love!

You can basically turn any old water-based paint into chalk paint in minutes! Not just any chalk paint, but awesome chalk paint. It sticks to furniture like glue; dries quickly and smoothly. 

Mix the Chalk-tique Powder with water, and then add it to your paint. Super simple, and in my opinion, better than trying to make the chalk paint yourself. If you’re anything like me, it’s a lot easier to buy a sure thing than try to mess around with mixing several things yourself. It just doesn’t turn out well. 

They also have great light and dark wax that I’ll show you later on in the topcoats section.

The Best Cheap Milk Paints for Refinishing Furniture

Rust-Oleum 334195 Milk Paint Finish, Venetian Yellow ~ Quart – $11.93

Milk Paint Finish, Venetian Yellow ~ Quart

This milk paint was one of the first paints I used that made me fall in love with painting furniture. Chalk paint is great and all, but there’s just something about the texture and look of milk paint. 

Rustoleum’s Milk Paint doesn’t quite chip like other milk paints do, as milk paint is known for doing. But its finish is soft and smooth, it dries super fast, and covers great on sanded pieces. 

I love using milk paint for blending paint colors together. It dries quickly, but with the help of a spray bottle, you can work it for quite a while until you get the look you want.

I had so much fun blending Rustoleum’s Navy Milk Paint with the Kensington Gray Milk Paint on my Painted Sideboard Project.

The colors just blend together beautifully, and the Rustoleum Milk Paint really is very forgiving. If you don’t quite like the look of the blend, spray it down and try again until you get it right!

Plaid FolkArt Milk Paint 6.8 oz. New England Red

Just like I love their chalk paint, I love their milk paint. It spreads as smoothly as a stain but dries to a dead flat finish. Superfast! Plaid’s 6.8 oz “milk jug” bottles are the perfect amount for a small project, for cheap!

Plaid FolkArt Milk Paint Brush 1 1/4 in. – $10.74

from: CreateForLess

While it wasn’t one of my choices for the best paintbrush for refinishing furniture, I had to throw Plaid’s Milk Paint paintbrush in here. The natural hog bristles are perfect for holding milk paint and releasing it uniformly. If you have trouble with brush marks while using milk paint, definitely try this paintbrush.

$ 0.00
$ 18.99
Patina Green Milk Paint Water Based Pint

General Finishes Milk Paint is a bit more pricey than the rest of the milk paints on my list, but it definitely shows through on your end product. It’s a quality, thick milk paint that levels out amazingly. It’s pretty difficult to have brush marks showing after using this paint.

One thing I love about this paint is that it’s interior/exterior, which a lot of these paints are not. This is definitely a bonus when painting outdoor furniture.

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The Best Cheap Wood Stains for Refinishing Furniture

UGL 50812 Qt Champagne Stain – $11.54

Qt Champagne Stain

In my How to Stain Wood Furniture post, and Staining Wood After Wood Filler Repairs post, I talked about Zar Wood Stain. It’s my absolute favorite wood stain for pretty much everything.

No matter what, if you don’t sand your wood furniture correctly or prepare the wood for staining correctly, you’ll have a difficult time getting a good end result. But Zar Wood Stain actually makes me think you could get away with just an okay job on that part, and still end up with a great stained piece! (Not recommending that at all, but still.)

It’s controlled penetration creates a smooth, uniform stain every time. And you can use it on metal too!

Minwax 710730000 71073 1g Puritan Pine Stain – $29.99

71073 1g Puritan Pine Stain

There’s not much I can say about Minwax Wood Stain. It’s the tried and true stain that obviously popular for a reason. It works great, but you definitely want to be sure to prepare the wood surface well before using it.

Coating the surface with Black Tea is now a must for me when using Minwax Stain. It just comes out so much better after this treatment. Check out my post on how to apply black tea to prepare wood for staining for more.

Before heading to your usual hardware store to purchase it, check out the pricing at, it’s cheap!

