Rejuvenating furniture

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Rejuvenating furniture
Series Title:
Rejuvenating furniture
Alternate title:
Circular 80 ; Florida Agricultural Extension Service
Moore, Virginia P.
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Paints ( jstor )
Wood ( jstor )
Varnishes ( jstor )

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
214325394 ( oclc )


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Circular 80

January, 1945

(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
A. P. SPENCER, Director



Specialist in Home Improvement

Fig. 1.-These 4-H club girls at annual Short Course learn to
refinish furniture.


Fig. 2.-Bedroom before (above) and after improvement of furniture and
arrangement by 4-H club girls.

Home Improvement Specialist, Florida Extension Service
A great many home demonstration club members are each year
taking a renewed interest in the improvement of their homes.
They may not always be able to do over the entire house, but
every little while some piece of furniture may be painted or
refinished, and it is wise to re-do good old furniture instead of
buying inferior furniture during the war period.

The possibility of painted furniture seems unlimited. It can
be used in almost any room in the house, but it seems to be
particularly suited for kitchens, breakfast nooks, breakfast
rooms, sun parlors, bedrooms and porches. Certain pieces may
even be suited to the living room and dining room. The Florida
porch, with its attractive painted furniture, is oftentimes the
index to the home. The breakfast nook or the breakfast room
takes its cheeriness and homelike appearance from the painted
furniture. Dining room furniture painted or enameled in black
with gold lines, decorated with fruit, flowers, autumn leaves, or
a conventional design, is dignified enough for a formal dining
room. Cheer up the child's room with painted furniture.
Do not paint mahogany, rosewood, walnut, maple or cherry, but
refinish it so as to retain the grain of the beautiful natural wood.

In renovating a piece of painted furniture, much depends
upon the condition of the old finish. If it is still intact it should
be washed with ammonia water and allowed to dry, then rubbed
with fine sandpaper until perfectly smooth. Dust off the old
paint, and give it at least 1 or 2 coats of flat paint of the desired
color. Allow plenty of time between coats for drying. The piece
may then be enameled, or a good enamel may be used instead
of the second coat of flat paint. If the old finish is badly worn,
remove it with a good paint and varnish remover.
A commercial remover is applied with a brush. After a short
time the old finish softens and can be removed with a putty
knife. Turpentine, benzine or sandpaper produces the smooth-
ness necessary for painting. A hard varnish surface does not
take the paint or enamel, therefore it is necessary to roughen
or scarify it with a medium sandpaper if it is not entirely re-
moved, before the new coat of paint is applied.
SThis Circular is a revision of Bulletin 55.

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If the furniture is gathered from odds and ends it can be
made to look alike by painting it the same color. Have any
necessary repair work done before the painting is started. Re-
move all knobs and handles and unnecessary ornaments, such
as glued-on machine carvings. These may be removed easily
by the use of a chisel. It makes a decided improvement. Smooth
down the wood with fine sandpaper.

Fig. 3.-Never enamel or paint beautiful Colonial or Antique furniture.
Refinish it as suggested on page 7.
Open the can carefully. Pour off the liquid into another vessel.
Stir the pigment portion to a smooth, even consistency to prevent
lumps or stringiness, adding the liquid little by little until the
whole is thoroughly mixed. Pour from 1 container to another to
insure uniformity of mixture. Dip the brush about half the length
of the bristle into the paint, but when using enamel the whole
bristle should be filled with the enamel. Then press brush gently
against side of container so that paint will not drip. Do not thin
paint unless it is too thick to brush easily. Then if necessary, use
pure turpentine, or the medium that the paint shop recommends
for some of the newer paints and enamels. Use a flat coat as
the first coat of paint. Have all surfaces clean, dry and free
from dirt, dust and grease before beginning to paint.
Do Not Rush.-Always allow ample time for each coat of
paint to dry before applying another coat. Twenty-four hours

Rejuvenating Furniture

Fig. 4.-Living room before (above) and after a demonstration in
arrangement and repair of furniture. The picture below shows simple,
home-made painted furniture (note walls, floor and drapery).

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or longer is required for ordinary paint. Duco, and a few other
quick-drying enamels, dry immediately. The room must have
air circulation for proper drying. Never paint when the weather
is damp.
For an enamel finish use a good grade of gloss or semi-gloss
enamel for the finish coat instead of a gloss paint. A single
coat of enamel may be used for the finish, too, provided it covers
the foundation coat, but usually 2 coats are better. Apply
the enamel without thinning, as it comes from the can, but be
sure it is mixed as suggested for mixing paint. It should be
put on carefully so as to avoid streaks and brush marks. Have
plenty of enamel on the brush. At least 48 hours should be
allowed between coats of enamel to give ample time for it to
dry thoroughly. Rub each coat of enamel with fine steel wool
or 00 sandpaper and dust well before applying the next coat.
If gloss enamel is used and a rubbed finish is desired, follow
the directions given for "rubbed varnish" finish (page 8). There
is a semi-gloss or egg-shell finish on the market which is splen-
did and the rubbing is not necessary.

