How to Refinish Wooden Bar Stools
LESLIE: Jo in California is on the line and needs some help with some bar-stool restoration. Tell us what they look like.
JO: Well, they have wooden arms and they’re padded, they’re cloth. And then down at the bottom, where the feet are at, they’ve got little wooden rails on them. And I need to redo them. I’ve got them cleaned and brushed down and everything. And somebody said I should use spar varnish on them and I need to know what to get to put on them – on the wood.
LESLIE: Is there any metal at all? It’s all wood?
JO: No. Everything else is padded.
LESLIE: So everything else is fabric.
JO: The arms are wood. It’s got one, two, three, four little metal legs on it, at the bottom, and halfway up. And bare wood. And I’ve got them ready to paint but I don’t know what to put on it.
TOM: So you want to refinish the wood in a clear – the clear finish or a painted finish? A clear finish?
JO: Clear finish.
TOM: OK. So, yeah, you can use spar varnish on it; that’s a fine product. What you’re going to have to do, though, is lightly sand all those wood surfaces.
JO: They’re ready. They have already done that.
TOM: You’ve done that. OK. Well, then, you’ve done the hard part if you’ve done all the sanding. But what I would tell you to do is to be very careful to get the varnish only on the wood and not on any of the padded areas or the metal areas.
LESLIE: Yeah. This is going to be about creative masking and taping things off and covering things with plastic and tape and …
TOM: Yeah. Because if you get it on there, you’re going to have a problem. So you want to mask it very carefully to keep it away from the areas where you don’t want the spar varnish to get.
JO: Yeah, OK. And you think that’s the best to get? Because somebody else said, “No, you don’t want to use that. You want to use clear acrylic.”
TOM: Well, look, it’s a personal preference. The varnish is – I believe spar varnish is oil-based, which is fine. And it’s actually – you’ll find that the oil-based finishes are a little more durable in terms of abrasion resistance.
LESLIE: And I think they give a better sheen, as well.
TOM: Yeah, it’s a good point. Mm-hmm. They take a little longer to dry but they are a tougher finish.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. With the acrylic – clear coats, as they call it – it’s even available in a spray I’ve seen. I guess that really kind of depends on how raw the wood is, how much coverage you want. Again, masking is going to be the key here. And you really need to consider how much of a sheen you want. Think about that, as well, when you’re making your selection. Because if you want something that’s super-shiny and almost has that wet look, really, that oil-based varnish is the way to go.