How to Care for Salvaged or Unsealed Wood Furniture

by Diane Henkler on 06/05/2013

Thanks for all the comments you guys left about how I created my own Carrara Marble top on the sideboard in my kitchen with paint.  The faux finish really has made a huge difference in pairing the two unmatched pieces of furniture.   A little history that I did not mention – About 22 years ago, I painted the top to look like green marble – which was popular back then.  When I painted my kitchen cabinets, I also painted over the faux green marble.   Gotta love what you can do with paint.

Many of you wanted to know more about how I stripped the cabinet and how to care for unsealed or salvaged wood with questions like:

- Do you leave the wood as it is?

-Did I put a clear polyurethane over it?

If you missed the post on how I stripped the cabinet, you can find it here, Furniture Stripping Basics.

How to protect salvaged or unsealed wood furniture

To answer your questions, I did a little research.  For now I am leaving the cabinet unsealed as it is a piece that does not get too much use.

How to Care For Salvaged or Unsealed Wood Furniture

-If it is a piece that will get a fair amount of use – like a tabletop; apply a coat or two of soft beeswax based paste wax to protect it.  This will condition the wood, keeping it looking very natural with a matte finish while enhancing and protecting the wood grain.

-You can always add a sealant later, or experiment on finishes and sealants like a clear or tinted polyurethane on the underside of your piece to determine your favorite look.

-There is a risk of stains from spills or oils if the wood is left unfinished. Sanding with a combination of first 100 grit and then 220 grit sand paper will typically remove them and restore the look and feel.

- Even though the imperfections in the wood add to its allure, using coasters and placemats will help prevent unwanted stains and marks.

- The best method for cleaning is simply soap and water.  You can also create a solution with a few tablespoons of white vinegar diluted in spray bottle of water. It works well to get off the finger prints and smudges.

I love how the cabinet came out and will consider stripping more furniture in my future.  When my budget allows, I may even end up buying a piece of furniture made from salvaged wood.


Now for a fitting giveaway to go with this post!

giveaway  has ended!

If you are interested in transforming old or even new pieces of furniture so they suit your style and taste, then you are  going to love the new book by Barb Blair. She is the founder and blogger behind Knack Studios. She has written a very informative book entitled:

Furniture Makeovers

Furniture Makeovers by Barb Blair of Knack Studios


Published by Chronicle Books, it is filled with step-by-step photo tutorials showing you simple techniques for transforming furniture with paint, stains, paper, stencils, and more.






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{ 94 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ashley D. June 5, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Oooo, what a fun book. Pick me! :)


2 Trudy June 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I painted my first piece of furniture of Memorial Day…..a rocker I purchased on Craigslist……and I am so happy with how it turned out, but must admit, I winged it and know I probably didn’t do it “right”, so learning how would be great.


3 Diane Henkler June 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Hi Trudy – Sometimes “winging it” gives the best results. You should be proud that you “just did it”.


4 Vicki Brown June 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I have so many pieces that need refinishing! This book looks like the one for me!! Here’s hoping that I win!! Thanks for the give away!


5 Dana Kichen June 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm

We inherited a few wonderful pieces after my in-laws passed away this past year. One is a wood dining room table (dark walnut stain and poly urethane) with iron sewing machine legs. My husband built it with his Dad wen he was a pre-teen. I can’t wait to show him your advice so we can refinish this piece properly. The book would be a great help! :)


6 Michelle June 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I have been looking to painting or staining some of my older furniture pieces and this book would surely help with inspiration and “how to”. Love your blog and projects!


7 Megan J June 5, 2013 at 6:44 pm

I remember painting faux green marble with my mom back in the day. When my fiance and I move into our new place in a couple of months I’ll be redoing some of my wood furniture so I’m definitely interested in the stripping and other painting techniques you have used recently.


8 Bev Ritch June 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

This sounds perfect for anyone! Thank you for thinking of us and offering this book as a Giveaway!

