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Refinish Cabinets

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See my first video below that illustrates some of the initial look and feel of how I refinish cabinets at the various stages. I don’t yet get into the actual process of performing the refinishing job just yet. I’m just taking a few minutes to show you what I started out with in terms of cabinet panels, how they look when stained and finally, how they will look when finished.

Please enjoy and I promise to prove more videos on the actual process of removing varnish, applying stain and how to properly vanish to a finished product. One cautionary note; I am an amateur – not a master carpenter. So everything I do many not be 100%, but I also will not put up with a hoky looking job either. I think it’s important for you, because if I can do it, you can too!

Refinish Kitchen Cabinets

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My wife and I decided to embark upon the challenge of refinishing our kitchen. You can say, I can tell you can spend a million dollars for an refinishing kitchen. I am exaggerating a bit, but some of the salespeople I talked to were definitely reaching between 50,000 and $100,000.

With that shocking fact in mind, we started to look at purchasing cabinets from the local IKEA or home depot store. Again we were shocked, that to replace our cabinets with more modern cabinets of the same quality that we only have, we could easily spend $10,000. I believed there has to be a better way.

Not being one to back away from a challenge, I decided to try to refinish our kitchen cabinets. Just so you know, I am not a cabinet maker. I have done small projects finishing wood, but nothing so visual as a set of kitchen cabinets. Let’s just say it’s been a learning experience.

Right now as I write this article, I’m well into the refinishing project. I do believe that I’ve got staining down. Well, as good as an amateur can. Right now I’m learning how to varnish. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our current cabinets are actually pretty good shape. They were manufactured in the 80’s and they are made of oak. The finish is simple, just a straight varnish. Unfortunately though the varnish has yellowed over time. So it looks very old and tired because of that.

Refinish kitchen cabinets – removing the varnish

So before I can refinish kitchen cabinets, the varnish that is currently on the cabinets must be removed. This in itself is an interesting exercise. I found the very best method is using a chemical stripper.

I would apply the chemical stripper with an expensive paintbrush. I let that stripper sit for about 30 seconds to a minute, then apply a second coat of the stripper. I would then use a thin punny knife with a 1 inch blade and carefully scrape off the first coat of varnish.

I would than immediately apply a second layer of the stripper. Again I would use the putty knife to scrape off the next layer of varnish. I would continue this process until no more varnish was coming off. For non-flat surfaces, like grooves in the cabinet’s face, I’m using a putty knife that has grooved edges.

Also for non-flat surfaces, I’ve started to use plastic scrubby pads that you would use for cleaning pots and pans. Just make sure it that they’re the real cheap ones.

You know when you have removed all the varnish, when you cannot see any shiny surfaces or varnish edges against a strong light on the wood. I’ll warn you, this is a long process. It can take you several weeks to strip your cabinets. You cannot be in a rush. Otherwise you can gouge the wood.

If you’re considering staining the cabinets after like I am, I would advise against using sandpaper unless you’re compared to sand the whole surface with that same grit. Uneven sanding will cause you big grief when you try to stain the wood.

So stay tuned, and I’ll talk more about how you can refinish kitchen cabinets like a pro.