Help! How do I re-finish wooden chairs that I've stripped??

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Forum topic by elliecatt104 posted 08-15-2019 12:40 PM 530 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 115 days

08-15-2019 12:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing question

Hi! Long story short here of several rookie mistakes that have led me to this question…I have a couple of kitchen chairs that I refinished recently. I chalk-painted everything but the seats, and left the seats as-is, leaving the wood unpainted. I was not smart enough to cover the seats while I painted the rest of the chairs, and a few paint flecks got onto the seats. Mistake number 2 was using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to try to get the paint off, which ended up just stripping the finish of the wood right off. Mistake #3 was trying to bring the sheen of the seats back to life with boiled linseed oil. It never cured and stayed sticky for days on end, so I finally took it off with turpentine, which ended up taking the rest of the chairs’ original finish off along with the BLO. So here I am, with dull, unfinished chair seats, all because I didn’t cover the chairs to begin with!! What’s my next step? I would like to be able to just spray on some sort of clear sealant, since the surface area of the seats is small and I feel like painting on a new finish will only lead me to more imperfections. Do I need something heavy-duty like shellac, polyurethane, or polycrylic? Or will any clear sealant do, just to bring the shine back? Thank you in advance!!

8 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile


11522 posts in 1699 days

#1 posted 08-15-2019 01:35 PM

This depends largely on the type of wood used for the seat and how much “shine” you want. A picture is worth a thousand words ;-)

Just off the top of my head though, I would probably recommend a wipe-on poly. A chair seat takes a lot of wear so you want some kind of film protection. Go with a full gloss to get full shine then if it’s too much, you can use some mineral spirits and steel wool to buff it back to a softer sheen. You can get poly in a rattle can but, I much prefer the wipe-on versions because it’s very simply to apply and hard to mess up :-)

Best of luck with it!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View LittleShaver's profile


599 posts in 1180 days

#2 posted 08-15-2019 01:53 PM

+1 on the poly. I make my own wipe on by buying regular gloss poly and cutting it by 50% with mineral spirits. I’ve never developed the skill to use a rattle can, but have had many success with wipe on poly. Takes a few more coats to build a finish, but way easier to control. Probably balances out on time as I don’t have to repair my spray mistakes.

-- Sawdust Maker

View Lazyman's profile


4173 posts in 1948 days

#3 posted 08-15-2019 02:51 PM

I would go with wipe on polyurethane as well. With a spray, it is too easy to get runs. As LS said, you can make your own wipe on poly but for me it really isn’t worth the hassle. The Minwax stuff you buy is pretty foolproof. You need to prep the surface well. Sand with the grain up to 220 grit so that the wood looks uniform (no remaining finish on the surface). Follow the directions on the can. Apply at least 3 coats but I would probably go with 5 for something like a chair seat. I usually lightly buff the finish with a synthetic steel wool pad between coats to scuff the surface lightly or remove bubbles and dust nibs.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View SMP's profile


1447 posts in 466 days

#4 posted 08-15-2019 03:02 PM

Same, I use the minwax wipe on poly all the time, cheap and easy, can get at any big box store and its foolproof.

View HokieKen's profile


11522 posts in 1699 days

#5 posted 08-15-2019 03:02 PM

I mix my own as well but that’s just so I can only have one can of poly on the shelf instead of two to go bad if I don’t use them fast enough. I just mix some 1:1 with MS in a small glass jar as I need it for projects. Then if I have something that I want to brush the poly onto, I can use it that way too. But, like Nathan says, you can buy it in a wipe-on formula right off the shelf. Just make sure to stir it really well and follow the directions on the can.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View elliecatt104's profile


2 posts in 115 days

#6 posted 08-16-2019 02:17 AM

Thank you all so much for your help! I’ve attached a few pictures for those that asked (first two are without flash, last one is with flash on). It honestly doesn’t look THAT bad, it’s more that I know the finish is gone and they’re very dull/matte looking now. I have thought about leaving them as-is, but you guys think they will need more protection, being chair seats? Also, someone else suggested wiping them with lacquer thinner before doing a new sealant. Do you all think this would be necessary with the wipe-on poly?

Last question, is this the right kind of wipe-on poly if I’m not brave enough to make my own?

Thank you all!!

View WoodenDreams's profile


830 posts in 471 days

#7 posted 08-16-2019 03:31 AM

The wipe on poly is easy to use and dries quickly, and rubbed on with thin coats, so you may want to apply several coats for protection and longer wear.

View Sark's profile


223 posts in 921 days

#8 posted 08-16-2019 03:43 AM

Yes, that’s the stuff, Minwax wipe on poly should do the trick. I’d do a light sanding with very fine sandpaper before wiping on. This will ensure that the Minwax sticks properly. How fine? 320 should be OK, or finer…but don’t sand through the existing finish. Just light scratching. You could also use 000 or 0000 steel wool to scuff the surface.
Also, poly does not stick to cured poly very well, so before each additional coat of poly scuff the surface. I usually use #600 grit sandpaper before the final coat. Again, the 0000 steel wool is very fine.

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