View Full Version : Any furniture painters out there?

05-13-2008, 09:41 PM
I have 30-year-old bedroom furniture that's chipped and nicked to death - I think it's walnut and I'd really like to freshen it up. I was thinking of painting it white.
Problem: It has a thin varnish, albeit, 30 years old, but still giving it a bit of a shine. Should I sand (I don't own a sander) or paint on a primer? Or just hand-sand it to roughen the surface up a bit?

Should I spray paint or use a brush? I'm leaning toward a brush - that way I don't have to move the furniture out of the room. If I spray paint I'll have to do it outside and it's been rainy here in Jersey and I don't have enough room for all of it in the garage.

Anyone have any tips for me? I'm trying to get this done over the Memorial Day weekend.

05-13-2008, 09:43 PM
I'd hand sand it, prime it, paint it with a brush, and possibly put a coat of polyeurethane on it.

05-13-2008, 09:45 PM
I'm really lazy, so I've always just painted on a primer and then the color (or sometimes just the color). I use a brush (or a mini-roller for big sections so it goes on smoother). It's worked fine for me so far, although I'm aware this isn't the way the pros recommend doing it. I just *hate* sanding/sandpaper, and I don't own a sander.

ETA: Oh, and like Bronco said, the polyeurethane.

05-13-2008, 09:55 PM
Need my kids to come over and show you? Cause they will. No problem.

Any color, anytime.

Have markers will travel.

05-14-2008, 12:24 AM
thanks writerterri but we'd need a helluva lot of markers to cover this furniture.
I never would have thought of polyurethane - I just would have painted and the end.

05-14-2008, 01:35 AM
I would sand it first - though if you've got a lot of furniture to do, I'd really recommend getting a hold of an electric sander to do it, otherwise it's really tiring to do it by hand. I have a little Black and Decker gadget that has all sorts of different shaped sander-attachments for doing finicky bits and I like that. Then a primer / undercoat then your colour, then some sort of protective finish as has been suggested (something I really need to do with the cupboards I painted in here. I mean, I've only needed to coat them for like, oh, five years...)

05-14-2008, 04:03 AM
I don't know that you need to invest in a sander. If you just wrap some sand paper around a block of some kind (piece of 2x4 works or they have something especially for this at the hardware store you can get as well) and then sand by hand. You really only need to give the surface some "tooth" for the new paint to grip so ask your hardware store what grit would be best.

You also should prime with a primer that will cover oil or water based paint before you put on your latex paint (I'm assuming this is what you will use?) because unless there is something new in latex paints they don't adhere well to an oil base. As for the actual paint you may want to buy gloss paint which is good for furniture or I've seen paint that actually has polyeurathane in it.

To paint I would first use a brush and then smooth it with a small roller for the best effect.

PS Since you are painting it, you might also want to change the hardware on it to really give it an up date.

PPS.Take some before and after pics to share when you are finished.

05-14-2008, 05:33 AM
I would get fine and extra fine steel wool and go over the bed with that.. it's good for all the crevices that a sander can't get. Then paint it.

05-14-2008, 06:25 PM
Paint with polyurethane in it? That would be wonderful!!
This is a pretty bold project - I'm not a stranger to painting furniture - I've painted a lot of antiques in my house but this is different because there's major pieces involved, not just accent furniture - a desk, two dressers and two shelf units that fit on top of the dressers - and they're going to be a focal point, not just stuck in a corner AND because of that varnish thing, which of course antiques don't have. So I really don't want the furniture to look worse than it does now.
I'll take before after pics and post - I appreciate everyone's advice. The steel wool sounds like a good idea, too.

05-14-2008, 08:19 PM
Put the frame on a sheet of plastic.
If possible, take it apart. You may want to replace the metal fasenings. This will also give you a chance to see if the wood's been eaten by termites or other bugs--if the frame is worth saving or not.
Make sure the area is well ventilated, and well-lit
Get all the cobwebs and dust off with a brush, soft cloth.
Hand sanding will be cheaper than renting/buying a sander though it will take longer. Sanders can have a life of their own if you're not used to them and you can gouge your wood. Use med to fine grit paper.
Buy a tack rag--they aren't expensive. You'll need to manipulate the rag with your hands to warm it up. The wax-like stuff on the rag will heat up and you'll be able to wipe the sanded dust off the wood.
Elmer's makes a wood filler and there's other types of fillers in different wood colors from pine to mahogany so you can match and cover up the worst nicks and dings. A small putty knife or even a popsicle stick can work here.
You may need to sand off the excess and use the tack rag to get the dust off again from the filled areas.
When painting turn the wood upside down so you can get those usually unseen areas first.
Oil-based paint will last longer--will take longer to dry too. Latex dries faster. Enamel is even harder-wearing but it can take a long time to dry too.
Use a 2" brush for large areas and a 1" for smaller ones.
When cleaning brushes from oil or enamel, go outside when using thinner/turpentine--the fumes can cause headaches. Put rags or newspapers used in thinner outside in the trash can. I like to wet them thoroughly with water just to kill any dangerous fumes. A good liquid dish detergent can wash that out.
Latex paint cleans with water and soap.

05-16-2008, 06:05 PM
Wow - sounds like you really know what you're doing.
Thanks loads, HeronW - I appreciate your detailed information.

03-03-2011, 01:08 AM
Lots of good suggestions here. I'm also a furniture painter. Have redone several antique pieces or junk that I've picked up from resale stores, and always get lots of compliments.

I like the Reuse, Restore, Repurpose sort of attitude, and it's way cooler than just buying regular old stuff from IKEA or Target. You know you have an original piece of art!

03-03-2011, 01:57 AM
If you can find real enamel paint -- I'm not sure what latex enamel is made of -- that might be your best bet over an old varnish finish. I love the look of enamel :)

They do make great primers now, too, if you go that route. I'm redoing a bunch of old woodwork (moldings, doors, etc) and know that the primers for woodwork work well with all kinds of old unknown trim paint. Just read up on them so that you choose the best for the paint you are topping it with.

03-03-2011, 02:48 AM
The pieces I've redone, I typically remove old paint and do fresh stain/poly, not the other way around. I'm not sure how useful I'd be on this one.

Great project!
Show us before and after pics!

03-05-2011, 02:13 AM
I often paint unfinished furniture I buy new, or curb finds. I'm amazed what people set out for the trash that's just dirty and needs a coat of paint.

You can remove old varnish, but if you rough it up by sanding or with steel wool, it'll hold paint just fine. I vastly prefer the end result using a brush over a spray finish, and the color selection is much larger, of course. I use latex enamel, usually in no more than a semi-gloss finish, unless the shine is what I want. (I'd never paint furniture if I had to deal with cleaning brushes in turpentine!)

Not long ago I repainted the bedroom furniture I got new and unfinished when I was nine. (I'm nearly sixty now.) This dresser has been pink, white with colored drawers, black with white drawers, glossy black, and is now pewter grey. It came out great.

I'd be interested in folk-painting furniture, but I'm a little afraid to try it.

Maryn, not particularly artistic

Alessandra Kelley
09-07-2011, 09:50 PM
When you sand, wear a dust mask and eye protection. Try to get a good, OSHA-approved respirator; those paper face cups are no good. You should also wear a respirator when painting, and have good ventilation -- not just one open window, but at least two on two different walls with a fan blowing out of one of them. Polyurethane is especially nasty, so take care.

:) Studio art health hazards is one of my specialties.

10-30-2011, 11:47 PM
Word of warning - learned the hard way.

If you paint the furniture white or any pale colour, make sure the polyurethane or varathane top coat you use is the "non-yellowing" kind.