I have been restoring and painting furniture for a few months now with hopes of making a job for myself in the town I moved to last July, where jobs are impossible to come by. My first ‘yard sale’ of painted pieces was a smashing hit! I would Love to have a book to learn more from! Maybe it will help me avoid further stencil failures too. I have a ton of work ahead of me to be as good at this as so many of you all, and have an event I plan to sell at coming up in July!

Bev @ Give me a paintbrush


9 Joyce Ward June 5, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Thank you very much; I would luv some inspiration and ideas with this book-:-))


10 Sheena June 5, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Thanks for sharing the tips!! That giveaway is awesome. I am planning to refinish some furniture soon. Hope I win.


11 Heidi @ Honeybearlane June 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm

That cabinet turned out awesome! I decided to go ahead and strip the desk I was undecided about and it looks amazing. I can’t wait to put on the hardware I ordered and show the final reveal. Did you also do that table in the end picture?


12 Diane Henkler June 5, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Hi Heidi – So happy that your desk came out great! It is a smelly messy job, but worth it. I did the table first around Easter. I figured since it was a big flat surface it would be an easy piece to start figuring out how to strip furniture.


13 Audrey June 5, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Painting is one of my favorite things to do!! A can of paint changes everything and can easily be painted over if you don’t like it!!


14 Nina Todd June 5, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Love your site and all your great ideas. Thanks for sharing.


15 Catherine June 5, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Love your site! Great giveaway!


16 Christy Keyton June 5, 2013 at 11:09 pm

I love furniture refinishing – and I love the stripped wood on your cabinet. I may have to try that soon!


17 Allison June 5, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Your cabinet turned out beautifully. I have admired Barb’s lovely pieces for a couple years now and would love to be entered in your giveaway for her book. Her book looks wonderful and packed full of great info.


18 Nancy Carr June 5, 2013 at 11:14 pm

I would love to win this book. Thank you.


19 Darla June 5, 2013 at 11:21 pm

What a help this would be. Thanks so much!


20 Candy Thayer June 5, 2013 at 11:21 pm

I’m new to painting and refinishing furniture, but love it. The book looks like it would be a gold mine of information.


21 Tedi Brandon June 5, 2013 at 11:21 pm

I just purchased the top of an old hutch. It is painted a light green but when pulling the shelves out I discovered there are MANY layers of paint under the top coat of green that will need to come off. I am definitely going to need lots of instruction on how to get all the layers of paint off and then once I am able to see the natural wood, whether or not to re paint it, stain it or leave it in the natural state with some type of protective finish on the wood. HELP!!!! Thanks!


22 Diane Henkler June 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Hi Tedi -
For very heavy or many layers of paint, you may need to apply the paint stipper a few times. Put it on, let it do its thing, then remove what comes loose with a scraper and scrubbing pad or steel wool. Then reapply more stain. Keep repeating the process until all the paint is gone. I have heard many good things about Citrastrip. You may want to try it first. A paint stripper that is thicker will work better on vertical surfaces since it clings and does not run off. You may be surprised – the paint might come right off. I hope it is not too labor intensive for you.


23 Cathy E. June 5, 2013 at 11:38 pm

I would love to win this book! Thanks for the opportunity.


24 Belinda June 5, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Love this piece! I have a dining room table with a top that has more than its share of scratches and dried glitter stuck to the top. Would love this book for help and inspiration.


25 Sharon H June 5, 2013 at 11:55 pm

I bought some Critistrip today, along with a small can of walnut stain for the table top that I want to refinish using ASCP. I have never done anything like this before, and I’m slowing building up the courage to do it! This book might be the catalyst I need to take the plunge…. love the way your pieces turned out.


26 Queen of Fifty Cents June 5, 2013 at 11:56 pm

I could sure use some inspiration to get that Fifties coffee table I found last year fixed up!


