quick and dirty way to darken wood furniture?
December 16, 2021 4:51 AM   Subscribe

woodworkers and furniture restorers of metafilter: I have a mid-century coffee table with a veneer top and solid legs. I'd like to change the color slightly because it blends in with the floor right now, but there is no way I'm stripping/refinishing it in this lifetime. can I slap something over the top of the existing finish to darken the wood grain? I'm ok with some light sanding and brief use of noxious chemicals if needed but don't want to paint it a solid color.
posted by genmonster to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think two options would be an aerosol toner, like this, or a tinted polyurethane like Minwax Polyshades. Both have a bit of a learning curve, though, and it's easy to go on too thick.
posted by mskyle at 5:17 AM on December 16, 2021

You could try a tinted wood wax, although if it's a poly varnish finish it might not take very well. Worth a test in an unobtrusive spot.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:26 AM on December 16, 2021

What is it finished with now? That will matter I think, in terms of what will bond to it.

Coffee is used as a stain for naked wood (and cloth etc), I'd be tempted to experiment with that. If the color doesn't sink in, you're back to square one but you won't have messed up the finish the way products with solvents might.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:30 AM on December 16, 2021

Best answer: I’ve used restor-a-finish in darker shades on lighter woods intentionally to alter shades with some success. It may be more subtle than you are after, but the investment is minimal in terms of money and effort. I would spot test first.
posted by August Fury at 5:48 AM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: August Fury- I was eyeing my cans of restore-a-finish and considering this right before asking this question! Now that I know I wasn't totally crazy for thinking about it I'll bust out the steel wool and try a spot test!
posted by genmonster at 6:05 AM on December 16, 2021

How about finding a tin of shoe polish in the shade you prefer? It's basically colored wax, and I've used it to smarten up scratched or scuffed wooden furniture in the past. Sand lightly or not as you prefer, apply with a clean cloth - this is a great use for an odd sock - wait a few minutes till dry and then buff with a soft clean cloth. If you don't like it you can always sand it off and start over with a permanent finish.

Certainly easy, fast, non-toxic, and actually I love the leathery smell of shoe polish.
posted by citygirl at 1:26 PM on December 16, 2021

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