$ 0.00
$ 16.99
Colonial Maple Gel Stain Solvent Based Pint

General Finishes has amazing wood stains as well. I prefer their gel stain for furniture refinishing. If you’re looking for something super thick, almost paint-like, this is your stain.

Although it is a gel stain, you can also apply it like a regular stain by wiping it on and off. This way, you will see more wood grain than other gel stains. Otherwise, use a paintbrush and brush it on like paint to get the darkest end result possible.

The Best Cheap Top Coats for Refinishing Furniture

UGL 33913 UGL/ZAR 33913 Oil-Based Interior Polyurethane Wood Finish, Matte ~ Gallon

from: Hardware World

For interior furniture that is going to get a lot of use, I’d recommend a polyurethane over wax. Once again Zar is my favorite here. It dries crystal clear, with no yellowing over time.

It’s also easy to apply, and levels itself out nicely so you don’t end up with brush marks all over the place.

UGL 34212 Qt Sg Ext Water Bse Poly – $23.14

Qt Sg Ext Water Bse Poly

Even if your piece is going to be used inside only, you may benefit from using an exterior topcoat. It couldn’t hurt, right? If you plan to sell your piece, you never know what a customer plans to do with it. Even if you plan to keep it yourself, being able to bring it outside without worry is always a nice bonus.

Plus water spills and sun damage happen inside all the time! Exterior polyurethane like this Zar Water Base Exterior Poly will save your wood piece from accidents, and last much longer than regular polyurethanes.

It does dry with a light amber finish due to the radiation absorbers for UV protection, so keep that in mind before choosing this as a topcoat for your piece.

McCloskey/Valspar 80-0007509-05 Spar Varnish, Gloss ~ Quart – $22.77

Spar Varnish, Gloss ~ Quart

Another great choice for a top coat on your interior or exterior pieces is this Spar Varnish. For the same reason, I recommended Zar’s Exterior Polyurethane. This stuff is meant for use on salt-water boats, so you know it’s tough!

Rustoleum Chalked Protective Topcoat

Last but not least for topcoats other than wax to use over chalk paint, stain, or milk paint; is Rustoleum’s Chalked Protective Topcoat. I love this over chalk paint because it is a seriously clear matte finish. It’s as close as you can get to an invisible finish.

A lot of topcoats will change the color or look of the chalk paint slightly, no matter how clear they say it is. This stuff works great though, and it lasts longer than waxes which have to be reapplied after awhile.

You can go one better, and use this protective topcoat before you apply your wax. It’s practically invisible, so you won’t see a huge change in the look once waxed. If your piece is going to get a lot of use, this is a great solution to reapplying wax every so often.

On my latest Faux Barn Door Coffee Table, I used the protective topcoat and then applied clear and dark wax. It just gives me a bit of peace of mind when I plan on selling a piece that will be used frequently.

The Best Cheap Waxes For Refinishing Furniture

Howard CS0014 Premimum Citrus Shield Paste Wax, Neutral ~ 11 Oz – $9.66

Premimum Citrus Shield Paste Wax, Neutral ~ 11 Oz

These paste waxes are a favorite for me when working with chalk paint. It’s a blend of beeswax, Brazilian carnauba wax, and orange oil. Carnauba wax is great because it’s finish is hard, and not sticky or tacky.

The harder the finish, the better the protection. The beeswax helps soften it slightly for easier application. And the orange oil gives it just a slightly oily sheen for a gorgeous finish.

Howard FW0008 Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner ~ 8 oz – $3.53

Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner ~ 8 oz

Another Howard product that I love! This one I wouldn’t recommend using over paint. It’s great for wood furniture that needs to be conditioned. Plus it also has carnauba wax so it offers strong protection as well. It brings the color out in the wood beautifully. After applying you will need to buff it similar to other waxes used over chalk or milk paint.

This wax is also a close second:

$ 0.00
$ 13.99
Minwax Dark Finishing Wax Paste 16 oz.

