Refreshing Vintage Wood

September 16th, 2010

Jennifer from A Merry Mishap emailed recently asking for a little advice to spruce up her newly found vintage dining room table. Like a lot vintage pieces I find while out and about in thrift stores, there always seems to be something wrong that makes the piece a little less than perfect and therefore more affordable. The Boy likes to call it “character”, especially when he gauges, scuffs or scrapes some item in the house. He isn’t destroying it,  just adding to the “character”.

Jennifer’s table has a couple of scuffs, a scratch and a mysterious white mark. I’m guessing it’s paint. It also seems that the table top is a veneer instead of solid wood, which can be refreshed a bit but some issues like deep scratches are never going to truly go away.

Since there were a few other questions about how I was going to oil up the chest in the master bedroom I thought I could show you guys (and therefore Jennifer as well) how I handle dealing with lackluster vintage wood furniture.

This is my typical arsenal:

Murphy Oil Soap
Watco Teak Oil (or Danish Oil in a Natural Finish)
Howard Feed-N-Wax
Rags (Lint free)
Fine Sand Paper (or Super Fine)

This vintage Danish chest/secretary has some major problems. Water damage, chipped and missing veneer, paint scuffs, sun damage, overall filth and dryness. Looks like the previous owners used and abused this thing, like a sixty year old hooker from Reno.

The desk area pulls out and is obviously pretty destroyed. The wood is scratched, has tons of water and sun damage and some odd stains. You know…like a hooker from Reno. Ugh. I can’t stand myself either.

The first step is to sand the trouble areas with a fine sand paper. Since there is no finish coating on the piece and I don’t plan on staining it a different color, I focused my sanding to the “trouble” areas, i.e. areas with stains, paint marks or minor scuffs.

Always sand with the grain of the wood. Never veer off-course, ALWAYS GO WITH THE DIRECTION OF THE GRAIN – for everything. That is the number one rule I live by. Another rule, don’t eat at Applebee’s.

After sanding, I pull out my Murphy Oil Soap and spray everything down to clean off the dust, grim and old wax in preparation of the next step.

Now is the time for the oil rub down. Using either the Watco Teak Oil or Danish Oil, soak a rag and rub the entire piece down. Wait ten minutes and with a clean rag wipe off the excess oil. Depending on how thirsty the wood is you can do two or three coats of the oil.

I love using a natural oil finish and not a stain. The oil sucks into the wood brings back the finish, color and the grain and helps seal it from the inside out. There is a great velvety finish when done and no fear of urethane peeling or yellowing over time.

After the oil is totally sucked into the wood and things are dry to the touch, the final step is to rub down everything with the Howard Feed-N-Wax. Again, you want to spread the wax on liberally with a cloth, wait twenty minutes and wipe off the excess. Let it harden up and then stick it back in the house while congratulating yourself for being awesome.

The wood should appear darker, more even and have a nice luster after the treatment. Scratches and scuffs should blend in with the wood since the oil makes them stand out less visually. Even though they aren’t gone, you’d be surprised how they almost disappear. Deep water stains are almost impossible to get rid of on veneer. You can’t sand veneer too much without the risk of sanding all the way through. Bleaching is always a tricky proposition, and could go wrong fast. Using the oil tends to even out the color difference and making the dark spots fade back a bit.

This chest needs the veneer replaced in a number of areas, but I’m not that interested in making it super perfect. I sort of like things to show some of their age, be a bit beat up and therefore less precious when you live with them. Then I don’t feel so bad when I inevitably screw it up even more.

Before and After.

Oiled up and ready to go. Now we just need to finish the rest of the master bedroom.

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  1. Dan on 09/16/2010:

    Thank you for this! It’s a great piece and it’s nice to see it being treated well (even reno hookers need a day at the spa once in a while). I’ve always been scared of furniture wax for some reason but in the interest of being awesome, I’d like to give it a shot now.

  2. Heather Espana on 09/16/2010:

    Um, that’s AWESOME.

  3. A Merry Mishap on 09/16/2010:

    Great, this is so so helpful and I’m looking forward to oiling that table up tomorrow!

