Welcome to the ultimate list of must-have furniture refinishing supplies! The goal of this post is to equip you with the most comprehensive list of essential tools, materials, and protective gear needed to take on furniture refinishing projects of any size. This is not a bare minimum list of tools to get started. It is a list for the occasional flipper looking to ensure that they have the right supplies on hand in order to grow their business further. With the right tools you can achieve quality results safely and efficiently.
Most tools and supplies will be available at your local hardware store, so keep an eye out for sales. You can also luck out at thrift stores as sheds are cleaned out of tools no longer required.
Table of Contents
When refinishing furniture, it’s absolutely essential to use proper safety equipement to protect yourself from inhaling toxic dust or getting chemicals on your skin.
Respirator mask – Get a respirator mask rated for organic vapours and dust particles to avoid breathing in paint stripper fumes or wood dust when sanding. Make sure it fits properly and forms a tight seal on your face.
Goggles – Wear protective goggles when stripping paint or spraying finishes to keep chemicals or debris from getting in your eyes. Look for ones with indirect venting.
Gloves – Use thick rubber gloves when handling paint strippers and other chemicals. Disposable gloves work well for general cleaning and other tasks. Change gloves frequently to avoid contaminating your supplies.
First aid kit – Keep a first aid kit on hand for minor cuts, burns or rashes that can happen when refinishing furniture. Include bandages, antibiotic ointment, chemical burn cream, eye wash, and anything else you might need in an emergency.
Lead Test – Lead test swabs are useful for testing older pieces. Check not only painted pieces, but also finishes and stains for potential lead contamination.
Having the proper safety gear and using it consistently will help avoid accidents and keep you healthy as you refinish furniture. Don’t take shortcuts – your safety is too important! Invest in high-quality safety equipment and make it part of your regular refinishing routine.
Cleaning your furniture piece is probably the most important step of prep work. Ensure you have this list of handy cleaning tools available to get that deep clean.
Tack cloth – These are essential for removing dust between sanding grits and before applying a finish. The slightly sticky fabric picks up fine dust without leaving residue or lint behind.
Rags or cloths – Cotton rags are useful for applying and removing products. Keep a stash of clean rags on hand to wipe away excess stain, finish, or paint.
Buckets – Keep a few on hand
Cleaning Products – I usually keep a variety of cleaners on hand, as each has different strengths and work for different projects. Check a full list of cleaners out here.
Tooth Brush – A tooth brush is a handy tool to get into corners and scrub or brush away dust.
Scrub Brushes – Scrub brushes from any hardware store or supermarket can be used to scrub your piece when cleaning to ensure you can get rid of all dirt and grime.
It’s important to ensure you clean your piece correctly and thoroughly. Follow these steps to ensure that you succeed at cleaning your piece the first time.
Paint and Finish Removal
Paint removal is an important steps in preparing your furniture in refinishing. There are a few methods for removing old paint and finish from wood furniture, and each refinisher has a favourite. Don’t stick to only one type of removal method as each has it’s time and place. Ensure you have all options available in your furniture refinishing supplies.
Chemical Paint Stripper – Use chemical stripper when removing finish on delicate veneer or to penetrate multiple layers of paint. Make sure to use strippers in a well-ventilated area and follow all safety precautions.
Plastic scraper – Use plastic scrappers to remove the stripper to avoid scratching the surface.
Heat Gun – You can use a heat gun to heat and scrape away old paint and finish. Furthermore, I reach for the heat gun to speed up paint drying, when bleaching wood with hydrogen peroxide, for loosening old glue and removing veneer.
Carbide Scraper – Another great tool to remove old finish and paint. A favourite among refinishers, but should be avoided on veneer. A slip of the hand can result in scratches on your wood.
Wire brush – Available at most hardware stores in the paint section. These wire brushes can be used to scrub when using chemical paint strippers. Avoid using these brushes with water as it can cause black spots on your wood due to oxidization.
Steel Wool – Another great way to scrub at chemical paint stripper, in order to remove paint deep in the grain.
By using one or multiple of these methods, you can strip the piece of paint or old finish, easily. Getting down to the bare wood is an important step in furniture refinishing and requires patience to avoid damaging the wood or veneer underneath.
Surface Preparation and Furniture Repair
Once you have removed the previous finish, you need to prepare the surface for paint, stain or new finish and make any necessary repairs. Nearly every furniture restoration project will require minor repairs, at a minimum.
Wood filler – Use wood filler to patch any dents, knots, holes, or imperfections in the wood before refinishing. Let it fully cure before sanding flush. Apply a stain if needed to blend with the surrounding wood color.
Wood epoxy – Epoxy putty
Wood Glue – Wood Glue is a must have in your work space. You will need it for fixing drawers, gluing down veneer and other issues that you may have come across.
Clamps – The unsung hero of the repairs. You will need clamps to hold your repair while the wood glue dries. Clamps can be expensive so keep your eyes open when thrifting. You may luck out and find a few clamps to beef up your collection.
The chances you only come across pieces in pristine condition is slim. Furthermore those pristine pieces don’t require refinishing. Look for pieces with small to medium repairs required and get learning. Ensure your furniture refinishing supplies consist of items to make repairs and develop your skills!
It’s no secret that I love using shellac, both as a primer and to showcase woodgrain. I use shellac on nearly every single project I have worked on. I also calculated that making your own shellac, when you require it, can be cheaper that purchasing shellac based primers. Who doesn’t love a saving!
