I have a bedroom furniture set that is a very light colored wood. My 13 year old son has asked to have this furniture put into his bedroom, so he can have a larger bed. Unfortunately, I feel the color is too light and I would like it to look more masculine. I would like to stain or paint the furniture to be a dark grey or black (non-shiny) color. Are there any paints or stains that can be used without having to sand down the furniture?
I would think you would have to sand it
If truth be known, when going over varnished or glossy paint finishes, the bond of the new finish is NEVER as good as when going over virgin or bared wood. The new product just does not penetrate into the fiber of the wood. What this means is that the new finish will be highly chip prone, whether the old varnish was sanded or deglossed. This will be true for both paint or Polyshades.
I will assume that a typical 13 year old is not going to be gentle on the furniture, even his own. Whereas Polyshades will darken the finish, when scratched, the old lighter finish will be clearly visible. It will also be harder to touch up then a solid color paint. Also, when using Polyshades, it is a good idea to first make a sample areas to check for compatibility with the finish being covered. The Polyshades instructions clearly indicate that it is not compatible with certain finishes, such as true lacquers. If incompatibility problems exist, a bond coat of de-waxed shellac can be applied first.
When applying finishes such as Polyshades where the color is actually in the urethane varnish, it behooves one to use the best brush available, at a minimum a good china bristle brush. I personally always used oxhair brushes when doing fine varnishing or laying out of "brushing stains", i.e. stains which are not intended to be wiped off. This is important since an uneven coat of the varnish means the coloring will also be uneven.
If you have the equipment, spraying will give good results. Indeed, much furniture today utilizes these one coat products to spray the "stain" and finish in one coat. It is a tremendous time saver for a manufacturer. Presently, very darkly, almost black, stained furniture is very popular. The same problem exists, however, in that once the coating is breeched, the light, natural wood is immediately visible.
Changing color without sanding can be done with oil-base primer followed by paint, but you'll go from your natural wood appearance to painted wood ... not exactly what you described!
On the other hand, buff sanding with 220-grit sandpaper and applying MinWax Polyshades will accomplish exactly what you describe ... with the only exception being you have to sand very lightly to scuff up the existing clear coat before applying your new color.
You will not be able to do a true stained finish without totally stripping the wood. If you do not want to sand, you SURE do not want to strip. It is a messy, not inexpensive operation using caustic liquids.
As to painting: the existing finish has to either be scuff sanded with sandpaper, or rubbed down with a de-glossing liquid to assure a good bond to the slick varnish. My preference is the scuff sanding with 220 sandpaper. You do not have to sand through to the wood, but merely roughup the surface slightly. The dust raised is minimal.
For small projects where a really good finish is desired, I often suggest the use of spray cans. Spray cans will not leave brush marks. Oil paints dry to a hard, durable surface. Acylics retain a soft, gummy feel which is accentuated in humid weather. If you rest your arm on it, it feels sticky. One trick when using spray cans is to heat the can in straight hot water from the faucet. Heating builds up the pressure in the can and, because it is oil paint, the paint becomes more viscous, i.e. it flows better when warm.
The goal is to spray the paint in long, continuous, straight strokes, overlapping each stroke about 50%. If streaks show while wet, it will look worse when dry. The paint should flow together.
If you are thinking of a black or dark gray finish coat, there is a medium gray primer available from RustOleum. The primer will give you additional adhesion to the varnish. It also has "tooth", that is, if has a slightly rough feeling surface which will grab the paint and help keep it from running when spraying verticle surfaces.
Another trick to keep paint from running is to first give a very light "tack" coat of paint. After waiting a minute for this coat to get tacky, a full flowing coat is then applied. The tack coat will help keep the finish coat from running or sagging.
Obviously, this job requires a warm place where a little mess can be made. A heated garage or waiting for warm weather is ideal.
You indicate you would prefer flat paint. I would caution that flat paints are subject to "burnishing", that scuffed look. I would at least use a satin sheen.
You also have the option to brush oil paint onto your bedroom set. In this case, I would prime with an oil enamel undercoater followed by a finish coat of oil. After undercoating, you will want to give the primer a light sanding. It will "dust up". After wiping the dust off, you can commence with the painting. Here again, a warm work space is neccessary. For the larger flat areas, a foam roller helps rapidly spread a nice even coat. An old painter's trick is to, rather than thin the paint, heat it. Warm oil paint spreads like butter and levels itself well.
What I never recommend for fine furniture is brushing acrylic/latex paint. They just do not flow out as evenly as oil paint and, as stated above, they retain that gummy feeling. Objects placed on acrylic selves or table tops will feel almost like they are glued down. You have to give them a tug to break them loose.
Hope this has helped.
Please take a look at this product. Even though is says cabinets....It will work on most all types of wood.