  4. Brismod on 09/16/2010:

    That seriously looks great! Howard also does a Restor-a-Finish which removes water marks and heat rings. It’s like a miracle in a tin.

  5. captain kk on 09/16/2010:

    wow! looks amazing. have already bookmarked this post for future reference 🙂

  6. weekdaycarnival on 09/16/2010:

    now i´m starting to feel that maybe i made a big mistake cos i just sold my teak table and four chairs.

  7. monika@lifemadesimple on 09/16/2010:

    Thanks for the advice, very useful! The chest looks awesome, what a difference!

  8. Sarah @ Natural History on 09/16/2010:

    That’s fantastic! I have a few wood products that I was sent as samples yesterday that I want to test out on my own rather shabby antique dining room table and you have given me the confidence to have a crack at it this afternoon!

  9. Erin on 09/16/2010:

    We just stained and polyurethaned like 300 feet of shelves…thinking we should have gone this route instead…damn.

    But many more shelves and wood projects to come so thank you thank you thank you!

  10. tara on 09/16/2010:

    Amen. Although I’ve never refinished anything, I agree, never eat at Applebbe’s. Even my 9 year old says, “I don’t care where we go to dinner, just not Applebee’s.”

    The chest is lovely, and I’m really loving the first picture of the dining set.

  11. Wonderful! I have a walnut table very similar to Jennifer’s that I’ve used Murphy’s Oil and Orange Oil on. I never thought I could use wax on it afterward. I will have to try this.

    My main problem is water rings. Since it’s a dining table, it inevitably gets an ice cold drink set down on it and BAM! Really obvious water mark. I had come to the conclusion that I should get a glass top made for it, but are there other options for me?

  12. Suzy8track on 09/16/2010:

    That looks amazing! I may have to try this out on a chest that I’ve found in the trash….Initially I was going to stain and varnish it, but I think I may try it your way…less smelly mess.

  13. Anna @ D16 on 09/16/2010:

    Yay! I’m going to file this post in my “someone already wrote a great post about that, so now I don’t have to!” folder. 🙂 Thank you!!

  14. Eric @ flavorspaces on 09/16/2010:

    You’re before and afters are always so well written and thorough. The piece looks great after.

    I was wondering about how long the entire process takes, just in case I ever need to give some of my furniture sensual oil rubdown?

  15. stacy on 09/16/2010:

    I love this post- thank you! Plus I have the same Applebee’s rule 🙂

  16. Jason |These Roving Eyes on 09/16/2010:

    Nice work.
    We don’t really have Applebee’s in Canada, so I must admit – I like it once a year. Just once. Something greasy and mega-sized. #shamespiral

  17. Teresa on 09/16/2010:

    WOW! This is an incredible transformation. I seriously would have thought it was a lost cause — a very beautiful piece, but that it would have to be completely stripped down and refinished. Who knew?! Thank you so very much for sharing this with all of us. 🙂

  18. Teresa on 09/16/2010:

    btw, the “hooker in Reno” – cracks. me. up! 🙂

  19. Nazza on 09/16/2010:

    This is great! Thank you for the info. I got a couple vintage dresses in great condition but I can’t get ride of the smell, you know, smells old. I cleaned the Drawers very well and put paper to cover it but my clothes get the smell after a week or so. Any advice?
    Thank you.

  20. megan on 09/16/2010:

    I sure could have used your help like 3 months ago when I was stripping and refinishing an old vanity. It was a shit show.

  21. erin@designcrisis on 09/16/2010:

    Looks great — oil really makes a big shiny difference.

    I’ve had some success filling missing veneer chips with wax sticks… maybe that might help you, but if it doesn’t then just pretend I helped contribute to the, ah, character.

  22. misa on 09/16/2010:

    totally agree with you about letting things be a little bit beat up. usually after i get over my initial heart attack after the cats have vomited all over a new piece of upholstered furniture, i’m kind of glad that it happened.

    also agree on applebee’s. chili’s is even worse. my brother calls chili’s the mexican applebee’s. not in a racist way. we are mexican. but if you try to go to a chili’s in a small town in the southwest at, say, 3pm on a tuesday afternoon, you’ll have to wait two hours for a table.

