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Flawless Varnish Furniture Hack – tips you may have never known before...


This Refinishing Furniture hack is going to save you time and create a perfect varnished finish over wooden furniture.

Where does the time go, if you can avoid losing time and have a positive outcome, isn’t that a win-win scenario?

Have you been scrolling and searching for how to create the perfect sleek finish? I know I spent years working out the best ways to achieve just that. We get asked all the time how, so I will show you how to achieve that flawless finish.

  • To begin with, remove wax or varnish from your piece of furniture, whether that is the whole piece or just the countertop.

  • Options for removing wax from your piece of furniture (how do you know if it is waxed or varnished): Run your nail over it, and if you have a dark residue, it’s wax. Dip a ball of fine wire wool into meths or white spirit to remove as much wax as possible; this will reduce your sanding time and reduce wasting numerous sanding pads, trust me! Rinse the piece with soapy water. Once dried, then hand sand or use a rotary machine sander (we use a Festool RO 90); use a 120-grit grade sandpaper or sanding pad to remove the rest of the wax. Sand back enough for the desired look. For instance, if it’s oak and has been previously stained, we like to leave elements of that stain in for a more rustic vibe. If you prefer a clean, consistent look, go ahead and sand further. Be mindful that your piece isn't veneered (this is a thin layer of wood over constituted wood; it’s around 1mm thick), so go carefully. If, on the other hand, it’s solid wood, sanding more vigorously is fine. Finish with a fine 240-grit grade pad or paper to smooth.

  • Options to remove varnish – go straight in with the sander; you may want to start with a 60-grit grade heavy sandpaper, as the existing varnish may be tough to penetrate through. Then move down to 120 and finally 240 grit.

  • Unfamiliar to most furniture refinishers hack – It may sound strange, but this works. Wet the newly sanded wood grain with clear water with a lint-free cloth (an old t-shirt will do it). You are doing two things here: wiping away microwood dust and raising the grain fibres, allowing you to sand smooth. You can repeat this process by lightly sanding and wiping away with a damp cloth; not always necessary; however, this will depend on the wood you are stripping. Leave it to dry; it doesn’t take long, especially in the warm months or if you have heaters.

  • Product - The go-to varnish we use, especially for wooden finishes, is Wise Owl Matt Varnish. Mix the varnish with a clean stirring stick to mix all the properties. Never shake this product; otherwise, you will end up with small bubbles, which is not a pretty sight when you have already gone to the effort of removing the old varnish or wax.

  • The Hack - Line a small paint tray with foil; this will give you confidence that it is a clean vessel and there will be no particle transfer of dust or tiny particles of paint that may be lurking in the tray. Pour a bit of varnish into the tray, take a household washing-up sponge (not a varnish brush) dip the bottom of the sponge into the varnish and wipe across the stripped furniture from one side to the other, from the back to the front of the piece, and leave to dry. Don’t overwork the varnish; don’t keep going over the same spot; work quickly, leave and walk away. If required (and the wooden surface is slightly rough), lightly sand with 240-grit paper. Wipe away fine dust with a lint-free cloth and apply your second and final coat of varnish. Now you have finished, stand back and appreciate that beautiful grain and finish; you did that, well done. Hey, you can use this varnish of Wise Owl’s Chalk Synthesis paint, but I will save how to do it for another time…


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