De-waxed Shellac Flakes – When purchasing your shellac flakes, ensure you choose de-waxed shellac. Originally shellac is a waxed product, therefore, if you wish to paint over it, you need to have de-waxed.
Ethanol alcohol – 99% pure ethanol alcohol is required to be mixed with your shellac flakes in order to make a liquid that can be brushed onto the wood surface.
Kitchen Scale – For measuring your shellac and ethanol alcohol out.
For a full shellac recipe and to learn more about shellac in general, check out the following pages.
Hand Sanding Tools
While I try to avoid hand sanding, I usually wind up having to hand sand on every single project. These tools will make your hand sanding jobs easier, while avoiding screw ups which can cause unsightly scratches.
Sanding Paper – Keep a range of grits on hand: start with 80-100 grit paper to remove existing finish, then use 120, 150, and 240 grits to smooth the surface for staining or painting.
Sanding block – help to prevent uneven sanding. I have both foam and cork blocks, but a simple wooden block works perfectly.
Sanding Contour Grips – I always recommend contour grips to new furniture refinishers. The various shapes help you to sand in those near impossible areas and small spaces.
Finishing Pads – These pads are my go to for in between coats of paint, shellac or finish. I prefer them to standard sanding paper. It leaves the finish buttery smooth.
It’s a good idea to have these tools available in your kit as you never know when and which you will require. Invest in quality tools which should last you a life time.
Visit your local hardware store to add to your hand tool collection.
Putty Knives – A putty knife helps scrape and smooth wood filler, glazes, paints and finishes. Opt for a few different sizes for precision work. Stainless steel offers durability.
Hammer – A must have tool for any tool box. Consider a smaller hammer and a rubber hammer. Together these should be more than sufficient for all your hammer needs.
Screw Drivers – You will need multiple screw drivers in multiple sizes and head types. You never know what type of screws where used in days of yore.
Pliers – These will be used for a multitude of tasks. I probably use mine the most for pulling out screws or nails that no longer will cooperate.
Utility Knife – Another must have tool for your kit. You will need a sharp knife one day and this will solve the issue.
Power tools are usually a higher investment to make in terms of cost. However, I would recommend budgeting for key power tools as soon as you can.
They can greatly speed up certain processes and lead to better results. A win in business terms!
Electric or power Sander – Your first large purchase should be an electric sander. You can opt for cheaper, home use sanders or you can look at getting a professional level sander for your workshop. Either way, consider getting an orbital sander, which will be great for large, flat surfaces and a delta sander for corners and smaller areas. I personal have a Festool RO 90, which can be used as both an orbital sander and a delta sander. It is smaller than other orbital sanders, but I live the control it provides when working on veneer.
Dust Extraction System – your second large purchase should be a dust extraction system. It could be a vaccuum system which connects to your sander and will minimize the amount of dust that you will create in your space.
Drill – A drill is a handy tool for creating new hardware holes. Ensure that your drill can also be used as a screw driver, to make quick work of removing hardware and hinges.
Brushes and Rollers
Probably the number one tool I will use in my tool kit, are paint brushes. I have probably a hundred brushes, ranging from cheap chip brushes to more pricey brushes for top coating, wax brushes, dedicated brushes for hydrogen peroxide, shellac, and other chemical applications. I do not use a paint sprayer. As, I usually opt for tape design or other design work. Furthermore, I have limited space for spraying. Perhaps one day I will try spraying.
Please keep in mind what type of paint you tend to use. If you regularly use water based paints, opt for synthetic bristles. They work best with water-based paints and limit brush strokes.
Round brush – to be used with any rounded or curved shape, as well as ornate details. Think Chair Spindles.
Fan brush – For ornate shapes and crevices. Think edge moulding.
Triangle or pointed – For internal corners. Those hard-to-reach internal corners in a shelf.
Flat – For larger flat surfaces. Think the top of that dresser, or sides. You can get these brushes in a variety of sizes. Smaller for details and larger for flat, large surfaces.
Chip brush – A must have! These cheaper, disposable chip brushes are useful for applying chemical strippers, stain, primer, glue and when you need to toss a brush afterwards. Keep an eye out for sales
I occasionally use rollers for larger, flat surfaces. They can be a time saver and also provide a flat, brush stroke free surface.
Small, Microfiber Roller – A smaller sized roller is sufficient for furniture pieces. Ensure it is a good quality roller and wrap it first in tape to remove any loose fibers.
With the right combination of brushes and rollers you can ensure that new coat of paint goes on flawless.
Chemicals and Other Items
The following are items which are useful to have for cleaning the wood, lightening the wood, or even to dye the wood.
Mineral Spirits – Also known as white spirits is a handy chemical to have around. You can use it to wipe down wood without raising the grain and for cleaning wax and oils.
Oxalic Acid – a natural chemical which can bring wood back to it’s original tone and clean up organic stains, such as those dark marks caused by water.
Hydrogen Peroxide – useful for lightening wood beyond it’s natural tones.
Ammonia – Required with hydrogen peroxide to lighten wood tones.
Everyone’s Furniture Refinishing tool kit will look different from other’s as we each have an individual style and preferred restoration process. Share your helpful tips on what tools or refinishing supplies I missed in the comments below. Let’s create an even better list together!