by:

Deborah Lynn

Published:

February 2, 2018

Modified:

July 23, 2022

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6 Steps to Refinish Furniture to a Natural Wood or Raw Wood Finish 

 Owning a home decor business has its perks and being able to find beautiful antiques is one of them! I have always loved one-of-a-kind, handmade antique furniture more than modern-day mass-produced pieces. There is just something special about knowing that one person put some much of themselves into that cabinet or hutch that just sits well with me. 

In my life, I have been fortunate to come across some stunning pieces, some of them I have refinished, some I have restored and some I have painted! Right now I am really digging furniture refinishing in a natural raw wood look on my pieces and I am so happy with how this most recent dresser turned out! Below are the 6 steps to refinish antique furniture to a natural or raw wood finish. Enjoy!

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Steps refinish antique furniture to a natural or raw wood finish

Furniture BEFORE Refinishing

antique original finish dresser

Furniture AFTER Refinishing

Steps refinish antique furniture to a natural or raw wood finish

Step by step directions for achieving a raw wood finish


1) Clean the Piece - Nothing crazy, just a quick once over with a damp cloth will do. Unless the piece is in need of more just a quick wipe will do.

2) Paint Stripper if Necessary - As much as I hate this stuff, it really does speed up the refinishing process! The stripper does all the heavy lifting for you and will cut your sanding time down a lot.  I prefer a gel product that you can let sit for 5-10 minutes before scrapping off with a putty knife or blade.

3) Sand the Body of the Piece - I use 60 grit sandpaper with an orbital sander. I think the key is to make sure you are not letting the sand paper get too used or cruddy. It might cost a bit more in sand paper to replace it more ofter but it's totally worth it in your time and elbow grease.

4) Sand the Tricky Areas. - Again, I use 60 grit sandpaper with a mouse sander. This is my favourite sander as it isn't as easy to damage the piece with it and it gets into those corners so much better than an orbital sander can.

Do your best to get the corners clean but I am not super picky if I miss a bit. I feel like you can get away a bit of colour variation if you have an old piece. If you can't remove the Use stripper in the edges if necessary

5) Dust and Clean - Use a stiff bristled brush to dust all the left over sand or dust off and use a damp cloth or rag to wipe the piece down. This is important if you are going to seal the piece with a product

6) Wax or Spray Finish -  Use a polyurethane or clear wax the top of the piece to seal and protect the piece. This may change the colouring of the piece to a slightly darker finish but if you are worried about water damage or any other products damaging the finish then this step is necessary


Steps refinish antique furniture to a natural or raw wood finish

If you are wanting the look but not into the dirty work that comes with it, this Restoration Hardware antique inspired St. James Dresser will give you all the vintage feels. 

Restoration Hardware Antique Inspired Dresser ST. JAMES 3-DRAWER DRESSER

I hope you enjoyed my steps to refinish antique furniture to a natural or raw wood finish. Like painting an antique piece with chalk paint, it can seem like a lot of work but it is so worth it when you have a beautiful timeless piece in the end.

What types of finishes are you into at the moment? Painted, dark stains or natural raw wood?  Would you ever refinish an antique back to a raw wood finish? Leave me a comment in the comments below as I always love hearing what you have to say.

Steps refinish antique furniture to a natural or raw wood finish

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  • did you only seal or wax the top and not the sides or fronts? I love the natural look, but I find that as soon as I apply the polyurethane, it looks glossy, more orange, and not natural.

    • Hi Alyssa, for me it totally depends on what the piece is going to be used for. If it is something that will have a lot of water or risk of damage on the top, I always use a sealant like a spray poly or wax. If it’s just a dresser in a room that is not going to get high traffic, then I leave it totally raw. Same with the sides and front. The one in my bedroom is completely raw and it still looks amazing 6 years later. Hope this helps.

  • Hello! I love the raw wood look! If the piece has dents, scratches or chunks gone, how do you do the repairs with filler if it will remain raw look as the finished result? Do you use wood filler before sanding down? If yes, will this leave different colors ?

    Thanks so much, and keep inspiring us! Teresa

    • Hi there Teresa, Thanks for the message. It totally depends on the look you are after! I love a great patina so, for the most part, I don’t fill with anything on any of my pieces however that said, I have used wood filler before and unless you can get an exact match, it will be a different colour. Even if you try a stain afterwards, it is very hard to match the colour perfectly.

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