  23. Tamoto on 09/16/2010:

    Thanks for the practical advice, I knew that piece would clean up nice, but not that nice! Very motivating. I have my work cut out for me. have you ever used liquid wool lube? Its magic on vintage pieces that some class A moron has coated in mega lacquer to sell on e bay or whatevs. any thing too glossy,cabinets,anything it very slowly takes the shine down. Wizard!

  24. Allyson on 09/16/2010:

    I, also, have had great success with Howard’s Restor-a-Finish and a bit of fine steel wool. Rub it in with the steel wool, wait a few minutes, wipe off with a rag, finish up with the Feed-n-Wax. That stuff is amazing, light years better than any furniture polish.

  25. LaShaune on 09/16/2010:

    Wow – you totally made that look easy.

  26. Zach on 09/16/2010:

    This is SO awesome. Danke!

  27. bianca on 09/16/2010:

    wow. you are a miracle worker! now come visit my house and help me out! xoxoxoxo

  28. ella on 09/16/2010:

    Good gawd that looks AWESOME!

  29. Brick and Brack on 09/16/2010:

    lovely. just lovely.

  30. stacia on 09/16/2010:

    awesome. I just bought a huge danish hutch needing some TLC. Perfect timing. Do you have any advice on gluing bits and pieces that have broken off? I would like to prevent gluey un-fixable mistakes.

  31. dantimdad on 09/16/2010:

    I just bought an old console stereo today with the slide-to-the-side lid today that doesn’t work. Going to restore the finish tomorrow and turn it into a liquor cabinet.

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time!

  32. absolutely agree on the applebee’s rule. that place is straight evil. now, any tricks for getting rid of a weird waxy finish on a veneered table with really cool metal “flower rivet” details without sanding away the whole veneer layer? once i get this strange finish off my dining table i’m going to follow all your other advice to refinish it.

  33. jeannette on 09/16/2010:

    thanks for this, your piece looks gorgeous. i am trying to do the same with a really old 18th century piece. dish detergent and water does wonders. i forgot about murphy’s, it smells so good! after you wax — do have have to strip it every once in a while?

  34. Stephanie on 09/16/2010:

    What a super job! That last before and after is SUCH a big difference! Thanks for the tips!

  35. jonahliza on 09/17/2010:

    this is great! thank you

  36. Chrystal on 09/17/2010:

    As usual, you made me laugh, you made me cry. O.K., well, I didn’t actually cry, I just blogged about your post here:

  37. THE BRICK HOUSE on 09/17/2010:

    I’m going to have to try the restore a finish stuff – sounds awesome.

    For gluing bits back on a clamp and wood glue are usually best, or gorilla glue if you are in a pickle.

    The whole thing took a couple of hours.

    The Murphys removes wax, if you get a waxy build up, use that and then re-wax after. Works great.

  38. Tonia on 09/18/2010:

    Looks lovely, this makes me want to pull out a couple of pieces that have that needs to be cleaned up. I’ve been so focused on painting most everything lately.

  39. Elli Davis on 09/18/2010:

    Amazing work. I’m finding hard to believe that it isn’t photoshopped! Ok, just kidding. It’s great, the chest looks almost like brand new.

  40. modernhaus on 09/18/2010:

    Wow, new tricks! I didn’t think you could sand before oiling…

    Also, those little piles of pine needles on the ground make it look like you gave the thing a haircut. How much does Supercuts charge for a Danish desk trim these days?

    I think I should go have some coffee…

  41. Jean on 09/18/2010:

    Wow, it’s like bringing a piece back from the dead! Gorgeous.

    Nazza: for the smell, try a light sanding or go over it with fine grade steel wool, vacuum. I did this in my kitchen cabinet, followed with a “wash” of goo-be-gone, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to do the wash if clothes will be in there.

  42. janet on 09/18/2010:

    so …will this work on a finished blond paul mccobb table?
    or should i just try and find out?

  43. .amanda. on 09/18/2010:

    oh fantastic help for many, many wood things that need sprucing up around my house! thank you.

  44. Myles Henry on 09/18/2010:

    such a great post.

  45. janet on 09/19/2010:

    this worked perfect. thank you so much.

  46. Amy on 09/19/2010:

    Wonderful job on this piece! I love refinishing old wood.