Wicker furniture can be cleaned with a brush, soap and water,
or 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 1 quart of warm water, after
the dust has been blown out with an automobile or bicycle
pump or a vacuum cleaner. After it has been well cleaned, it
can be painted or enameled. Care must be taken to work the
paint or enamel into all the cracks. It is best to spray the color
oq the wicker furniture with a spray pump. Many prefer the
stained wicker. There are a variety of colors that may be had
in 'he stains, and as the paint and enamel often scale off with
constant use, the stains are all the more advisable. "Peeled
willow" should only be cleaned, not painted.

Dead varnish or old paint may be removed from the furniture
by scraping it with a metal scraper which can be purchased at
a 10-cent store, hardware store or paint shop. A smooth piece
of glass may be used for scraping; however, great care must
be taken so that the furniture is not scratched or cut. Always
scrape with the grain of the wood, not against it or across it.
Hold the scraper at an angle of about 45 degrees inclined in the
direction of the stroke; make steady, even strokes.

Rejuvenating Furniture

If the varnish or paint is difficult to remove with the scraper,
apply strong ammonia. Allow it to stand on the furniture for
a few seconds and brush with a stiff brush. If the ammonia
stains or darkens the wood, bleach out with 2 tablespoons of
oxalic acid crystals in 1 pint of boiling water. Do not let the
acid solution stay on the wood too long, as it will leave light
spots. Lye, washing soda or a strong soap powder solution
may be used to remove the paint of ordinary furniture (never
use it on a fine piece). Use a vinegar wash after the lye has
been used. After the wood has had all the old paint and varnish
removed, rub it with fine sandpaper until it is absolutely smooth.
Brush and wipe off all the varnish dust. A commercial varnish
remover has directions on the container. Many prefer it.
Cracks and small holes may be filled with putty or a crack filler.
Before starting to refinish a piece of furniture, one should
know something of the texture of the wood. Mahogany, oak,
chestnut, pine, cypress and walnut are coarse-grained and re-
quire a filler, while maple, bird's-eye maple and white pine are
fine-grained and do not need a filler.
After the old finish has been removed and the wood is dry
and has been rubbed smooth, then it is ready for the new finish.
If a stain is to be used, it should be applied at this time. Stains
for any of the above woods may be purchased ready for use,
either as oil or acid stains, or the stain powders may be purchased
and the stains prepared at home. These stain powders may be
had in several colors. They are inexpensive and easily prepared.
An ounce of stain powder will make from 1 to 2 quarts of stain.
These stains are soluble in alcohol or water or both. In purchas-
ing stain powder one should be sure to ask in which liquid it is
soluble. Apply the stain evenly with the grain of the wood, using
a brush. Allow this to dry thoroughly, then rub the surface
with steel wool or fine sandpaper (No. 00) to remove any rough-
ness caused by application of the stain. If the desired color is
not obtained by the first application, apply more stain until the
desired color is obtained. Each coat of stain should be thor-
oughly dried before the next coat is applied.
If the natural color of the wood is to be retained, omit the stain.
The filler may be bought ready to use. Apply as directed on
the container. If the filler is too thick it may be thinned to the

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desired consistency by adding turpentine or benzine. Apply the
filler to the furniture with a bristle brush. After the filler has
soaked into the wood for a few minutes rub the surface with soft
excelsior, using a circular movement to remove the surplus and to
clean the surface. The filler is used to fill the pores only, and
none should be left on the surface. Allow the filler to dry for 24
hours and then proceed to the next step in the refinishing.

