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Newaryon 08-03-2013 01:27 PM

Refinishing old bookshelves
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I picked up some old bookshelves at a garage sale and I want to spruce them up. This is my first time doing a project like this, so I apologize for the newbie questions.

Here is a picture of one of the shelves.

It seems to be stained wood without any kind of varnish, paint or lacquer.

I've been reading up on the internet and I think I'm just confusing myself so asking for some advice.

I found an article which said I could wash this up and then sand it and restain with gel stain for an easy job and satisfying result.

I tried washing it with a solution of Murphy's Oil Soap, but then someone told me that wasn't really soap so I washed it again with dish soap and water.

As I worked on cleaning it I found some additional problems which might require more steps.

These are my questions:

1. One of the things I read said that I should wash the furniture down with mineral spirits to remove any excess paint or other finish on it. I don't really think it has been painted in the past. Is this step necessary? Would mineral spirits remove the Oil Soap?

2. This wood looks rough and unfinished in some places. It has big knots in others and gouges from rough treatment. How much sanding should I do? I'll have to do it by hand since I don't have any power tools. I guess I am not expecting to come out with a polished and elegant result. A rough, rustic look is fine. But I don't want edges flaking off or catching on things.

3. When I took a closer look I discovered that there are some rotten areas of wood at the base of the shelves. It looks like they might have been standing on a damp floor at some time. I took some close pictures of these. What I am reading seems to say that I need to cut out these rotten areas and patch them with epoxy. Would that work and provide a strong enough base to support the rest of the bookshelf? Should I get some new lumber and nail a new baseboard to the bottom here?

4. I saw an article talking about using an epoxy consolidant to harden rotted wood before patching with epoxy filler. Is that step necessary in this case?

5. I bought some appropriate gel stain, but this garage has a whole collection of various oil based stains, polyethylene, strippers that my folks collected over the years. Most of these cans are at least 10 years old and I'm not quite sure what they all are for. Do these materials last that long? Should I leave them alone and buy all new materials?

Thanks for your help!!

Drywallinfo 08-04-2013 08:19 AM

Hate to say it, but do you really want to mess with this? To truly refinish these nice, you would have to disassemble and sand (or plane) down to bare wood - and given they are rough, you might be taking off 1/16" or even 1/8" of wood. Sand to about 200 grit finish, stain, and then varnish with poly, sanding in between coats with 300 grit paper on a random orbital sander with 3+ coats total. I like water-based poly since it dries quick and does not pool up like solvent based. And from the looks of it, parts are rotted - those can not be finished nice no matter what you do.

At best, perhaps you could disassemble and replace compromised pieces with new pieces of matching wood. Reassemble using a Kreg Jig with screws to fasten shelves and sides.

To do this right would be a lot of work and possibly a lot of expense.

Jungle 08-04-2013 09:05 AM

I would just paint it white, needs primer first.

elbo 08-04-2013 02:57 PM

I agree with "drywall' what you have is a basic pine shelf unit that was homemade with very little skill, as evidenced by the nail that is folded over in the last photo. What you want to do will cost you more than making a new unit, staining, and finishing it. I would disassemble it, discard the rotten wood, or part of it. and put the wood aside for another project.

nealtw 08-05-2013 09:58 PM

IF you use any oil stain it should be known that some oily rags can catch on fire by themselves, used oil rags should be sealed in a can filled with water.
If you are planning on standing the finished shelves on the floor the bottom shelf where the rot is won't be of much value, so I would cut a few inches off the bottom.
You will never hide the fact the the shelves are old and beat so just some light sanding not to fine and stain with a stain with less oil like minwax or a waterbase stain. Then cover that with water base like Varathane's Interior Diamond mat finish and sand between coats until you have a smooth finish

Newaryon 08-06-2013 07:21 AM

Hmmmm okay thanks for all the replies. As I am getting into this I am realizing you are right... The wood probably is pine and the color that attracted me is just a bit of stain darkening it. There are nails in really strange places and ones that don't fit right. The lumber doesn't look like it has ever been sanded.

Don't laugh, but I think the real reason I was attacted to these shelves is they remind me of the ones in Skyrim dungeons. Medieval carpentry!

I am thinking of this project now as sort of a learning experience on furniture I can make lots of mistakes on. I'm pulling out some of the misplaced nails. I'm doing some sanding by hand to remove stains and blotches; the wood is very soft and sands easily.

I think I'm going to take nealw's suggestion and give it a light sand and then use the Minwax stain. I am trying to decide whether I stand a chance of fixing the rotted sections with epoxy, or whether I should just rip that bottom board out and nail in a new one. Looks like it would not be that hard to remove it. Looks like at least one other board has been patched that way.

Again, I have NO power tools but a drill but I guess I could get a cut board at Lowe's.

nealtw 08-06-2013 06:22 PM

Epoxy can be good if you are painting, I doubt it would take stain to match the wood.

Newaryon 08-11-2013 10:34 AM

So I got a board cut to replace the really rotten piece. There are others not so bad I think I can patch with Minwax hardener and wood filler. Even if I can't stain the wood filler, if it is on the bottom it won't show. There are some cracks and nail holes that do show. Is there any way to add stain to the wood filler for those...they are not in places that need to bear a lot of weight, like the top of the shelf. I see some other products that seem to come with stain included but don't make a strong patch. At worst I guess I can just leave them alone.

I am giving everything a light sanding first.

nealtw 08-11-2013 08:58 PM

You can do some test work on the back of the unit and see what works for you.

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