27 Margaret R June 6, 2013 at 12:02 am

This would be perfect for me. I just bought a sewing cabinet and a pie safe that I want to refinish. Thanks for sharing the wealth.


28 Sunny C June 6, 2013 at 12:03 am

This book would be a huge help to me, as I want to redo some items which I do not believe that I can take down to their orginal wood finish, and I will instead have to paint them. I know that this book would be a massive help!!!


29 Faith G June 6, 2013 at 12:10 am

Thank You so much for a chance to win this book…. I would LOVE to win as I need to learn to do this, to work on a few projects I have in the garage…. I won’t tell you how long they have been in there… but I would love to get them on the Porch and in my home this summer…

Thanks again,


30 Suree Suaysompol June 6, 2013 at 12:30 am

I would like to have the book, please.


31 Lara Crouse June 6, 2013 at 12:41 am

Thanks so much for passing on your amazing knowledge! I’m such a fan of all your projects – an such in awe that you can do it all plus this blog! The book looks like some great inspiration.


32 Sue June 6, 2013 at 1:18 am

I love reading your tips and seeing all your wonderful projects. Not only are you inspiring, but you make it seem like anyone can successfully make old things new again. I would love to share this book with my daughters!


33 Cheryl B. June 6, 2013 at 1:32 am

Another wonderful book to have. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!


34 Connie Haack June 6, 2013 at 4:52 am

I would love to win this book. I am always looking for inspiration to transform older pieces of furniture.


35 Linda Chaput June 6, 2013 at 5:17 am

Still learning all that I can on how to transform my furniture. This book looks so interesting. Thank you for the chance to win…….


36 Barbara Goodspeed June 6, 2013 at 5:51 am

Diane, I’ve been following you for just over a year and am inspired with each project. Thanks for recommending paste wax on unfinished furniture!


37 Margaret Potter June 6, 2013 at 6:41 am

This book would be so much fun to have. I love making something new out of a cast off! Thanks!


38 Lynda Dunham-Watkins June 6, 2013 at 6:57 am

Love the things you do and enjoy following you. ‘Thinking’ about doing my linoleum bathroom floor with the marble technique.


39 Kathy Long June 6, 2013 at 7:02 am

This looks a very good, go to book!


40 LaDonna June 6, 2013 at 7:16 am

I have learned so much from reading your blog. I look at pieces of furniture at the thrift stores and even in my own house in a brand new way! Thank you!


41 Sherry W June 6, 2013 at 7:23 am

I love how the furniture turned out. I need to refinish a dresser this summer and this gives me some ideas.


42 Lynn June 6, 2013 at 7:27 am

Looks like a wonderful book!


43 kathy t June 6, 2013 at 7:29 am

i would love to win this book! thank you for the great give away


44 Debby Decker June 6, 2013 at 7:32 am

My hubbie is going to use your marblizing technique on a fireplace where he is a caretaker. Very nice photos in your post.


45 Linda Southworth June 6, 2013 at 7:41 am

My hubby and I look for good buys at last day and next to last day estate sales and find assorted items. One find was a very dark library table in need of a makeover. I could certainly use this as a quick hands on reference book!


46 Sally June 6, 2013 at 7:47 am

I would love the chance to win this book! Probably has some great ideas.


47 Michele M June 6, 2013 at 7:49 am

great article, thank you for sharing. Would love to win the furniture refinishing book! I have a whole room filled with project pieces that need the help!!



48 Jeanette June 6, 2013 at 8:01 am

I love the way the 2 pieces have different finishes but work together beautifully to create one piece. Great job!


49 Lisa O. June 6, 2013 at 8:15 am

This is perfect timing! I plan to chalk paint my kitchen table and chairs but, I want to sand & wax the top of the table. This will be my first attempt at refinishing furniture & I so appreciate your great tips!!


50 Lynn June 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

I was so intrigued by your blog post (and your own faux marble painting) that I immediately went to Barb Blair’s website to see her stuff! Anxious to own her book – even if I don’t win, will need to purchase as I have a number of pieces of furniture I would love to put a new face to. Thanks.

