Natural tips for reviving wood or metal furniture

June 23, 2015

There's often no need to buy replacements for worn but otherwise useful items. You can breathe new life into old furniture at little or no expense, and exercise your creative skills as well. With a few simple techniques, you can save a favourite piece from the scrap heap or revive junk shop bargains.

Natural tips for reviving wood or metal furniture

1. Wooded furniture fixes

  • To brighten a dulled lacquer or varnish finish, mix a little traditional white, non-gel toothpaste with water and rub it on with a cloth.
  • You can remove old French polish (shellac) with methylated spirits and elbow grease.
  • When dismantling furniture, always use a spare piece of wood to cushion any hammering. If you hammer the furniture directly you may split or bruise the wood.
  • If you have a drawer that sticks, check for worn parts and sand any swollen sides. If that doesn't work, rub all sliding parts with candle wax.
  • Dismantle loose drawers and re-glue them. Undo screws and tap the joints apart. Dab hot vinegar on the separated joints to loosen and remove old glue.
  • To fix blistered veneer, cut with a razor knife, slide wood glue underneath with a palette knife and press the veneer back into place. Cover with greaseproof paper and put a heavy weight on top.
  • Be careful with conventional paint strippers that contain methylene chloride and dichloromethane, both likely carcinogens. Use a non-toxic stripper or a hot air gun instead.

2. Metal makeovers

  • Reuse aluminium foil to rub away pinprick rust spots on chrome furniture and taps. Just crumple into a manageable wad and rub.
  • Rub pitted chrome furniture frames with steel wool and methylated spirits (methanol or wood alcohol) to remove rust spots. Polish with a little olive oil.
  • Polish painted iron or aluminium furniture with beeswax or carnauba wax to provide extra protection, especially if the furniture is likely to be used outside.
  • If old nylon webbing is riveted to an aluminium frame and cannot be removed, consider screwing 12-mL(1/2-in.) thick Western red cedar slats to the frame over the top instead of replacing the webbing.
  • Use scrapers, wire brushes and sandpaper to remove rust from cast iron before priming and repainting.
  • To loosen water-based paint, soak the item in boiling water. For oil-based paint, soak overnight in a bucket of water with 250 g (one cup) fireplace ash, if you have it.
  • Avoid paint strippers altogether by using a hot-air gun to loosen paint before scraping off.
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