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How to Refinish Solid Wood Furniture Legs + Arms

We ordered the velvet (yay!) and we’ll be dropping off the chair at Kessels Upholstery soon.  But first our little garbage chair needed some love.  We stripped and re-stained its light wood legs and sanded and oiled its solid wood arms.  But somewhere along the way I goofed . . .

First up, the legs.  They were weird light wood, did you spot that?  They didn’t go with our other furniture and they didn’t go with the chair’s arms.  We unscrewed them and gave them a good sand (using 120 and then 220 grit sandpaper) and applied stain.  For the stain, we used the same brand that worked wonders for Hubby’s DIY welded desk (Saman), this time in “dark walnut”.  We picked the stain because on the sample board it looked like the same ashy brown hue as the arms. 

Nope.

How to Refinish Solid Wood Furniture Legs + Arms

Before we delve into that, here are the application details:

  1. Hubs and I sanded the legs, removing the previous coating entirely until we had bare wood.
  2. Using a foam brush, I applied the stain along the entire length of the leg (I started doing only the bottom or top half and then they didn’t match, so I worked the whole length, and applied stain all the way around).
  3. Once the whole leg was covered in stain, I wiped off excess with a clean, lint-free rag.
  4. I let it dry overnight and then applied a second coat. 
  5. I let it dry overnight again, then Hubs applied Danish Oil as a finish coat (I’ll explain the oil below).

Actually refinishing the wood legs was easy.  They look amazing and the darker stain hides some of the dints and scuffs we couldn’t sand out.  The dark stain covered all problems areas (this is why I like to wear dark pants).  The problem is, now the legs are darker than the arms!

The arms were trickier because they were stained and marked.

We gave them a really good sand – first with a 120 grit and then following up with a 220 grit.  I used a sanding block to help keep the pressure even.  It took some love (we each took an arm and sanded for an hour or so), but it was worth it!  These solid wood arms looked gorgeous again.  But really, really light.  Something made abundantly clear once the legs had been stained really, really dark.

How to Sand Furniture Arms

Refinish Stained Furniture

After sanding, we wiped them clean with a damp rag and let them dry.  Then I applied some Danish Oil, which is a lot thicker than Teak Oil, as per the instructions:

  1. I applied a really thin coat with a lint-free cloth.
  2. After 5 minutes, I wiped off the excess.
  3. I let them sit overnight, then I rubbed the arms with a cloth to “burnish” them.
  4. I repeated this process, adding a second and third coat.

How to Oil Furniture

Refinish Damaged Furniture Arms

Here’s the other side, all oiled and lovely:

How to Refinish Solid Wood Furniture Legs + Arms with Danish Oil

The arms turned out lovely.  But still a bit lighter than anticipated and a much warmer hue than planned.  I thought even after oiling they would stay ashy, but the oil has a yellowness to it.  Now the dark/light clash has switched!

How to Refinish Solid Wood Furniture Legs + Arms

How to Refinish Solid Wood Furniture Legs + Arms

Use Danish Oil on Furniture Arms

How to refinish Wood Furniture Legs

Oh well.  I love the arms (the wood grain is gorgeous) and if, when it’s all upholstered, I don’t love the legs I can remove them and re-finish again, or just replace them.  What I learned from this is to buy the stain after the wood I’m refinishing is stripped and sealed, for a better match.  I also learned I love Danish Oil!  We also applied some to our little random stool/table and it made the wood that much richer.  Supposedly it builds a durable, water-resistant finish (and has a satin sheen when it’s dry, so nothing too glossy). 

How to Use Tried and True Danish Oil

P.S. Here are the two products were used: Saman water-based stain in Dark Walnut (also available at Canadian Tire) and Tried and True Danish Oil (also available from Lee Valley). 

Tried and True Danish Oil; Saman Brand Stain Dark Walnut

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17 Comments

  1. Amy
    August 9, 2013 / 12:39 pm

    Wow, those arms are brand new! Well done, that takes some muscle sanding for a straight hour!!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 9, 2013 / 12:53 pm

      I'm so happy with how the arms turned out because they are such a major part of why we love this chair! I should stipulate, a lot of our "one hour" on sanding involved standing back, brow furrowed, inspecting our work while another chunk of time was spent standing back, complaining. Maybe only about 40 minutes, real hard work??? We also worked carefully, to avoid adding scuffs or sanding too much. We also worked hard to make it really smooth with a finer grit. All in all, we deserved the creamsicles were rewarded ourselves with, even with all the complaining.

  2. Amy
    August 9, 2013 / 12:45 pm

    Also, just a quick question about kessels — did you choose your fabric from them? Or elsewhere?

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 9, 2013 / 2:33 pm

      Fabric is from them too! They also helped me pick the fabric for my beloved mint & turquoise teak chair. I also bought the houndstooth on the kitchen chairs from them. I always walk in with a specific idea, and they always have what I want (soooo many samples) but 2 out of 3 times, they've suggested something different, something bolder, and I've loved it more than my original idea or pick. They are amazing!! Definitely take the gals up on their offer to help and be open to their suggestions.

  3. Ashley
    August 9, 2013 / 1:17 pm

    I have an antique walnut trestle table in the kitchen that's in desperate need of refinishing…rather than staining I think I might give danish oil a try!Gorgeous arms on that chair. Can't wait to see it reupholstered.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 9, 2013 / 2:35 pm

      I definitely want to oil everything in sight now. It was easy and really brings out the natural beauty in the wood. A little fume-y though, so I recommend doing it in the garage with the door open.Also, I read it needs to be re-oiled every few years. Good luck making over your antique walnut table! I bet it will look beautiful when you're done with it!!

  4. Dana@Mid2Mod
    August 9, 2013 / 5:44 pm

    Those arms look stellar! To tell you the truth, I probably would have just thought shadows were making the legs look darker if you hadn't mentioned it.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 9, 2013 / 6:17 pm

      Thanks Dana! I'm glad you day that. I think darker legs and lighter arms looks better than the reverse, so if they have to clash, I prefer this šŸ™‚ I think with the richer fabric, too, the cloth and arms will be the focus, not the legs, which is the right order I think. I'm excited to see it all done, but the fabric isn't even in yet!!

  5. Dora
    August 9, 2013 / 7:15 pm

    You did such a great job with that chair! I love it. Can't wait to see the final result

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 9, 2013 / 9:00 pm

      Thanks! Solid wood is very forgiving, veneers are trickier! I also refinished some teak (details soon) and those didn't turn out as well because the veneer is thin, so I couldn't go to town sanding.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 10, 2013 / 11:19 am

      Ooo, your credenza turned out so beautifully. What a great piece!

  6. sarah @ homeologymodernvintage
    August 10, 2013 / 11:38 am

    danish oil is my fave and sooo much easier than a poly finish! can't wait to see the finished product.

  7. Ria Kessels
    August 15, 2013 / 2:48 pm

    Hello Tanya….I just saw the lovely conversation between you and Amy above.I wanted to mention it would be our pleasure to offer 10% off all fabrics to any of your readers that heard about us on your website.They would just have to mention you.Have a great day. :)Ria

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 15, 2013 / 4:39 pm

      Oh, that's lovely!! I'll be sure to mention that when I share the reveal!!

  8. Beth@Makemeprettyagain
    April 17, 2014 / 3:24 am

    Tanya, that velvet is stunning!Saw the before and after over at AT. I'm with you on the turquoise wagon! I would love to have the fabric for something in my room. do you happen to have the name or maker?? PS they featured my dresser makeover about week after yours. Mine was the Drexel MCM that was used as an ironing board! lol

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