Clear Wood Finishes and Sealers

By D.Cummings

Everyone has thought a time or two about refinishing something in their home. From the wood cabinets in the kitchen to a bar the look can be much better just by sanding it all down and putting on a clear wood finish. Cabinets used to be stained dark; everything went through a dark phase just like the wood paneling that was used on walls.

Often in an effort to brighten things up a bit, somewhere along the way someone would decide to paint the cabinets to get rid of the dark look rather than sanding and refinishing them. Sometimes it wasn’t just to get rid of the dark look; it was to add another color to the kitchen.

For instance, I remember green cabinets in a kitchen and were they ugly! That was one of my first projects. At that time I didn’t like the color green at all and most certainly not on kitchen cabinets.

So out came the supplies – sandpaper, paint stripper, a sander, everything I could think of that I might need – and the doors were taken off the front of the cabinets. Now this part was simple. A little paint stripper took care of those layers of green on the doors, but the cabinets themselves were a little different story.

Trying to put enough paint stripper on them to melt the paint meant they dripped. And it was virtually impossible to get plastic under every cabinet and get it to stay so that the mess didn’t end up on the floor. Rather than deal with this mess in the middle of everything else, I decided to just sand them.

Well, was that ever a job! I don’t know how many layers of paint were on the cabinets, but apparently someone had never planned on changing the color. Or they found out that oak is porous and the pores do show when you paint so they kept layering the paint on the cabinets.

Of course, I used a sander on them to get the paint off faster but there are corners and places that the sander just would not reach. So that meant sanding by hand. If you have ever sanded something for days, you know how sore your fingers can get. At that point, I was about ready to let the paint stripper drip on whatever it wanted to just to get the rest of the paint off the cabinets.

But the thought of having to clean up that mess stopped me from making that mistake. Finally, and I do mean finally I got the last of the green paint off the cabinets. The last tiny little crevice had been sanded. I did have to take a break for a couple of days before starting to refinish the cabinets just to let my fingers recover.

Once I put a light stain on the cabinets and used a sealer, it did seem worth it. You could see the grain of the wood and the look transformed the kitchen immensely. Gone was the ugly green color and the kitchen looked bigger and brighter. I would have to say this was one of the best projects I have done even though it did seem that I would never get the paint removed from the cabinets.

The only way it could have been easier to remove this paint would have been to take the cabinets down and outdoors so you could make a mess and contain it a little better. But that would have been a whole other project and for myself, taking cabinets down and putting them back is a little more than I want to tackle.

A few things I learned while doing this project was to always sand with the grain of the wood or you will scratch it. Be careful when using a sander because it can cause low spots in the wood if you stay in one place too long. Even if you stain all the cabinets by yourself, they will not look the same, so don’t start sanding again and staining. This is just something that happens when you are staining real wood so do not expect the cabinets to be perfect. And, oh yes, if you can recruit help when it comes to sanding, take it.

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