Using PolyShades to “Refinish” Furniture
A while back, I chatted all about this “rockin” furniture makeover (ha.ha.ha.). It’s the chair now featured in the corner of Henry’s new “big boy room”; and we use it for reading stories and cuddling! Even though I gave a full tutorial for what all I did to the chair here on the blog, I wanted to chat a bit more about the product I used to “re-stain” the chair! It’s taken me a bit of time to focus my attention back to this space, but here I am to chat about PolyShades! (By the way, this might read like a sponsored post, but it’s not. I just wanted to share my thoughts about using this product, some things I learned along the way, and what kind of results you get since I couldn’t find a ton of great details on the product when I was researching it!)
I found this mission-style rocking chair at a yard sale for $20…and its transition from woe to wow is one of my favorite furniture updates I’ve done yet!
Because there were so many edges and corners and crevices to this chair, the idea of sanding the whole thing down to its bare wood REAAALLY didn’t appeal to me, AND painting it wasn’t the look I was going for. So instead, I used it as an opportunity to try out a product I had read a ton about but never tried myself: Minwax’s PolyShades. It’s a stain and polyurethane in one and can be applied overtop existing stain. Pretty cool, huh?!?
As you can see, the finish on the chair when I started was pretty bad: lots of scratches, dings and roughed up edges with a pretty wide color variation across the whole piece. I was a bit skeptical that the PolyShades would result in a consistent color over the different tones without sanding, but I was going to give it a go anyway!
After scrubbing it down and wiping it clean with Liquid Deglosser, I set about paining on the stain. I use the term painting on intentionally, as that really is the best way to describe how to apply this product to furniture. It really is different than anything else I’ve ever used – it goes on like paint (and drips like paint and leaves brush strokes like paint!) but dries with a stained-like finish. When I describe it to friends and family, I call it a “paintable stain,” but I really do feel like it functions more like paint. Below, the left side of the chair has a single coat of PolyShades, and the right side has nothing yet.
My greatest challenge with the product was the drips (which I had read about!). You really do need to work slowly, load your brush VERY little, and catch drips and puddles while they are still wet. It really reminded me of working with oil-based paint, as once it starts to set up, you can’t really go back and fix it without it being super noticeable. If you over brush, you do end up with a slightly streaky look, but nothing that really bothers me. I learned by the end how to apply the stain just right without too many passes with the brush!
I also really needed to pay attention to what sections I had already done, as the product dries relatively quickly and it becomes difficult to determine which sections had been painted. However, it becomes very obvious once it’s all dry if you accidentally applied a second (or third) coat to a certain area and not everywhere else! I ended up applying two coats of stain and sanded with some fine steel wool in between, as it does leave a slight (very slight!) grittiness on the surface due (I think!) to the polyurethane component of the product.
Overall, though, I was pretty pleased with the product. I was literally able to paint right over all those areas that had dinged or chipped stain and it looks exactly the same as the non-dinged areas. I was able to get a clean, consistent finish with the wood-grain look I was going for. (I also intentionally say look here, because yes, it looks like wood, but it does not have the same look and feel as stained wood grain.) Photos and lighting are super tricky with dark wood, but I tried to get a close up of the finish on the chair all dried and cured (in the right photo, you can see the slight hazy streaks I was referring to on the lower-left of the arm of the chair).
My only other real complaint with this product is the smell…it’s SUPER strong. I didn’t really notice it outside when I was actually working on the chair. But even after a few days of sitting out in the garage, it was too strong when I brought it into the room…so I had to leave it out in the garage for a good long while.
I do LOVE how this chair turned out – I love that it looks fresh, clean and updated. The color is saturated and even, and it was relatively easy to accomplish (especially since the polyurethane coat is included without an extra step!) In the few months we’ve used the chair, we haven’t experienced any nicks or chips in the new stain, so it seems super durable. Still, it’s a bit temperamental (oh the drips!) and I don’t think it’s the right look for some pieces, especially anything with small details, vertical posts, or anything you really want to see the wood grain through. At least with the Bombay Mahogany color we chose, it turns out pretty opaque.
If you’re looking to breath fresh life into an old, tired, wooden piece and paint isn’t the answer, I’d say give this a go. With minimal effort, you can get some pretty stunning results! If you’re looking for a true wood look with grains and color variation that look like stained wood, your better bet is sanding down to the raw wood and going with regular stain. While I really did enjoy seeing this product work, I stopped short of applying it to Henry’s “new” bed, because I just wasn’t sure I could control it enough to make it look just right!
So….it took me a while to get these thoughts into a post (sorry about that), but now I have my tips documented for both you and me (believe it or not, sometimes I forget about how I feel about certain products, so I often refer back to my own blog to refresh my memory) 🙂 To see my thoughts, tips, and tricks about other products I’ve used, you can read more here.
Have you tried PolyShades? I’d love to hear if you have any tips to prevent those minor brushstrokes or get rid of the sand-like grittiness I feel in some areas!