Pine wood - how to refinish pine furniture

Refinishing Pine Furniture

Sarah Stahl
Sarah Stahl
Passion for transforming tired, old furniture into bold works of art. Sharing my learning with you.

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Pine wood Furniture is easy to come by. When I first started refinishing furniture, it was probably the type of wood I recognized first. This is due to Pine being fast growing, soft wood which makes it more sustainable for growth and economical for our pockets.  But before you opt to start refinishing pine furniture, you need to consider this first. 

Pine is a wood that can be heavy with knots and these knots consist of tannins and resins which tend to bleed through paint and even some primers.  To ensure your piece continues to look pristine over the years, you need to take certain precautions.

Table of Contents

My First Project and my First Fail

The very first piece of furniture I refinished was a pine Tarva 6 drawer dresser from Ikea.  I had purchased the dresser under the impression that solid wood was better than veneer.  Never once did I question the fact that this solid wood was cheaper than other pieces made of veneer.  I had no knowledge of the quality of wood and veneers, nor that different types of wood required different methods of refinishing.

I look back to that first pine piece with fond memories of a refinishing passion ignited.  This single project taught me so much learning, specifically that pine requires top products to be successfully refinished.  The knots of pine can make this wood a long-term disaster if not handled correctly. Sealing the wood knots to ensure no bleed through is a challenge.  

Pine Dresser after painting and priming with water based primer
My very first project

How to Recognize Pine Wood

Pine wood is probably one of the most recognizable types of wood available. It’s a cheap, soft wood that lends itself well to modern furniture producers who are looking to capitalize on the term “Solid Wood”. It is also known for its rustic, cabin, or farmhouse charm.

Pine wood with knots

Grain

Normally pine has a straight grain with little fluctuation.  You can find wavy grain patterns, but it is less common.

Colour

This is the typical wood when you think ski lodge.  It’s creamy, pale, white in tones and over the years it will deepen in colour more a soft yellow-brown hue.  The knots in pine are easily recognizable, often deep brown or shades of black, they stand out against the soft, pale wood tones.

Texture

Pine is medium to coarse in texture.  The knots can be bumpy in feel and stand out against the smoother wood.  

Weight

Pine is a softwood and light in weight.  Using the wood calculator; a 10 cm cubed piece of white pine will weigh in at 0.35 to 0.5 kilograms.  Despite being light in weight, this wood is still adequate in strength for your diy projects

Scent

Pine has a distinct odour that is often used in cleaning products. Think “pine scent” it’s a woodsy smell that will lessen over time.

Refinishing Pine Furniture

When it comes to refinishing pine, there are two key considerations. How to stain pine successfully, as it is a wood type which tends to stain unevenly and how to adequately seal in the knots to ensure that there will be no bleed through.

Staining Pine Wood

Staining Pine can be tricky as the wood tends to be different levels of dryness and the knots can affect an even stain.  I will be open that I am no expert in this area and before you dive into staining pine, I recommend that you first do you research.  A great place to dive into more information on staining pine is Charleston Crafted whom posted an article focused solely on staining pine.

Priming Pine Wood

If you are looking to paint pine wood, you need to invest in a very good primer.  Standard primer will not work over the long term.  Trust me, I know from experience.

That first project I did, I used a standard wood primer, water based.  When it first went on, the knots disappeared.  And they stayed gone, for a few months.  Over the years (approximately 5 years now) those knots have shown their faces again and now are unsightly marks on the otherwise beautiful dresser. 

Thankfully this dresser was an item for our family and wasn’t an item which I sold.  It would have been rather embarrassing to hear that the products used, had failed over time.  After all, small businesses rely on word of mouth and are placed under tough scrutiny.

Pine Dresser After 4 years with water based primer, bleed-through
Bleed Through showing up as dark spots

Shellac based Primer.

I have used water-based primers on several projects and while they are sufficient for most wood types, I will only use shellac-based primers on pine.  From my personal experience shellac-based primers are tougher at locking in resins and tannins which can slowly seep out over time.  Shellac builds a resin barrier over the wood and locks everything in and everything out.  It’s tough!

You can make shellac easily at home with a simple recipe, or you can purchase finished shellac.  If you plan on painting over the shellac, ensure that you purchase a de-waxed version.

Brush with shellac for application

Final Thoughts

Pine is a wonderful softwood, used to create rustic, farmhouse furniture.  Should you wish to refinish it, you need to consider that Pine requires extra attention to ensure that the tannins and resins within the knots, will not ruin your finished piece over time. 

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