  47. hunter on 09/19/2010:

    as mentioned above: howard’s restor-a-finish and some ultrafine steel wool…

    we call it “jesus juice” in our house for a reason.

  48. Char on 09/22/2010:

    Howard Feed-N-Wax truly works miracles, I love that stuff!! I haven’t tried the teak oil, thanks for that advice!! Can’t wait to try this method on my new-to-me chairs!!

    BTW – applebee’s is disgusting and I will NEVER eat there!

  49. naomi Parker on 09/22/2010:

    I should do that to my wooden furniture too, thanks for the inspiration!

  50. Dolly on 09/22/2010:



  51. Janna Dawdy on 09/25/2010:

    Thank you for the advice! Very timely as we had just rescued a ’60’s credenza from a dusty, smoky office. I followed your steps and the piece looks great!

  52. cathy on 09/28/2010:

    I am a sucker for shape and lines. That desk is an awesome save.

  53. Kelly on 09/29/2010:

    awesome tutorial — merci!

  54. glenn on 10/03/2010:

    did anyone mentioned that there is or was a paint store on the corner of florida and state ?

  55. Kristin on 10/04/2010:

    I f-ing hate Applebee’s too. Thank God people out there agree!

  56. Kate on 01/25/2011:

    Hi there, Maybe a stupid question…do you only use Teak oil when you have Teak wood? I just bought to mid-century modern dressers and I’m going to use your instructions to refinish and bring back to life. There is a dent on the edge of one of the drawers…do you have a suggestion for this? I’m not sure what type of wood it is but it is light colored and I was looking at all the Watco finishes and I wasn’t sure which one to go with…prob. the light walnut but ???
    Thank you! Kate

    Btw, I worked as a waitress at Applebee’s many years ago!

  57. Naninska on 04/10/2011:

    AWESOME!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you – I will begin bringing my furniture back to life tomorrow. Any advice on how I might translate the oil soap as I haven’t seen Murphy’s here in Australia – just orange oil – does it have to be specifically for wood or any orange oil ‘spray-n-wipe’ styled cleaning agent? Apologies – just a little nervous as the main job needing urgent attention is my father in law’s very large dinning table, has some water damage and I am so scared to clean it in case I ruin it!!!

  58. Jennifer on 05/02/2011:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial- I never knew it could be this easy. I refinished a pair of walnut MCM lounge chairs this weekend and they turned out beautifully. On to the next refinishing project!

  59. Tonya on 05/29/2011:

    We bought a set of 6 teak dining chairs yesterday in a charity shop and started working on them today using this tutorial. I’m in England so our brands are different. We are using Rustins Danish oil and sugar soap (B&Q) to clean after sanding. These chairs stank of cigarette smoke so we sanded the whole chairs to clean the whole thing. So satisfying to see the results as you wipe the oil on! Thanks for this post. x

  60. Ximena on 06/16/2011:

    Thank you, this will come in handy!

  61. Kelly on 06/18/2011:

    Awesome tip! I’m working my way backward through your blog Can’t wait to see what’s next! Also very disappointed I missed your big sale:(

  62. Karen on 06/20/2011:

    I am using your magic method on a danish dining table i probably paid too much for. I would add the comment that the piece looks worse before it gets better. I nearly panicked yesterday with the initial sanding. Thanks for the great instructions and inspiration. Totally agree about Applebee’s. It’s like Denny’s with alcohol.

  63. Nicholas on 06/25/2011:

    Watco??? I definitely recommend switching to an oil that doesn’t require a cancer warning label. You gotta try pure raw tung oil from the Real Milk Paint Co. Non-toxic, no additives, anti-microbial, food safe too (cutting boards, wooden utensils). You can order online through their website or if you are in the high desert (Joshua Tree) you can get it at our store (Solstice Eco-Building Supply) for the same price minus shipping charges. (805) 215-6025

  64. Njw on 07/02/2011:

    Nazza, try zeolite. Get it via the web or at PetsMart (smell remover, check ingrediants). They use it in libraries to get the smoke odor out of books from homes where people smoke.

  65. Jan on 08/25/2011:

    Any suggestions on how to handle shredded veneer?

