Omit this if the natural color is desired. Many good wood stains are on the market. Select the color desired, but always try it out first on an inconspicuous part of the furniture. If any part of the piece of furniture has been removed when getting it ready to refinish, this piece of wood can be used for trying out stains. Put stain on with a brush or cloth. Rub off with cheese cloth. Every particle of the stain must be either rubbed off or rubbed in. The rubbing should be continued until there is some luster. Several coats of stain may be required to get desired color. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next one. It is better to have the first coat as dark as desirable and not be compelled to repeat.
Unless the previous work has been very harsh, this step may be omitted. When furniture is made, a filler, either liquid or paste, is applied after the stain. This fills all the pores of the wood and makes a smooth surface for the finish. If this filler has been worked out of the wood in the preceding processes, it will be necessary at this point to renew it. Get a liquid filler for a close-grained wood and a paste filler for an open-grained wood. The filler usually matches the stain in color and is therefore inconspicuous.
There are several kinds of finishes. The use of the furniture, the kind of wood, and the personal liking of the owner, will doubtless influence the choice. There are advantages and disadvantages in any finish. Wax is easily applied, gives a soft, pleasing luster and can be readily patched if scratched or marred. It has to be renewed frequently.
Varnish, when scratched, cannot be patched. The whole surface must be done over. It is glossy and shiny unless well rubbed down, which requires expertness and is most unattractive unless done well. A piece of furniture with shiny varnish finish may have this gloss dulled if rubbed down according to directions given later. A cheap varnish will not stand this treatment.
Wax: a) Wax may be applied directly after the stain. This is the easiest and quickest finish and is satisfactory if frequently renewed. Use any good floor wax. Apply a rather thick coat, rub it well into the pores of the wood, allow to stand five to ten minutes, then polish. Use circular motion, then rub with the grain of the wood. Polish wood, but do not scrub it. This may be repeated a second time to get a good luster.
b) A coat of shellac may be given first. Rub this down with fine sandpaper and then apply the wax. This will wear longer than wax alone, but the finish is much shinier and glossier.
(A and B are good finishes for oak.) c) (This is recommended especially for old walnut furniture.) Apply a thin coat of raw linseed oil to the furniture, rubbing long and vigorously in order that no oil may be left standing on the surface. If the wood is very old and dry, it is a good plan to let the oil stand on the wood several hours before rubbing. After the oil is rubbed in, apply a wax finish.
Varnish: Apply one or two coats of shellac, rub each down with fine sandpaper until perfectly smooth, then apply a coat of varnish. After the varnish is thoroughly dry, if a "rubbed finish" is desired, dip a damp cloth in powdered pumice stone and rub with what adheres. Work with the grain of the wood. This dulls the gloss but does not break the surface. Two or more coats of varnish are usually given, each one rubbed down. Rub the last coat with pumice and raw linseed oil, then rub with oil alone. This is called egg-shell or "rubbed" finish, and is much more difficult for an amateur than the wax finish.
Oil: This is not a common finish and is seldom used except for old mahogany or walnut. Raw linseed oil may be used. Apply not one coat of oil, but many, rubbing until all the oil is rubbed in or rubbed off. Twenty-four hours should elapse between applications of oil. If such a finish is given thoroughly the result is an excellent one, for it brings out the natural beauty of the wood and gives it a beautiful, soft sheen.