I have a large built-in entertainment center. This was already there
when we bought the house. The contruction is great. It is made of
high-density particle board (this stuff is heavy!) with oak veneer. The
veneer is quite yellow now, and we would like to give it a more
contemporary look. I would like to have something that looks like a
light color stain (so we still see the grain), in the gray-blue tone.
But I don't want to remove all the varnish, that would be messy, smelly
and take a long time... Can I apply a glaze directly on the varnish?
Can the glaze really change the color from yellowed oak to a light
gray-blue? Should I use something else?
My other option is to forget about the grain of the veneer, do a light
sanding and paint everything with a solid color. Then create a
faux-fini to give it some character. But that is more work, and I would
loose the look of natural wood.
Thanks for your inputs!
Yes, you can. However, since the old varnish would have fully cured
long ago, the new varnish will not stick to it directly. You'll need
to rough it up with some 220 grit sandpaper so the new finish has some
grooves to bite into.
A good option would be to buy a colorant that you can add directly to
the new varnish. If you plan to use an oil-based varnish, get a dye or
pigment which dissolves in mineral spirits. If you plan to use
water-based polyurethane, get a water-soluble dye (aniline dye is a
good choice because you can find a huge variety of premixed colors or
you can mix your own starting with primary colors). Trans-tint dyes
are a good option, too. They come in concentrated liquid form and are
compatible with oil-, water-, and alcohol-based finishes.
Make sure you apply thin coats. I'm assuming you'll be brushing or
wiping (as opposed to spraying) since this is a built-in. You can
always build up additional coats to darken the color, but it's a lot
harder to undo a coat that's too dark. Also, when brushing it's very
easy to get too much finish in inside corners and various nooks and
crannies. If you apply the color slowly over the course of multiple
coats, you can avoid areas on subsequent coats that got overly dark the
first time around.
Be patient and practice on some scraps. It would be helpful, of
course, if you could reproduce the current yellowed oak color so you'll
be able to see exactly what the new color will look like as you
As far as "un-yellowing" the color to achieve a gray-blue result, I
don't know. Hopefully somebody more experienced with coloring can give
you some hints. Otherwise, I guess just play around until you achieve
the desired result.
A lot of times that kind of furniture is finished with lacquer if it
came from a factory, and not with varnish. Two different animals.
Regardless, I don't think I would put anything over the old finish and
would plan on stripping it off if you are looking for a "tone on" color
and finish. No matter what you do, especially if you glaze, you will
have the pee yellow color as the base for your new color scheme.
This is problematic, and depends on what your level of acceptance of
your finished project will be. If you go over the yellow with a nice
blue gray glaze, then you will have the yellow combining with the
blues, and it will take on a decidedly green hue.
Worse, if the finishes are not compatible, they could do all kinds of
things at the time you are wiping your glaze on.
If the project has conversion lacquer or as you say, a varnish top
coat, you will have problems staining this. Sanding will not remove
the hardened resins (unless you can get it to bare wood everywhere) all
over the piece equally and your finish will come out spotty and
blotchy. When refinishing, I can tell when I miss a spot or there is
buildup of resin because when I spray dye or stain it will make little
beads, and that area won't accept color or finish well.
I would strip it (one coat of finish won't be that bad) then tone it
the way I wanted and then finish. That way you are sure. Hours and
days won't be lost trying to do something that may or may not work.
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