    I bought a cute little 3-drawer chest at a garage sale last weekend. $10. It’s made of wood through and through, no particle board. This treatment will do it a world of good and with some funky drawer pulls I can’t wait to show it off.
    However, the top is covered with veneer and the front left corner, about a 5 x 5 inch square is ripped and shattered and popping off. I know I can glue it back down, but the shredded part is a mess. Can I pop it off and finish the natural wood the same way I do the rest of the chest? It’s lighter than the other wood, but I’m not sure if it’s been stained or just darker from age.

    I also have an old dining table with a veneer top and there is a strip of veneer torn out of the middle of the table. It’s about eight inches long and up to about 2 inches wide in the middle. My first thought was to fill it with wood putty to fill in the scar and then sand and paint the top of the table only and clean up the legs and matching chairs. I could recover the chair seats to match the table top. Is there another way to disguise the missing veneer short of ripping it all off and starting over?

    I’m so glad I found your site. I saw your fauxdenza on a Craftzine email. Love that project as well!


  66. cassie on 09/09/2011:

    do you wipe the oil soap off before you go to the teak oil step or leave it on and do the teak oil?
    casserole14 at gmail dot com

  67. DeeJay on 09/09/2011:

    Am keeping this tutorial FOREVER!

  68. Cindy on 09/13/2011:

    Completely love this!!! THANKS!!!!

  69. Holly on 09/18/2011:

    “Hooker from Reno” reference is not only over used, but highly offensive. Sick of abuse of women used as a joke or a reference. Grow up.

  70. Hans on 09/23/2011:

    Can anyone suggest similar products that are available in Germany? Murphy Oil Soap is the only one I could get here …

  71. Jamieson on 09/29/2011:

    Something that’s worked well for me with smelly drawers (especially if a piece came from a smoker’s home) is to put dryer sheets in the drawers for a few days – depending on how much stank you have, you might need to switch them out once or twice.

  72. jax on 10/06/2011:

    Love it! I bought a vintage dresser and vanity for my daughter a few months back and it needs a bit of TLC (even though she loves it as is) now I know how! Also, I agree with both your rules. I would put Don’t eat at Applebees at #1

  73. Steve on 10/11/2011:

    Hey, be nice. My mom is a 60-year-old hooker living in Reno. Nice job on the resto!

  74. Shelly on 10/19/2011:

    I’m going to post about you post and link, ok?

  75. Carrie on 11/08/2011:

    Amazing work!

  76. Bambi Berkowicz on 11/19/2011:

    Your method produces lovely results.
    In defense of veneer, Better, high profile, expensive pieces like those from Baker or Hekman are almost exclusively made with veneer. Solid wood warps. Yes, you have to be more careful, but when you find pieces made this way, you are getting fine furniture, not mass produced crap. The finish originally used is usually hand rubbed tung oil which is also a great way to repair a damaged area.

  77. Pam Graham on 12/17/2011:

    My DH and I just scored an amazing lot of danish modern from an elderly woman in our apartment building who bought the stuff in Geneva in the 1960s. She had the original receipts. Sideboard, surfboard coffee table and dining table + 5 chairs (yeah that is odd). I need to refresh everything and have heard conflicting advice. Have you ever used 0000 steel wool w/ restor-a-finish? Some people out there say NEVER EVER use steel wool on teak. Your teak oil+ feed-n-wax looks stunning. I think this will be my approach. Check out a spiffy version of our sideboard on this site:

    your blog is an absolute favorite.

  78. bobby on 01/03/2012:

    This is bad, wrong advice. I work with world re-nowned furniture wood workers. This information is dangerous and incomplete… only a quick fix…

  79. Lisa on 01/18/2012:

    Bobby, I wish, since you’re being so critical (“dangerous”), it would have been nice if you offered up some info on why this is so, well, dangerous, and perhaps offered an alternative. Since I’m actually just beginning this method, I’d like to know where the error is. As far as I can tell, the only difference is that the oil is usually left on longer, something like a day between coats…
    For those asking about Murphy’s Oil Soap, it’s a pretty simple wood cleaner made primarilly of plant derived cleaners and water, The spray is a diluted version of the good old fashioned and concentrated floor cleaner. I think it only has a touch of orange oil, so those trying to find a substitute for Murphy’s should go light on the orange oil. You just want to remove the dust, you don’t want to oil it up, your Danish or Teak oil is going to do that. (Also another note on Murphy’s, it’s great at removing grime but too much elbow grease and it’ll take off old finish as well).