DecoArt Americana Decor Creme Wax 8 oz. White;

American Decor waxes are great for beginners at furniture waxing. Most waxes are on the thicker side, which makes them more difficult to work with. These waxes are thinner and much easier to apply. I definitely recommend coating with the clear wax first if you plan on antiquing your piece.

If you don’t apply the antiquing wax perfectly the first time, it has a tendency to appear blotchy on the piece. Otherwise, I’d recommend using a glaze by adding mineral spirits. Check out my Antique Wax Glaze on Chalk Paint post for complete instructions on that.

Behr Decorative Wax

Although I have yet to try Behr’s Chalk Paint, I love their Chalk Paint Brushes and their Decorative Waxes. Compared to the two I mentioned above, Behr’s Waxes are more solid, and more of a wax texture. Using one of their wax brushes it goes on smooth and silky, but hardens and buffs with a nice satin sheen that I love. I definitely recommend for an intermediate furniture painter.

And With that, I’ll conclude my list of the best cheap paints for refinishing furniture & more

Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or just starting out in refinishing furniture, I hope that you found my choices for the best cheap paints, stains, waxes, and paintbrushes helpful on your journey! Please let me know if you think I’ve missed a product, or know of something new I should try. I’m always open to trying new products for refinishing furniture!

If you haven’t yet, check out my other helpful tutorials on refinishing furniture. Such as my Metal Furniture Refinishing post, or 5 Unique Wood Finishing Techniques.

Until Next Time,


Best of List Part 1: Tools & Supplies For Refinishing Furniture

Part 1 – Furniture Prep & Safety Tools

Hello everyone!

After over a year 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, that are still quality items.

That may not be as important to some people, so I’ve got a bit of both mixed in. BUT I am super excited because I recently found a website that made all of my cheap dreams come true!

It is a secure, reputable, online shop, so as long as you are comfortable with purchasing products online, this place is perfect. has over 40,000 items at amazingly low prices, including specialty tools, and hard to find items. (I found almost every item on my list easily.)

All products ship from Kansas, Mon-Fri, and most orders ship the same day if placed before 12 pm. They have a 30-day refund policy, PLUS no tax! (except WA)

I’m from New Hampshire where there is also no sales tax, but I know that’s a big deal to people who are not from a no sales tax state. Right??

Obviously these products are available at your local hardware store as well, so feel free to purchase them there.

But cost-wise, be sure to check out the link I’ve attached to each of the products below.

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

Makita BO5030K 5 Random Orbit Sander – $74

5 Random Orbit Sander

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! I was recently upgraded to the Makita 5″, and it was just that; an upgrade.

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 Makita 5″ 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, and so, these next 2 sanders will cover those for you 🙂

Bosch/Vermont American 7510-01 SKIL Brand Belt Sander ~ 3″ x 18″ – $60.28

SKIL Brand Belt Sander ~ 3″ x 18″

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”, where 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.

DeWalt DWE6411K 1/4 Sheet Palm Sander – $53.83

1/4 Sheet Palm Sander

¼ Sheet Palm Sanders come 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

Ali Industries 7800 Micro Multi-Surface Zip Sanding Kit – $8.21

Micro Multi-Surface Zip Sanding Kit

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 10 sheets of 80, 120, and 220 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.)

Next best would be this one:

Ali Industries 7233 Zip Sand Sponge Holder – $5.32

Zip Sand Sponge Holder

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. 

Red Devil 3318 Plastic Sandpaper Holder Sanding Bock ~ 4.5″ x 5″ Sheet – $4.49

Plastic Sandpaper Holder Sanding Bock ~ 4.5″ x 5″ Sheet

A Sandpaper holder 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.

Norton 07660700937 Contour Sponge, 4 x 5 inch, Extra fine

from: Hardware World

These sponges are perfect for distressing paint. You can get them, and use for either wet distress, or paint layering without taking off too much paint. They’re 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.