P.S. love all the sharing you do with us…


51 Renea June 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

I have a few old and used dressers that I want to makeover and this book would be a great help. Thanks for the giveaway.


52 Kathy June 6, 2013 at 8:39 am

I just love your blog, the marble top look has to be the best! Thanks for all the sharing of ideas, just wish I had the time to do some of them!


53 Rhonda June 6, 2013 at 8:41 am

Thanks for the giveaway, hope to win. I have some bedroom furniture to repair and refinish, the book would be a great help.


54 Julie June 6, 2013 at 8:49 am

I love your cabinet. This book would be a great help I have a couple of pieces I would like to try.


55 Denise Cerro June 6, 2013 at 8:52 am

I found you awhile back while searching out chalk paint recipes and have been following you ever since! I also love Knack Studios and the simplicity of Barb Blair’s work & photos. Keeping my fingers crossed that I might be the winner!
Thanks for all the information and inspirations!


56 Angeline June 6, 2013 at 8:59 am

Lovely giveaway!


57 Leslie H. June 6, 2013 at 9:02 am

I just recently discovered your website. And I’m so glad I did! You’ve answered so many of my questions. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with the world!


58 Alicia Turner June 6, 2013 at 9:07 am

School is out for the summer and as soon as I ” spring/summer” clean, I will be starting to redo all the old furniture I’ve bought during the year. Have been loving your blog and your great tips. Hope to win the book for extra info on all my projects.


59 Katrina Moline June 6, 2013 at 9:24 am

I just bought an old french provincial style dining table made in the 50′s from a wonderful woman on Craig’s List. It’s sitting in my dining room looking perfectly fine but I just want to re-do it so bad anyway. Hoping this book will be the motivation I need!


60 Mary Alice June 6, 2013 at 9:31 am

Yours is one of my favorite blogs. I have it in my favorites list and hop over here several times a week. I learned how to slip cover an office chair from you and I smile every time I look at that chair now. Thanks! The book you are offering looks very interesting. Fingers crossed. :-)


61 Desi June 6, 2013 at 9:41 am

I would love this book! I am in the process of redecorating (on a major budget) and it would be very helpful! thank you.


62 Desi June 6, 2013 at 9:42 am

I would love this book. I am currently in the process of redecorating (on a major budget) and have a few pieces that I am unsure what to do with. Thank you!


63 Jessica June 6, 2013 at 9:45 am

I love your cabinet! The faux marble is beautiful. We are a military family and move every couple of years, so I have always been hesitant to buy nice furniture. You blog has inspired to buy inexpensive pieces and make them beautiful myself. I think your book giveaway looks really interesting. Thanks!!


64 Laura B June 6, 2013 at 9:52 am

I have been wanting to start refinishing furniture and wasn’t sure how to start… Getting a copy of this book would help me out a lot!


65 Rebecca June 6, 2013 at 10:11 am

The white faux marble is beautiful, but do you by chance have any photos of the green faux marble? Just curious about how that looked on the piece.



66 Diane Henkler June 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Hi Rebecca – Before I posted this post, I tried to find a photo that showed the green marble, but could not find one. It was about 14 years ago when I painted over it.


67 Rose C. June 6, 2013 at 10:14 am

I began following your blog last year, and just love all of the different ways that you recreate things to suit your taste. I have a couple of pieces that I would love to refinish and/or paint to suit my own taste. Thanks again for sharing all of your creative and stylish ideas with us.


68 Sherry June 6, 2013 at 10:18 am

I love the look of unfinished wood… Thanks for all the information to achieve this look!


69 Michelle June 6, 2013 at 10:25 am

You’ve planted so many seeds of inspiration, I can’t tell you! I several pieces that have the same ‘orange’ look of the last decade, which I think I just may strip! I love the results of your latest endeavor, and look forward to what you do next. Great job!