  80. Lisa on 01/19/2012:

    Okay, for the folks wondering about the Murphy’s Oil Spray. I just picked up a bottle for my project and it contains no oils, so the orange you see on the label is orange essence. The other main ingredients are water and coconut derived cleaners.

  81. Jill on 02/20/2012:

    I have been asked to try and preserve a Widdicomb furniture set from the late 1800s that consists of a twin bed, dresser and a desk. Its been in the family for over 100 years and holds a value of at least 13,000 dollars. I would hate to strip it of its value especially the sentimental value it holds. Its deep mahogany in color and Im not sure of its finish. Its in excellent condition as well.
    What are your thoughts on Howard Restor-A-Finish product? The guy at Kingspor’s Woodworking shop said that using this product will give the bedroom set more of a luster and shine, but wont decrease the value. Its supposed to restore the color, and blend out blemishes and cracks. He said it would be better than using a wax product, but I went ahead and purchased Renaissance Micro-Crystalline Wax Polish to start the preservation process of the Widdicomb Furiniture Set. Would it be ok to apply the Howards Restor-A-Finish product on the major blemished/scratches before I apply the wax? Also could anyone offer some advice as to proper technique? I know I need to clean the furniture first to remove dust, residue, etc. Would Murpheys Oil be appropriate and what’s the best technique?

  82. Andrew Herren on 02/29/2012:

    Be VERY careful with any product that contains Linseed oil (like the Watco). I have had the used rags spontaneously combust twice. The first time was in a client’s new home and it was almost a tragic disaster. The rags didn’t ignite until over 4 hours after I was done with them. Soak the used rags in a bucket of water when you are done.

  83. Mrs. Lewis on 04/23/2012:

    Don’t eat at Applebee’s – LOL.

  84. Ish on 05/28/2012:

    I just did my table – most of it looks great – though there’s a ring where I must’ve sand too sternly. Any suggestions?

  85. Therese on 06/22/2012:

    I did this today with my bureau and I’m very satisfied with the results. But since I live in an apartment and had no option of moving the furniture outdoors, I opted not to use Tung oil because of its combustibility. Instead, I used Old English Scratch Cover for light woods. It probably took more applications to achieve the coverage I needed, but I’m pleased with the effect.

    I also sanded any problem areas using 220 grit sand paper on my orbital sander. I think it produced just the right level of abrasion for the superficial (yet ugly) marks I was dealing with.

    I was going to use another type of polish instead of Feed-N-Wax for the final stage (again, closed ventilation/combustibility concerns), but I re-considered after I got less than stellar results. So I dug up an old bottle of Feed-N-Wax that I had and I just exercised a lot of caution. I’m really glad I went with the stuff because it only took a few coatings of it to revive my bureau.

    This treatment brought a lot of character to the piece — it still has signs of age, but without the fading finish and waxy build-up. I think this project could save a lot of people from schlepping their furniture to a costly professional refinisher. Definitely worth trying.

  86. Lauren on 07/18/2012:

    Just tried this with my Danish dining set! It had been damaged by heat and I was heartbroken but I decided to try this regimen and WOW! It glows. Also helped my cousin do this to an MCM dresser we got at Goodwill and it looks brand new. Thank you! You made two Southern ladies very happy.

  87. Lynn on 10/05/2012:

    I’m on my first coat of oil right now on a MCM patio table that has a wooden edge surround. Thank you for publishing this, and thank you to whomever pinned it on Pinterest! Great blog, loved the commentary throughout

  88. Elsie Harrington on 10/15/2012:

    Tung oil. I refinished an heirloom solid desk/table that had been much abused through its 100 years and needed some TLC. About 8 thin coats tung oil, light sanding, and several days between coats later and it was Gorgeous and stayed that way for almost 10 years. 2 moves, one trans-atlantic, and some adhoc use between when used as a dining/work/kitchen table-no cloth at humid tropical seaside, through two hurricanes. Still good, I now am refinishing the few spots of wear and final movers’ mishaps, again with tung oil, harder to find in Europe, but better quality (people use linseed oil normally). Virtually waterproof, the tung treated surface does not show rings like wax and can takes constant wear and still keep its shine. You can maintain with Murphy’s style product or orange oil. (Wet your tung rags/brushes after use to avoid fire.)

