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Easiest way to stain pre-stained wooden chairs in a darker color

Before I start, let me say I am a complete newbie who has never painted or stained anything.


I got these 6 dining chairs from a thrift shop (picture attached) and want to stain it in the darker walnut color of the adjoining dining table and mirror.


1. What would be the easiest and least time-taking method to do this job and how long would an absolute newbie like me take to complete this process for 6 chairs?


2. I have heard that it is necessary to sand the chairs before I can stain them in a darker color. I really don't wnt to do this. Is it necessary and how long would something like this take if I choose to do it.


3. What are the supplies (stain, brush, chemicals etc.) that I should get from Home Depot for this job? 


Thank you.


Dining chairs

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Posted 2012-08-24T03:37:42+0000  by libbrichus libbrichus




I hate to throw rain on your parade, but there is no easy and non-time consuming way to remove the existing finish :(

Your chairs appear to already have a fairly dark stain on them. It would be difficult to clean them sufficiently to take an even darker stain, I doubt that a mere penetrating stain could get them darker. You would have to utilize a dye stain. Dye stains are most commonly found in specialty workworker's stores.


Should you chose to proceed, you will first have to have a place to work in which you can make a mess and raise a stink from either paint strippers or possibly solvents. Some of these strippers and solvents are flammable, so you have to have plenty of fresh air and turn off possible sources of ignition. Basements are a bad choice. In most cases, the garage is a better choice.


As your chairs appear to still have a factory finish on them, solvents might possibly be able to dissolve the finish. Manufacturers often used lacquer finishes because of its super fast drying. If this is so, lacquer thinner or acetone applyed with fine steel wool should dissolve the finish.


If solvents alone don't do the job, you will have to move on to paint strippers. These are heavier liquids which will slowly raise the old finish. It will crinkle up and the residue can be largely scraped away. Further stripper will continue to remove residue which can then be removed with fine steelwool rubbed with the grain. Finally, the surface can then be wiped down with lacquer thinner and paper towels.


I do not like the use of sandpaper on such projects. Try as you may, the grain will be opened unevenly. This will result in the subsequent stain being absorbed at different rates. Splotchiness will result. Were the surfaces to be stained merely flat, sanding might be OK, but your chairs have virtually no flat surfaces.


As already stated, I doubt that you will be able to go darker with a mere penetrating stain. You can alter the color, but it will be hard to go darker. If darker is imperaitive, I would suggest you tract down a dye stain at the local woodworker's store or fine woods lumber yard.


Either way, once the stain has been applied to your satisfaction, a protective finish should be applied. Normally, this will be an urethane varnish. Urethanes are very wear and moisture resistant. With all the spindles and curved surfaces on your chairs, spray cans of urethane would be a good alternative. At least three coats will be neccesary to give sufficient protection. The first coat will not look very good because it will sink into the wood.  After a light sanding of the first coat with fine sandpaper, the second coat will look really good. However, it is the third coat that gives enough build up to protect the chair for the long haul.


Hope this has been somewhat helpful, if not too discouraging!

Posted 2012-08-24T04:20:58+0000  by ordjen

 One more possibility: you might have a furniture dip tank operation in your area. These operations will dip the piece in a tank of hot lye. It will totally strip the finish, but they are often very hard on the furniture joinery. I have no idea as to the cost.

Posted 2012-08-24T04:27:09+0000  by ordjen

Thanks a lot for the detailed answer, ordjen.


Unfortunately, due to lack of time and working space and my own inexperience, none of these solutions can be applied by me. I guess I will let the stain color remain as it is.


However, if I just want to cover the scratches etc. on these chairs without changing the color, what are some simple chemicals or sprays I could use. I doesn't have to be too consistent - I just want to make sure that embarrassing scratches are removed and it starts looking kinda new, I am attaching a couple of pictures of the kind of scratches I am talking about.

2012-08-24 00.44.37.jpg

2012-08-24 00.44.22.jpg



Posted 2012-08-24T04:49:53+0000  by libbrichus



Your chairs are factory distressed, that is, made to look old right from the factory. The finish is almost certainly a form of lacquer which contains the color in the one step sprayed on finish. The little black flecks are spritzed on to give an older appearance as well as some of the dings which were deliberately put in the wood. The fact that it is a one step finish is shown be the scratches on the chair back. As soon as the piece is scratched, bright, white wood is visible. The "stain' does not penetrate the wood, but sits on the surface with the finish.


First, I would give the chairs a good cleaning with a mild detergent to clean off any old oils and dirt. Certain marks, such as the white scuffs on the front of the arm might come off with nothing more than a good cleaning and rubbing with a piece of terry cloth or white 3M scrubbing pad.


In an inconspicuous place, try rubbing the finish with a piece of t-shirt knit wet with lacquer thinner. The finish will possibly start to dissolve , allowing you to redistribute the finish. You do not want to totally remove the finish, but just smear it around, evening out the color. If this works, you might then simply be able to spray over the area after dry with clear lacquer.


Another possible touch up is to chose the closest looking MInwax stain. However, I doubt very much that the stain will be absorbed into the scratched wood.  Without shaking the can, go to the bottom of the can and bring up the "muck"pigment. Using a fine artists brush, blend the muck over the scratches and just let it dry without wiping.

Once dry, spray over the muck with a little Zinsser shellac. Once dry, you should be able to put a coat of urethane over the whole chair. Again, make a test in an obscure area and wait a few hours to check for compatibility of the urethane with the old finish.


One last possible solution: MinWax makes a product called PolyShades. This is a urethane varnish with color suspended in it. It is not unlike, in concept, the original finish on your chairs. One color which covers particularly well, is "Bombay Mahogany". However, this color is very red. The good news is that if your friendly Home Depot associate is willing, green pigment can slowly be added to the varnish . This will turn the reddish color to a brown. The new color can then be brushed generally over the entire chair. As the color is in the varnish, each coat will darken the piece somewhat, hiding old flaws.


As you can see, this is as much art as science. It is a learning curve to see what achieves the best result.


Hope this has helped somewhat.


Sorry, again I don't give you really good options if you aren't in a position to make a mess.

Posted 2012-08-24T05:59:19+0000  by ordjen

There is a rule. You can go darker but not lighter. Good Rule!
You have to strip the finish or the covering off the wood. using a stain remover may help (not like carpet stain remover) this wil get to the wood. then pick out the color (darker) and stain it.




Posted 2012-11-19T05:35:42+0000  by nathanzggm
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