Oak is a brilliant construction wood because of its strength. It’s commonly found in flooring, furniture, boats and ships. Oak is also used to make wine bottles because it can alter the taste and texture of the wine. The timber resists pesky bugs and doesn’t easily deteriorate. The oak tree has many vessels which allow it absorb water and resist moisture at a higher rate (similar to a chestnut tree) too. Refinishing oak furniture is very easy because of its hard surface and flexibility. Oak stain usually comes in red, pink, brown or white. Red oak stain is the most common choice though because of its aged yet still elegant look.
Refinishing With a Red Oak Stain
Refinishing oak furniture with a red stain will have it turn out something like this:It’s better to use oil based agents when working with oak because the material is so strong. If you would like to remove the existing finish by sanding I would start Step #1. If you plan to use a stripper please proceed to step #2.
1. Sand with 120 grit sandpaper in the direction of the grain to begin the project. Wipe off any sawdust and spray the furniture with water to get it damp and raise any stuck fibers. Let the furniture dry and sand with about 100-110 grit sandpaper this time. This will allow you to get any uneven parts of the furniture out of the picture.
2. Another popular method to refinish oak furniture is to use a methylene chloride stripper. This will remove the existing finish with a little less effort than sanding. Use a stiff brass or steel wool bush (not wire) after 15 min of applying the stripper to remove the paint, wax and finish. Try not to let any of the stripper dry on the wood as this will cause problems down the road. Many advise to stay away from eco-friendly strippers because they may leave the furniture blotchy and uneven. They just aren’t as powerful. The “no cleanup” or “fumeless” strippers may be a good investment to reduce some of the hassle and dangerous aspects. I would recommend using a liquid stripper applied with a sponge, brush or rag as opposed to gels or pasts. It’s just cleaner this way.
3. Oak wood requires a filler to really capture all of the grain before sealing. For a red oak stain, choose a filler that you think will complement your end color. Let the filler dry, scrape any excess filler away and sand again in the direction of the grain until smooth.
4. Refinishing oak furniture with a polyurethane sealer will serve as an excellent primer before applying any stain. Allow it to dry overnight before moving on.
5. Next, paint on the red oak stain with your brush, rag or sponge. Move slowly, evenly and within the grain for the best results. The longer the red stain is left on the darker the color will dry.
Refinish with Other Oak Stain Colors
Red oak stain isn’t the only color that oak can be refinished to. There are stains like cherry, ebony, mahogany, pine, sedona and dark walnut that look just as nice! For example, this table has a beautiful pine stain on it that really makes it pop!Robinsonswoodcrafts.com has a nice selection to choose from, check them out. Just follow the steps above and you should have no problem applying any of these other stains to your oak furniture.
Refinishing an Oak Desk
Many desks are made from oak material because of their durability. Over time though they can start looking like this:
For a table this large I would recommend skipping the sanding unless you have a power sander. Please refer to this post for an excellent guide on using a power sander effectively. If you don’t have a power sander see what you can do with a methylene chloride stripper. Review the filling, sealing, staining and waxing steps above to ensure yourself a brand new refinished oak desk!
A Few Things to Know About Staining Oak
Oak furniture can be very expensive, which is why we always recommend testing stains on a small corners before doing the entire piece. As always work in a well ventilated area like a garage or your backyard. Chemical stripper can be very toxic so please be careful! Staining oak always has better results when you apply polyurethane first. Don’t allow their poly to dry and wonder why the stains didn’t stick. I like to use Minwax Mahogany for a nice glossy red wax finish, but this is just personal preference. A Wood filler that I’ve used with great success on oak furniture is the Wunderfil Wood Filler from Rockler. Choosing filler that looks similar to the end color your hoping to achieve is your best bet though.