3M 051111115169 Sanding Sponge – Paint Stripping – $3.19

Sanding Sponge – Paint Stripping

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!

3M 048011040295 Scotch-Brite General Purpose Scouring Pads ~ Approx 6″ x 9″ – $24.90

Scotch-Brite General Purpose Scouring Pads ~ Approx 6″ x 9″

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 for 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 Sandpaper for Refinishing Furniture

Freud/Diablo DND050080H10I 10pk 5 80g Disc – $14.97

10pk 5 80g Disc

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 it’s hook (or loop?) and kept falling off. When the sanding side outlasts the hook and loop – that’s pretty impressive if you ask me.

At Lowe’s or Home Depot, they are on the pricey side, but now that I’ve found, I’ll most definitely be sticking with Diablo sanding discs

3M 051141342806 Sandpaper, Pro Grade ~ 220 Grit – $9.24

Sandpaper, Pro Grade ~ 220 Grit

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.

The Best Paint Stripping or Veneer Removal Tools for Refinishing Furniture

Norton 07660705466 05466 4×1 Rapid Strip Disc – $10.67

05466 4×1 Rapid Strip Disc

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. 

I’d kind of agree with sticking to contour surfaces only because it’s pretty easy to go too deep and cut into the wood while using them. If you’re working on an expensive antique piece, that doesn’t exactly work. But after practicing a bit, you can get pretty decent at scraping the paint off without gouging the wood. 

That’s your call. Quick fixes though, definitely recommend these paint stripping discs.

EDIT: I’ve recently found this amazing Restorer Tool that is 100% better for stripping furniture. So much so that I wrote a whole post on it!

Red Devil 4251 Zip-A-Way 6 In 1 Tool – $5.37

Zip-A-Way 6 In 1 Tool

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 of the paint off the roller. (I didn’t learn that one until just recently, oops.) 

While searching on Hardware World I found this one that does even more…11 things in fact!

Red Devil 6291EZ Decorator 11 In 1 Tool – $7.94

Decorator 11 In 1 Tool

So hey, if you like all-in-one tools, have at it! 

Great Neck RM16 Rubber Mallet ~ 16 oz – $3.66

Rubber Mallet ~ 16 oz

While I’m on the subject of removing veneer, and the 11 in 1 tool; 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.

Worthington Cylinders 361519 Ts3500t Multi-Use Torch

from: Hardware World

Torches can be used for lots in furniture refinishing, but I personally use it most with wood veneer removal. My Ultimate Wood Veneer Removal Technique post will explain more on that. 

It can also be used for wood burning techniques. Check my Unique Wood Finishing Techniques post to learn how!

The torch I linked to is an amazing torch that I personally spent a lot more on than it’s listed for on (I seriously wish I had learned about this site sooner.) They have MAP//Pro torches available as well.

Worthington Cylinders 361519 Ts3500t Multi-Use Torch

from: Hardware World

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 stain, varnish, shellac, lacquer, or any other old finish that has built-up over time on wood furniture. It does not remove paint or polyurethane.

For stripping paint, I would recommend Jasco Paint and Epoxy Remover. I tested a few paint stripping products in my paint stripping post as well, and it definitely won me over. 

I wish I could recommend the safer, Citristrip type products, but unfortunately, they just don’t come close to the chemical strippers like Jasco.

Allway PBS Nylon Paint Stripper Brush 7″ L x 1.25″ wide – $1.63

Nylon Paint Stripper Brush 7″ L x 1.25″ wide

When using the 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.

3M 05111110111 10111 Hvy Dty Stripping Pad – $1.95

10111 Hvy Dty Stripping Pad

You can also use stripping pads like these to remove the paint from 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

Irwin 54122 Quick-Grip Mini Bar Clamp ~ 12″ – $21.33

Quick-Grip Mini Bar Clamp ~ 12″

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.