Fig. 5.-Nothing adds more to the living room than one of these beauti-
ful old pieces, when refinished. This is ready to be rubbed down and
receive the final upholstering.
There are several kinds of finishes. The choice of finish will
depend upon the piece of furniture to be finished, the kind of
wood, the use of the furniture, and personal preference. Fol-
lowing are suggestions for finishes:
Rubbed Varnish Finish.-If filler is used, allow it to dry, then
rub the surface smooth when it is ready for the finishing coats.
Apply 1 or 2 coats of silex. Let each coat dry thoroughly, and
rub smooth with fine steel wool or sandpaper. (Note: Wear old
gloves when using steel wool, and be careful not to breathe any
of the dust.) Silex acts as a filler and prevents the varnish from
being absorbed by the wood. Then apply several coats of var-
nish. Let each coat dry for 24 hours, rub each coat smooth with

Rejuvenating Furniture

very fine steel wool or 000 sandpaper. The last coat is rubbed
with a piece of felt or a woolen cloth dampened in paraffin oil and
then dipped in powdered pumice stone. This treatment gives a
soft satin-like finish and is known as the "rubbed" finish. Hard
friction rubbing is very necessary. The felt may be placed over
a smooth block of wood. It should be rubbed with the grain of the
wood on the flat surfaces. For rounded surfaces, a soft bristle
brush (vegetable brush) dipped in paraffin oil and powdered
pumice stone may be used. For carved surfaces, a cloth folded
over a pointed stick may be used after being dipped in paraffin oil
and then in the powdered pumice stone. When the entire surface
has been rubbed, wipe clean with a soft cloth (cheesecloth or
bunting) dipped in paraffin oil. It should be rubbed hard with the
felt as above directed until it has a soft satin-like appearance.
Varnish Stain.-Varnish stain may be preferred to the above
treatment. It is easier but not such a fine result will be obtained.
Use the filler if necessary. Apply the shellac coats as described
on the can. Apply several coats of varnish stain, which may
be bought in any desired color. Rub each coat to get a smooth
finish and polish the last coat with powdered pumice stone and
paraffin oil as described above.
Wax Finish.-If the piece of furniture to be refinished is
mahogany, walnut, maple or cherry, the wax finish is often the
most desirable. Apply a generous coating of wax to the wood;
allow this to soak in well. Rub off the surplus and polish. A
cotton cloth may be used in applying the wax but a flannel cloth
should be used for polishing.
If a stain filler is used, this should be applied as previously
directed before applying the wax.
Oil Finish.-The oil finish is used a great deal on old mahogany,
walnut, maple, cherry and rosewood. The wood should be rubbed
smooth and then fed with oil to bring out the grain and natural
color of the wood. Apply equal parts of raw linseed oil and
turpentine or benzine and rub well into the wood. (Caution:
Benzine should not be used near the fire, as it is inflammable.)
Apply more oil and allow this to stand for 24 hours or longer,
then rub thoroughly. Repeat this process until the wood is filled
with oil and the desired finish is obtained; then apply a coat of
wax and polish. Many coats will be required for some pieces of
furniture, like a dining table top. The oil should be applied
about once or twice a year to keep that mellow look.
Since many furniture factories have gone to war, it is more
important than ever that one take a look around the home and

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in the attic to see what furniture can be used to good advantage
by remodeling or restyling, and it is worth the time and work
necessary to make these changes. The following are a few
Bleached furniture is very stylish now (1945). Old oak and
other well made furniture may be brought up to date by bleach-
ing it. Directions follow:
Bleaches.-One ounce of oxalic acid crystals dissolved in 1 pint of hot
water makes a bleach generally used by professionals. This is an excellent
bleach, but often requires 3 or 4 applications.
For a bleach that is stronger and will require only 1 application, dissolve
16 ounces of sodium metasilicate and 11/ ounces of sodium perborate in a
gallon of boiling water. Apply with a rag, leave on for half an hour, wipe
off, and rinse the wood clean with clear water. If a bone to ivory white
furniture is desired, apply 2 coats of the sodium metasilicate and sodium
perborate solution.
Weaker commercial powder, which is prepared for bleaching wood, may
be bought at paint stores.
Picture frames may be bleached in the same way. A mirror,
or flowers, may be framed with the bleached frame.
Old furniture may be brought "up to date" by chiseling off
the surface ornaments. It may be left plain, or a rope mould-
ing may be nailed on.
Stenciling, or decalcomania, add charm to much painted furni-
ture. One can easily make her own stencil or she may purchase
one. (Ask for details on stenciling furniture or fabric.)
Antiquing of furniture is not so stylish just now, but some
may prefer it. If you have a pale chair, or other piece of furni-
ture that looks too severe, it may be subdued by antiquing it.
Mix a light tone of either burnt sienna or burnt umber in a
thin consistency. Paint this over carvings, or hollows, in the
legs or around the edges of any plain panels. Allow this to dry
for 20 or 30 minutes. Remove with a soft, dry cloth, rubbing
only the top surfaces clean, so that you have a soft shadowed
effect in the hollows.
For adjusting springs in furniture, and for upholstering furni-
ture, ask for leaflets on these subjects.

