Advice & help for furniture finishing
September 2, 2006 9:42 PM   Subscribe

I need some help finding a good finish (and some help/advice applying it) for a solid, unfinished wood chair I got from Ikea. The catch is that I would like it to match a table I bought at the time.

First, the items: The chair is no longer online, but it was from the Ivar series, the wood for which I believe was pine. The table is their BJÖRKUDDEN dining table (the page says it's solid birch with a clear polyurethane/acrylic lacquer finish).

I would describe the finish on the table as somewhat matte-like and smooth (ie, not sticky or real glossy/shiny like some finishes I've encountered) and water proof (or at least resistent--I can wipe it down with soap and water and not have to worry about discoloration). Having not worked with finish before, I don't know if those traits are typical of polyurethane or acrylic products or laquers (etc, etc.)

So, what type of finish should I be looking for? Are there special tricks to doing it right? What other items will I need (sandpaper--I'd assume)?
posted by MikeKD to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
Unless you're going for an ultra-smooth finish, no, you won't need sandpaper... just rags for application. MinWax makes a satin polyurathane finish you might find appropriate.

While there are whole books on finishing techniques, I'd recommend just two. First, apply the finish in a small spot on the chair and allow it to cure for a day or two to see how it matches the table you have (depending on how long it has been exposed to sunlight, keep in mind that the finish on the table may have yellowed somewhat).

Second, apply the finish in as dust-free an environment as possible. You don't have to go overboard - maybe just clean around the work area, then wait a half-day for any remaining risen dust to settle before applying the finish.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:35 PM on September 2, 2006

"Matching" a nearly clear finish on light wood, to a piece of different wood, which has been exposed to air for an unknown time, is not likely. If your expectations for "match" are pretty low, meaning that if you get a reasonably "matte" finish without obvious tinting of the newly finished piece, you may be satisfied.

Another suggestion for a better "match," albeit at the cost of a lot more work, would be to sand and finish both pieces with the same product(s), perhaps adding a bit of light golden stain, or bleach/filler (depending on the final color range you want), in the preparation or sanding sealer steps, which would give you the ability to bring the different woods of the two pieces into a common color range, and seal the grain(s) of both woods, prior to applying the final finish. Doing this, you could match the pieces very, very closely, and you have a lot more control of the final results. But, as I say, it's a lot more work.
posted by paulsc at 11:24 PM on September 2, 2006

paulsc is right- it's tricky when you're messing with really light woods. But, if you really want to do this, the MinWax is a good place to start.

Woodsong is another good stain.

With MinWax and Woodsong, you can always cut the stain with naptha.

You can get spray-on or wipe-on polyurethane. Spray-on is better imo. I second the advice about the dust; the less airborne particulate matter there is, the better. Use sweeping, overlapping light coats; you don't want it to look wet. Let it dry for 24 hours between coats.

If the poly ends up looking too glossy, you can go over it lightly with a Scotchbrite pad or similar.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:04 AM on September 3, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so far; especially for the dust tip.

To clarify, the table was bought at the same time (about a few weeks ago), so I don't think the finish would have faded due to exposure. Also, I understand that the pieces most likely will not match in color and grain due to the different woods; I'm aiming more for a match in the texture and water proof/repellent properties.
posted by MikeKD at 4:15 PM on September 3, 2006

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