  89. Pat Radtke on 10/15/2012:

    Beautiful results! Makes me think maybe I can rehab my teak dining table. The original owner apparently read the newspaper on it for years, the ink soaked in, and he may have oiled, making the ink absorb into the wood even more. Any suggestions prior to the oil treatment? The teak is veneer, I’m sure.

  90. Donna on 10/29/2012:

    Good choice with beautiful wood work that has been taken care for a long time , and used in a good way , ample amount of drawers to keep things inside .

  91. Rachel on 11/29/2012:

    Pinterest was invented so I could find this post. Thank you. I love you. Please marry me.

  92. bhodie bob on 12/11/2012:

    My wife and I do this type of thing. I call it cheating. Instead of paying big dollars for new furniture. What format is this page? I am setting up my own site and I don’t have the ability for lookers to post comments.

  93. ac on 01/11/2013:

    Wowza. I think I found my favorite new time-wasting but educational mid day distraction happy-place. This desk and I are meant to be.

  94. Guido on 02/21/2013:

    What is your opinion on refreshing wood on vintage pieces carrying the label “made in Denmark” ? I bought for merely 10 euro a beautifully crafted, solid chair but extremely abused as proofed by stains and scratches. Normally I would follow your diy but I wonder If I should preserve the original finishing instead because of its label. At the same time it is not signed by any designer or company so I don’t know if I am being too cautious. What do you think? thanks for your amazing blog

  95. Cris on 06/14/2013:

    It was a beautiful chest & now is AWESOME.
    Thanks for sharing.

  96. Nina Klein on 06/23/2013:

    I used your direction and techniques for refurbishing an antique school desk. It looks awesome! We painted the iron legs with black gloss Rustoleum paint, and it could not look better. Thank you so much!! I should post a picture 🙂

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  99. Hi Morgan! This is such an awesome tutorial! My question is…how can you tell what kind of finish is on a vintage piece? I assume polyurethane hasn’t been around all that long. So is a satin finish on a piece from the 60s-70s usually wax (vs glossy = varnish)?

  100. design φωτιστικά on 08/05/2013:

    thanks for the sharing, really helpful!!!

  101. AC on 08/05/2013:

    This is so getting Tweeted. I love that you didn’t overdo it, it looks really fabulous.

  102. cc on 08/08/2013:

    what about the chips though?

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  104. Kate on 08/30/2013:

    What do you suggest if my furniture piece has a clear coat on it? Do you sand or strip it off and then follow your steps? The subject piece is veneer vs solid wood. Txs!

  105. Yvette N on 09/02/2013:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited this post. I have a teak dining table that needed refinishing and I did A LOT of research before I dug in. In the end, I followed your instructions (except I had to strip the awful finish that was on it) and my table looks amazing! Your desk looks so handsome too! Thanks for sharing your tips.

  106. Mark in DC on 09/03/2013:

    I’ve spent hours looking for a clear how-to for walnut and oak midcentury desks and tables and this is by far the best! I do tons of projects with wood and it was almost easier for me to completely redo my furniture than find a confident restoration plan.
    Here’s an old wood refinishers trick – You can sometimes get small dents out by putting a few drips of water into the dent and using a clothes iron to heat it. Protect the undented area with corrugated cardboard and don’t get things too hot! I’ve done this to a few dining tables, floors, and stairs. Try it out on scrap first to get the timing right and be cautious of bubbling the finish.

  107. Rainer T. on 09/18/2013:

    That’s what I love about vintage! It never fades even if modern styles keep on changing but still vintage goes with modern styles if you want to mix them.

  108. Paul Rennick on 10/15/2013:

    I have a sideboard (solid walnut) that I finished in 1960 with 3 coats of varnish (French Polish) Now has some spots but do not want to strip. What say you? Can I sand and then use your oil and wax method?