If furniture has grown a little shabby, often it may be made
to look better by proper treatment. Superficial scratches will
often disappear if the surface is briskly rubbed with equal parts
of linseed oil (boiled), turpentine and white vinegar. Deep
scratches or fine cracks in mahogany can be filled with dry
venetian red and thick gum arabic mucilage. Small, deep holes
where the wood has been gouged or cut out can be filled with

Rejuvenating Furniture

stick shellac of the proper color, melted on the heated blade
of a pocket knife. An excellent reviver for varnished furniture
that has grown dull looking, is crude oil sparingly applied with
a piece of flannel and then vigorously rubbed with a silk cloth.
On waxed furniture, apply liquid wax as a reviver and do the
daily dusting with a piece of waxed cheesecloth. To remove
the purplish, cloudy appearance technically known as "bloom",
sponge with cheescloth wrung very dry out of a quart of hot
water containing 1 tablespoon each of linseed oil and vinegar,
and 2 tablespoons of turpentine.
Dust cloths are important in keeping furniture fit. To treat
dust cloths and mops so they will hold the dust and not scatter
it, let them stand for 2 hours in a solution made of 1/2 cup of
mild soap flakes, 1 quart of hot water, and 1 teaspoon of turpen-
tine. Wring or dry the cloths or mops. Keep in a glass jar or
good covered containers.

Use good materials-it pays in the long run. Take plenty
of time to do the refinishing. Do not hurry the work. Make
certain there is plenty of time between each coat of paint, var-
nish, shellac, or enamel to thoroughly dry, and rub smooth be-
fore applying the next coat. Never use lye on fine furniture.
Check the materials needed for your work:
Sandpaper, Nos. 1, 0, 00, and 000 Benzine
Steel wool, No. 0 or No. 1 Ammonia
Block of wood Paint-flat
Wood filler Paint-gloss
Stain Enamel
Varnish stain Brushes-best
Shellac-orange or white Felt
Clear varnish-best Flannel
Wax Pumice-powdered
Oil Silex
Paraffin oil Putty knife or old case knife to
Flat stick or paddle for stirring paint open cans
Wire brush Soft excelsior
Soft cloths Newspapers or cloth to protect
Turpentine floors

1/ ounce stain powder 1 quart denatured alcohol or 1 qt. hot water
Paint dealer should say which liquid to use.
Dissolve stain powder in liquid.

1 gal. alcohol, denatured

2 lbs. gum shellac

% lb. castor oil

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Put these ingredients into a well-stoppered bottle in a warm
place, and shake the mixture frequently until the shellac is dis-
solved. The alcohol should contain not more than 5 percent
of water, and care should be taken not to drop any water into
it as it is being mixed with the dry shellac. The castor oil aids
in making the varnish flexible and less brittle when dry, but
may be omitted; in that case, the quantity of gum shellac should
be increased to 21/2 pounds. If too thick, this varnish may be
thinned by the addition of more alcohol.
1 lb. beeswax 1 pt. turpentine % pt. alcohol
Melt wax over hot water. When melted, remove from fire and
add turpentine. (Caution: Turpentine, naphtha and alcohol are
inflammable and should not be used near fire.) Stir until the
mixture is like a thick batter. When it is ready to use, put into
a jar and use as needed.
Put into a quart bottle in the order named-
% cup powdered rotten stone z2 cup strong solution oxalic acid
cup cold drawn linseed oil % cup wood alcohol
% cup turpentine 1/2 cup cold water, to which has been
1/ cup naphtha added 1 tablespoon of sulphuric acid
Rotten stone is a fine gray powder, not unlike powdered pum-
ice stone in appearance and action. It may be bought as pumice
stone or powdered tripoli at the paint shop.

Brushes must be absolutely free of all traces of paints in
which they were previously used. New paint brushes are best
for varnishes and lacquers.
Keep bristles straight. Wash brushes in turpentine to remove
paint and varnish; then with soap and water, and hang in a can
of turpentine. Cover the can with a piece of inner tube of an
automobile tire; make a hole to fit and hold the brush handle in
place. When a lacquer is used, wash the brush in a lacquer filler,
wipe dry with a cloth.
Do not leave brush in water or in a hot place. Much of the
success of painting will depend on the brushes and their condi-
tion. For light colors use a new brush. All new brushes con-
tain some short, loose bristles which should be shaken out before
the brush is used.
Size of brushes for indoor painting are 3" flat brush or an
oval brush 6/0. Small surfaces require 21/2" flat paint brush.