A furniture refinisher is a craftsperson who repairs and renovates broken, tattered or antique furniture. She traditionally only works with furniture that is made of wood or wood veneer. If upholstery on a furniture piece requires refurbishment or replacement, she frequently works in conjunction with an expert in that field. A refinisher may work for a company that specializes in resurfacing wooden items or for an antique dealer. A significant number of furniture refinishers are self-employed.
After she assesses the damage, a furniture refinisher often researches the piece to see what it originally looked like. This is particularly important if the piece is an antique. Armed with this information, which often includes a photograph, she generally proceeds to removing the finish. Whether it is varnish, lacquer or paint, the refinisher commonly assembles a range of substances and tools for the job. These items normally include several different grades of sandpaper and steel wool, along with powerful chemical compounds and solvents.
When the surface has been completely stripped of all paint and varnish, the furniture refinisher customarily applies a wood filling paste to the object. This step fills in all the holes, chips and crevices to create a smooth surface. After the putty dries, she proceeds to repair or replace damaged furniture parts. This often requires using clamps, wood screws, tiny nails and wood glue. If the damage is extensive, hand or power saws may be needed.
This step is typically followed by more sanding and smoothing with the steel wool. The application of stain, paint, lacquer or varnish normally follows, depending on how the original piece was finished. After the surface dries, the finisher traditionally does a final inspection, buffs out any imperfections and applies more coating as necessary.
Since this job requires the frequent use of toxic and flammable substances, it is important for the furniture refinisher to be knowledgeable about how to properly store and handle the products. It is also commonly required that she be aware of the effects of potentially harmful fumes and ensure her workspace is properly ventilated. Protective gloves and surgical masks are generally worn by furniture refinishers.
Being physically fit is also generally important for this position. A refinisher is often required to load and unload pieces of furniture as well as manipulate pieces in the course of refinishing. Excellent manual dexterity is an asset.
There are normally no educational requirements for this position. Most furniture refinishers are self-taught or learn the trade through apprenticeships or on-the-job training. Some trade schools and colleges offer basic, intermediate and advanced courses in furniture refinishing and restoration.