70 Brenda Stafford June 6, 2013 at 10:25 am

Diane, I hate to sound gushy, but I so look forward to your posts! I have just retired and am searching for a creative outlet for my new spare time and want to try some of your ideas. Thanks so much. The book sounds like just what I need to transform some old furniture that I have. Looking forward to your next post!


71 Cathleen June 6, 2013 at 10:45 am

I need this book! Love your blog…


72 Lynn June 6, 2013 at 11:11 am

Boy, need this! Have a garage full of items that are intriguing but need work!


73 Annie June 6, 2013 at 11:45 am

Just found your site and I am delighted and inspired! Both daughters want to paint their dressers this summer and now we wills have help!


74 Gwenn Townsend June 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm

You have given me the confidence and knowledge to conquer my first project . I refinished my old yellow varnished pine table we bought when I was prego with my second baby over 17 yrs ago! It is now a nice smooth beautiful robin egg blue. Gorgeous ! Goodbye , sharpie , markers , and nail polish spills :)


75 Angie S June 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm

That book looks FABULOUS!!! I’d love to win!


76 Pati June 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Thanks for all the tips. Looks great!


77 Stephanie June 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I am so thrilled to have discovered your blog as a “newbie” DIY home décor lady, I am so grateful to you for your wonderful, affordable and easy to do projects!!!


78 vikki June 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I love your faux marble top, I have yet to try that one and really want to do it somewhere in my house. I would love to win that book so I hope you pick me.


79 KatieQ June 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I started stripping a table that belonged to my grandmother, but never finished because I didn’t like the way it was coming out. That was more than 20 years ago the table is in pieces under the beds in our guest room. Maybe it’s time to take it out and try to finish the project. Thanks for the inspiration.


80 Diane Henkler June 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Hi Katie – I say go for it, you may be pleasantly surprised how it turns out. I was a bit skeptical when I was actually in the stripping process, but once I cleaned it up, I was smitten :)


81 Ce El June 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Diane, Thanks for the chance on a smart looking book. Just the thing for my retirement projects.


82 Sherry June 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Love all your lighting ideas! I have a lot of things that need refinishing. I have old furniture from my brother who passed away 2 years ago and need some ideas .


83 Ferchi June 6, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I love books, and much more if the are about furniture makeovers, thank you for the giveaway.


84 kat June 6, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I’m always impressed by how beautifully your pieces turn out. I have the enthusiasm, but alas not nearly the skill. Perhaps this book would help?


85 Bettsi June 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Hi Diane, thanks for the tips! I just started renting a little booth in a local antiques mall- this book looks like it be a lot of great inspiration! I’m crossing my fingers. :-D


86 Kim June 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm

You did an amazing job. We just completed a renovation on our house, and some of my furniture needs to be updated. A book like this would really be helpful. Thanks for sharing as well as a chance for some blog candy. Kim


87 Hilda June 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm

I loved your furniture makeovers. I had 4 pieces of furniture that I want to do, but I’m afraid to mess them up. Help!
The book will help ;)


88 Jodi June 6, 2013 at 11:49 pm

I have a garage full of furniture I’ve collected over the year to rehab while on summer break. HELP!


89 Tamra Hamlett June 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Have been transforming furniture with paint for years, would love to have
this book! Love how you do a piece over and over !


90 janice June 8, 2013 at 9:16 am

I am painting a few things and would love to have the book to be a guide and inspiration.


91 Sue June 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I am just getting into furniture redo and would love to have that book to learn the tricks of the trade.


92 Deanna June 8, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Would love to win this book!


93 Destiny June 10, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I’ve just started refinishing a headboard. My next project will be a dresser as soon as I find one that meets our needs and budget. I’d love to win to learn more!


94 Julia January 23, 2014 at 12:03 pm

There is something to be said about wood that is left looking natural. The simplicity of natural wood that is unsealed makes your home feel wonderfully rustic.


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