Woodworking 204
May 2, 2009 10:20 PM   Subscribe

Staining/treating pressed/sanded pine chairs. On the cheap.

I bought a couple of cheap dining table chairs from the Salvation Army (thrift store [to replace some folding chairs I 'stole' from my parents]) - a couple of dining table chairs that I suspect are Stefan IKEA chairs. Unfinished, but smooth pine. They're pretty crappy chairs, but are reasonably sturdy and reasonably comfortable. Trying to see if I can improve them a bit.

Is there a easy way to class these chairs up with an oiling or a staining? I remember rubbing oil into stuff in woodworking class in highschool - is there a preferred oil for pine (I was more into plastics and metals)? Any alternate treatments that give good results with raw pine?

I've worked with laquer before but it didn't turn out very well (it was thick and rough-to-the-touch) - I suspect I should have sanded and kept adding more layers of laquer, sand, repeat. Not enamoured with the process. Not looking to replicate heirloom laquered furniture, either, just trying to class up a couple of unfinished (presumed - it looks unfinished but I don't know if the wood has been pressure treated or preservative treated or whatever) pine chairs.
posted by porpoise to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just sand them lightly once with 240-grit sandpaper and apply a couple of thin coats of semi-matte polyurethane (tinted, if you like) with foam brushes.
posted by nicwolff at 11:10 PM on May 2, 2009

Pine is a bitch to stain, though not impossible. But why not just paint them? Prime first, give them a light sanding, and paint. Easier and more likely to be successful.
posted by LarryC at 12:15 AM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the options - yes, I would like to preserve the wood grain. I have a nice table that's been stained and the grain comes out really well. The wood feels as if it has already been sanded with a fine-grain sandpaper.

Does the polyurethane soak into the wood or is it like a paint and sits on top of the wood?

Darn, I was hoping there was some specific stain that was particularly good for pine. Are there specific reasons why pine doesn't take stain well?

With shellac, do I have to sand it down after it dries?
posted by porpoise at 9:54 AM on May 3, 2009

Best answer: Simplest way to deal with it is light sand or rub down with steel wool and then bree wax them.

You can buy bree wax with different tints/colorings.

Polyurethane and other varnishes are very difficult to apply and get a nice finish. This is simple. Rub it on. Rub a towel over it after it dries to buff it out. Awesome feel. Awesome finish.

I am a photographer and make my own frames and I've found this is the way to fly!

Oh, it also looks awesome if you leave it all scratched up or scratch it up on purpose and then apply this wax.

posted by dancephotographer at 11:57 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pine absorbs stain unevenly, I think because of uneven density of the wood causes some areas to absorb stain much more quickly than others. The result is often a splotchy appearance. If you google "staining pine" you will find all kinds of tips on how to avoid this. Most involve applying a conditioner to the wood, which partially seals it so that when you do apply the stain it goes on more evenly. These are often followed by a gel stain, which sits on top of the wood and is even but tends to obscure the grain rather than highlight it.

My best results with pine have been achieved by very lightly staining it, with a very diluted maple color stain, then putting on a couple of coats of amber shellac. Make sure it is real shellac, not polyurethane, and make sure it is amber rather than clear. You will lightly sand with steel wool between coats, just to knock off the bits of dust that dry into the finish. Shellac is kind of fun to work with, super fast drying and very forgiving.

An alternative is to stain and go over it with a poly wiping varnish like Minwax Antique oil. More durable than shellac and even easier to apply.
posted by LarryC at 12:07 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! It hadn't occurred to me to use wax.

Going to see if I can find myself a tub of light coloured Briwax =)
posted by porpoise at 7:13 PM on May 3, 2009

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