Kreg Tool K4 Pocket Hole Jig System – $99

Pocket Hole Jig System

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 the It strengthens the joint or crack. I’ve used a Kreg Jig fixing 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 8281 10oz J-B Weld Pro – $13.36

10oz J-B Weld Pro

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.

3M BD000265 Bondo Body Filler ~ One Gallon – $24.90

Bondo Body Filler ~ One Gallon

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, I don’t think stain would work great over Bondo. But it’s easily hidden with some paint.

Durham’s Durham Rockhard Water Putty, 4 lbs – $5.63

Durham Rockhard Water Putty, 4 lbs

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.

Elmer’s E-890 Stainable Wood Filler, 8 ounce – $3.58

Stainable Wood Filler, 8 ounce

If you’d rather use a 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.

Bostitch HP118K Headless Pinner Kit – 23 gauge – $150.30

Headless Pinner Kit – 23 gauge

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. 

It’s supposedly “portable” but unless you can easily “port” 150 lbs, I wouldn’t quite call it that. But it’s small so you shouldn’t need to move it much. Definite plus!

Black & Decker PD600 Cordless Drill – Pivot Plus – 6 volts

from: Hardware World

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 to 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!

DeWalt DCF885C2 Max*Lith-Ion 1/4″ Impact Driver Kit ~ 20v – $179

Max*Lith-Ion 1/4″ Impact Driver Kit ~ 20v

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. also has Dewalt Drill Kits on sale right now!

The Best Supplies to Keep in Shop for Refinishing Furniture

Coleman Cable WL40272S Woods Portable Dual Head LED Work Light – $187.86

Woods Portable Dual Head LED Work Light

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 set on, with an easy to adjust the 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.

DeWalt DCV581H Wet Dry Shop Vacuum, Cordless/Corded ~ 2 Gallon – $178.95

Wet Dry Shop Vacuum, Cordless/Corded ~ 2 Gallon

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!

3M 2097-48EC Exterior Painters Tape ~ 2″ x 45 yds – $10.02

Exterior Painters Tape ~ 2″ x 45 yds

3M 051131774087 Handmasker Dispenser – $20.11

Handmasker Dispenser

Of course, furniture refinish work also includes painting, and I definitely recommend these two products to help with achieving clean lines, and decorative finishes easily.

I went without the dispenser for quite a while, and after buying one you’ll never go back to using the roll only; trust me.

The Best Safety Products for Refinishing Furniture

Boss 8438S Ladies Nitrile Palm Gloves, Small – $3.35

Ladies Nitrile Palm Gloves, Small

It’s hard to find decent work gloves for women, so I thought I’d throw these on as well. Nitrile gloves protect against many household chemicals, including paint strippers, wood stains, and more. 

I have very tiny hands so I was happy to find these fit great! They have an assortment of men’s nitrile gloves as well on

Boss 118M Nitrile Glove – Medium – 18 gauge – $4.10

Nitrile Glove – Medium – 18 gauge

These 18 gauge  Nitrile Gloves are 13 inches long. Making them the best choice safety-wise when using serious chemicals. The more skin covered up the better when it comes to your health.

3M 051141936135 Lead Check Instant Lead Test Swabs – 2/Pk ~ LC2S24C – $7.89

Lead Check Instant Lead Test Swabs – 2/Pk ~ LC2S24C

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 seem to be sold out due to Covid-19 at the moment but they are usually easy to find. 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. 

Wolf Peak SDK117 Khor Silver Mir Glasses – $12.59

Khor Silver Mir Glasses

I wear glasses every day, so I don’t usually go for safety goggles since they won’t fit over them. If you don’t normally have eye protection, definitely check out getting some.

You never know what could happen in the workshop. Of course, there is a serious assortment of safety glasses at as well.

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!

Be sure to subscribe to my email list to receive updates to this list, plus my latest posts to help you with refinishing furniture!

Continue on to Part 2 of The Best of The Best List: The Best Paints, Stains, Waxes, and Paintbrushes For Refinishing Furniture.

Thanks for reading!

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