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Wood Refinishing & Restoration


In most cases, furniture restoration refers to light cleaning and cosmetic repairs of wood pieces. The goal is to maintain an antique or vintage piece's structural integrity and outer appearance so it retains its value. If a piece is damaged, i.e. a cracked leg, restoration involves repairing, gluing, and strengthening the damaged piece to good-as, or better-than new, status.


Wood refinishing usually involves stripping the piece of furniture of its current finish. A chemical stripper is generally used, after which the item is sanded, stained and refinished. Stains and finishes look differently on different wood types, and even different ages of woods, so we always perform a test on each piece to ensure the finish requested meets expectations.

With refinishing, since the original finish is altered, there is a chance a refinished piece may lose some of its value. At Revitaliste, we ensure that when working on an original antique or vintage piece, this is considered and discussed before proceeding with a revitalization involving refinishing.


Wood Refinishing & Restoration 101: Glossary of Terms

apron (n) — the part of a table between the legs that attaches the base to the top

basswood (n) — a close-grained wood – heavier than balsa – used in carving

batten (n) — a thin narrow strip of wood used to seal, reinforce or support a joint or panel

bookmatched (adj), bookmatch (n) — refers to pieces of sequentially cut wood arranged so the grain creates mirror images

burl (n) — a highly figured outgrowth on a tree, valued for turning and figured veneers

chip carving (n) — a style of decorative carving in which a specific configuration of chips are removed, as opposed to shaving wood

cleat (n) — a narrow board or strip used as a support

close grain (adj) — wood having small-pored or fine-cell structure (also referred to as “fine-textured”)

cornice (n) — the molded and projecting horizontal piece that crowns architectural structure

crosscut (n, v, adj) — A cut perpendicular to the grain of a board.

dowel (n), doweling (v) — a cylindrical length of wood used for making joints by inserting a length into two corresponding holes and gluing with clamp pressure

doweled joint (n) — Dowels add strength and alignment benefits to what is normally considered a weak joint.

end grain (n), end-grain (adj, adv) — the end of a board where the pores are exposed

etagére (n) — free-standing shelves open on all four sides

face (n) — the widest part of the board as measured across the grain

grain (n) — usually refers to texture, porosity or figuring of wood

grain pattern (n) — The visual appearance of the wood grain; types include flat, straight, curly, quilted, rowed, mottled, crotch, cathedral, beeswing and bird’s eye.

hardwood (n) — the wood from any number of flowering, fruit- or nut-bearing trees (see softwood)

heartwood (n) — mature wood that forms the spine of a tree

highboy (n) — a tall chest of drawers with a legged base

inlay (n, v) — the material or act of inserting smaller pieces into grooves cut in a workpiece

lignum vitae (n) — a type of wood, more commonly called “ironwood”

marquetry (n) — a form of inlay in which pieces of veneer are cut into shapes and inserted into another piece of veneer, which is then laminated to another surface

miter joint (n) — A traditional box joint that hides edge grain. When used in a long-grain-to-long-grain application, the strength of the joint is very good, while a short-grain-to-short-grain application offers very little strength.

mortise (n, v) — a recess cut into a piece to receive a tenon or some kind of hardware, such as a lock or a hinge

moulding (n) — a wood strip (usually with a carved profile) used for ornamentation or finishing

mullion (n) — a center stile that separates panes or panels inside a frame

muntin (n) — a strip that separates panes of glass in a sash

natural finish (n) — a transparent finish that does not seriously alter the original color or grain of the wood

open-grained (adj) — wood having large pores; coarse-textured wood

raised-panel door (n) — a frame-and-panel construction door of which the panel has a raised profile

shiplap joint (n) — Shiplaps are traditionally used in solid-wood cabinet backs. The overlapping edges hide any seasonal wood movement.

softwood (n) — the wood of any coniferous tree

stretcher (n) – any horizontal support member on an item of furniture (table, chair, bench) that ties to and offers support to vertical elements (such as legs).

tambour (n) — a type of sliding door that employs a number of narrow strips meeting in a loose tongue and groove and are attached to a piece of cloth and set in a track.

varnish (n, v) — a coating that provides a hard, usually clear, finish

veneer (n, v) — a thin sheet of wood used in a variety of applications, including marquetry, lamination, covering lesser cuts of wood, constructing plywood

waney-edged (adj) — has bark on it

wenge (n) — a type of wood

wood movement (n) — The tendency of wood to expand and contract across the grain as its moisture content fluctuates in response to changes in relative humidity.