How To Strip, Refinish, & Restore Mahogany Furniture (2022)

Mahogany furniture is universally loved across numerous cultures, countries, and décor styles. This gloriously rich wood remains popular in the world of interior design, offering a compellingly good-looking material that’s also structurally excellent for furniture. If you’re lucky enough to own any mahogany pieces or you’re interested in picking up some vintage items you may realise how beneficial it is to restore it to former glories or understand the importance of maintaining its qualities. However, it’s not always clear how to restore mahogany furniture. So, today we take a deeper delve into the how’s, why’s and the what’s with refinishing mahogany furniture.

Identifying the right treatment

The first stage of restoring mahogany furniture is figuring out what exactly is needed and the best course of action to take. To explain; mahogany is a subtle yet rich material that can deceive in its needs. There’s a key difference in basic restoration versus the need to fully strip and revitalise. Read below to discover which one will apply for your furniture.

When to do a simple restore – know the signs

With a simple restoration, the work isn’t quite as long. It’s the process you’ll want to follow if there are minor patches or imperfections, or where the finish has dulled a little from old coatings of wax and your want is to bring it back to its original state. This is the method to go with if you largely want to match what’s already there. It involves a clean and reapplication of the pre-existing finish to the specific problem areas.

Identify The Finish

To best restore mahogany furniture in its simplest-smaller-project form it’s important to first figure out the required treatment, do this by testing the finish. To test the finish spot a small area of the wood with methylated spirit solution (denatured alcohol) then after a couple of minutes check for softening. If it does soften it’s a shellac finish. If it remains hard try a lacquer thinner dabbed onto the surface, if it then softens it is indeed lacquer. If it still remains hard it’s most likely a polyurethane or varnish. (If there’s any ambiguity with the finish consult a woodwork specialist for clarification.) Now you’ve identified the finish you need to buy the relevant finishing solution and follow the next steps in how to refinish mahogany furniture.

Clean And Revitalise, As Easy As 1,2,3

1. Firstly, use a household solvent that’s petroleum-based such as lighter fluid or the equivalent, apply in a small spot in case the wood is susceptible to whiten, in a vast amount of cases it won’t do so.

2. Secondly, mix some non-corrosive household suds with warm water and clean off and allow to dry. Then grab some fine grain sandpaper and work away at the problem area(s), as much as desired. Wipe off excess sawdust.

3. Lastly, have your coat ready of whichever substance matches your mahogany piece and apply with a brush or flat edge paint scraper/corrector tool. Allow to dry and dust off. By following these simple steps you’ll find the results will match your expectations on how best to restore mahogany furniture.

When to do the full strip and refinish

The larger project of stripping, refinishing, and restoring, (or even re-painting), is often preferred for cases with considerable staining or for furniture that’s fallen into disrepair, and especially for those wanting to renew the paint coat for the entire piece. It’s certainly a longer more involved process to complete when completely stripping mahogany furniture and refinishing it in your own vision, but the results can be incredibly positive when done right.

How To Strip Mahogany Furniture
Stripping mahogany furniture may just be the easiest part of the process. Firstly, dust off and ready your piece by removing and brushing away dust or grime build-up. Purchase a paint stripper that’s from a trusted brand/supplier with the key ingredient being dichloromethane, be careful with using this harsh substance and ensure the right protective garments, plastic gloves, and even goggles are in use. Temper the intensity of the chemical by pre-washing the surfaces with some distilled water before applying the stripper, this also allows a more mellow stripping to begin with to give you an idea of the eventual outcome. If you’re hoping to strip away a shellac finish or varnish rather than paint, a soy-based stripper may be the best product to consider. Use a paint scraper to carefully remove. Always follow the instructions on the product used.

All Filler No Killer – Sand, Fill & Stain
You’re most of the way there with how to best restore mahogany furniture, it’s time to iron out the kinks. With precious vintage mahogany pieces, you may find over time they’ve established knicks, gouges, or even holes. At this point, you’ll want to fill these little imperfections with wood filler that is stainable. This is important as you’ll be able to purchase specific wood staining touch-up paint that will match the underlying shade of your mahogany. Next, grab some trusty coarse sandpaper, and work the stained areas of the desired restoration with ample elbow grease. Stain the filler as desired and follow the instructions on your chosen product.

Paint, Seal, Coat and Finish
If your vision of restoring mahogany furniture is a newly painted piece now is the time to grab your paint and apply it evenly, double the coat if it doesn’t pop as much as desired. Once allowing to dry, (leave half a day at least to be sure), seal the wood with a wood sealer, further light sandpapering and scuffing at this point helps the subsequent coats to bond. Go ahead and then apply one or two more coats of sealer (dependent on the strength of the product you’ve chosen).

You’re Almost There! Oil, Wax (or lacquer), and Polish!
The final stage for this guide on how to restore mahogany furniture is the application of the final layers, we think one final coat of penetrating oil will moisturise the wood beneath splendidly and penetrate nicely, but also keep the quality locked in. Once this is completed and dried follow with a coat of your preferred mahogany wood wax, if using lacquer or shellac-based product double up on the coating! Lastly, polish with a soft dust cloth and sheen as much as desired, or leave as-is if a dulled painted finish is your ultimate goal.

The Atlantic Range offers traditional feeling furniture with sleek modern touches, a painted mahogany range that combines lacquered oak for gorgeous home decor options.

So, that is the basics of how to refinish mahogany furniture, from restoring painted mahogany furniture to bringing back the gleam and shine of a vintage piece, the above should give a framework to use when approaching this task. It goes without saying that in order to thoroughly restore mahogany furniture it’s a good idea to research and understand the products used in the process, also following the safety advice listed on these products.

We hope your old and new mahogany furniture pieces look fabulous in your home, and if it is newer pieces you’re seeking consider yourself well served with the extensive Mahogany Ranges on Inside Out Living, some of which are featured in the images in this article.



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