This was a bit of a tough one for me because the original maker of the furniture was long gone, and so I could not confirm how the piece was originally finished. How many of you remember the original Cargo Furniture? How many of you locals are old enough to remember the Cargo Furniture store that was up by Baybrook back in the late 1980's (if memory is serving me)?
|There's a bunch of subsequent business entities now using the name "Cargo Furniture". There are even copy cats. But none of those refer to the original retailer.|
|Screengrabbed from Google.|
This is relevant because Cargo Furniture did not finish their original wood furniture pieces the same way many other retailers did. And because they are long out of business, there was no way for me to confirm what substance they originally applied to their wood.
|On their natural wood furniture, I recall the salespeople telling me that they were using something akin to tung oil. In other words, it wasn't a simple varnish or polyurethane. I remember the salespeople telling me that the finish was not conventional and that I should "oil" my furniture periodically as a result. I never did, though.|
But before I get into that, a disclaimer: This was a pretty simple project involving an older piece of furniture that had only a minimal historical treatment that needed to be overcome prior to re-staining. If your old wood is more extensively coated with additional products such as varnish, you will need to do a more involved preparation, probably involving a chemical stripper. This Old House published this very succinct DIY sequence that could help you with that.
OK, here goes.
First, I sanded the crap out of it (to use Nicole's highly-technical terminology). Seriously, if you're going to try to re-stain old wood, make sure you sand it extensively, whether or not you need an initial chemical stripping step. Sanding is very boring and it takes a lot of time, but the final result is worth it. I didn't know how far the tung oil penetrated this piece, but the obvious idea was just to get as much of the outermost layers off as possible.
Second, and here's where Nicole's method becomes very important: I opened up the wood grain with a wet rub-down. Not sloppy wet, but enough water on the rag to penetrate the wood.
|In this case, it was Rustoleum's Kona shade. It can be bought in these tiny cans at Lowes for about six bucks. This is a very convenient size for small projects like this one. |
I complained out loud back in 2011 when I published this popular post on staining fences that many of the stain products on the market are just not very good right now because manufacturers have removed so much of the volatile fraction in order to meet air quality regulations. But it's the solvents that give stain its penetrating power, so product quality has suffered, in my observation. This is a frequent topic of discussion on internet forums such as this one, which discusses whether this Rustoleum product is oil-based or water-based (answer: probably a hybrid, but it does seem to have some petroleum distillate solvent qualities).
|And then after you let the flooded wood sit for a minute or two, you take a larger clean rag and wipe it down, removing the excess stain which hasn't soaked into the wood. You end up with a quasi-tie-dyed looking rag as you do it.|
|Here's the stained shelf unit next to the very trendy industrial-looking stool that I was intending to match (the stool is tipped over the lean against the shelf, so it looks a bit wonky here). Not a perfect match but it doesn't need to be perfect. It's close enough so that these two pieces will look OK when placed in the same part of our great room. |
This is the CB2 Contact Stool and would you believe I found it via a Facebook product placement ad? For once, Facebook actually delivered me something I wanted to see instead of a useless stream of weight loss ads (me, at 130 pounds, as if they couldn't figure that out from their targeting algorithms). I bought a pair of them, which means that it cost me almost three hundred bucks to update my status that day.