  109. Bobee-Kay Clark on 10/16/2013:

    Thank you for the directions! I’m currently rejuvenating a Broyhill Emphasis credenza and -as usual- found your blog a great place to start.
    Yes, Reno is a cheap date; I get amazing deals on art, mid century modern upcycling, world class skiing, micro breweries, and great food.
    Check it out!

  110. Chiara on 02/04/2014:

    I used teak oil to brighten up an old wood tool box I found at a garage sale. But now, over a month later, the wood is still giving off rather strong fumes. The piece appears to be dry, but I’m wondering if something is wrong. I’m worried about the health effects, as the smell is giving me a headache. Is there a way to get rid of this issue with the fumes? Is this normal?

  111. Shandrene on 02/11/2014:

    Where in Australia or can you buy the Watco-Teak Oil…

  112. michelle on 02/28/2014:

    Great post. Question: I am refinishing an old veneer piece for a powder room vanity. Is the process you described above okay for the top where water will sure to hit it? Or, should I do the top with a urethane product for better water protection? Thanks in advance!

  113. Sue on 06/29/2014:

    Don’t use oil or Murphy’s Oil Soap:

  114. Jonathan Berman on 08/04/2014:

    Is this fixable?

    Sanded out a dark water stain – wound up with missing grain/finish splotches.

  115. Billy and sarah on 08/14/2014:

    Great post cheers, also I have a Gplan sideboard, but it came qwith a broken wave handle. I wonder where can I get a replacement, does anyone make these wooden shaped handles/pulls or grips

  116. Jamie on 08/15/2014:

    Found this on Pinterest recently – and was shocked- as we now have this secretary desk in our living room! Craigslisted via someone in long beach last year! Such a small world! Thanks for returning some wooden glory!

  117. Erin on 08/28/2014:

    This is awesome!! Thank you so much !! I searched all over Pinterest before coming across this for what to do with my mid century modern dresser score from craigslist- this is perfect!!! Turned out amazing! A million thank yous!!

  118. Bree on 11/02/2014:

    Hi! I’ve just blogged today about an upcoming project in our home: restoring a mid century Danish modern teak dining table. We have never worked with teak before. I’m very nervous about sanding. Also, I’m wondering how to tell if my table top has any residual lacquer finish on it? I would love your advice!

  119. lisa on 12/14/2014:

    This looks great. Question though, my mahogany table (70 years old) the table has a sheen to it, can the same routine work?

  120. Amy Dingler on 02/04/2015:

    Hey, big secret tip for you. Water stains, even those big black deep ones, can pretty reliably be removed from any kind of veneer using (get this) Barkeepers Friend. You make a thin paste, apply it to the trouble spot, let sit, wipe off, repeat as needed. I saved an amazing 1960s high-board (a tall sideboard) that was terribly stained using Barkeepers Friend. You can thank me later.


  121. nick on 03/11/2015:

    Hookers from Reno can polish wood very well also and they don’t even use there hands. I think their oil of choice is water soluble.

  122. Patricia Roberts on 06/21/2015:

    I inherited my great grandmother’s mahogany dining table and it’s lived all over the world, just in my life alone. It’s plain but looks dull and rejected. I have hesitated in the past to attempt any rejeuvenation project, but it’s time. I giggled at your , never eat at Applebies, tip…. I have to agree there! Our local restaurant went out of business in months. Anyways, thanks for the advice. I belive I will attempt this on all three dining pieces. Cheers. Pat

  123. Another Pat on 09/23/2015:

    This is all very good for furniture that is a little dirty. What about wood that has been alone in a house overrun with mice?

  124. Jamie on 11/03/2015:

    I have this piece now- and a pumpkin literally collapsed into liquid on top of it! WAHH! what can be done to fix the liquid pumpkin stain?!

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  129. Shawnna Shaw on 04/07/2016:

    Ive used Min Wax wipe on poly finish, the satin not the gloss. Also Formbys Face Lift, its a 3 step process and it works great to. And lastly, I never eat at Applebee’s either. Take care.
    Adios from Las Cruces, NM

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