How To Make Cheap Wood Look Like Expensive Wood? "If you do it right, you make inexpensive wood look rich and luxurious..."

JUNE 04,2021

👋 Different types of wood for furniture (both hardwood and softwood) are available in the market. Each type comes with a different set of characteristics in terms of color, density, grain, and finishing. Picking the right wood for furniture is critical but can sometimes be expensive

If you’re planning on making furniture with cheap wood or just refreshing your garage-sale-picking treasures, follow this guide for a seamless and successful project


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  • "If you do it right, you make inexpensive wood look rich and luxurious..."

"If you do it right, you make inexpensive wood look rich and luxurious..."


First, always use the proper tools for the job; not only to make the task easier, but to keep you and your family safe. Wear protective gear like rubber gloves, long sleeves and eyewear to prevent chemical burning from splattering. Be sure you have adequate ventilation in whatever space you’re working in. Chemicals can be harmful when inhaled. Store oily rags according to the instructions on the solvent package you use to keep your home safe from combustion and fumes. Finally, beware of older paint finishes that may contain lead. If you suspect that lead-based paint is on your furniture piece, use a proper ventilator when stripping this material. 


When purchasing your wood, spend the time going through all the boards to find the nicest ones. The most important thing is that the boards are straight, not twisted or warped. Look down the board from one end to see if it’s warped at all. Put the board on the floor and see if lies flat. Do everything you can to get boards that are as straight as possible, because you can’t fix that, and warped boards can make things more difficult to build and less structurally stable.


First, use an oil-based commercial wood cleaner to cut through the layers of dirt and wax on the surface of your piece. If the cleaner doesn’t work well, you can try with warm water and a liquid detergent. Dab the solution into the furniture with a cloth, but don’t get it too wet. If nothing works, you might need to invest in a specialized solvent cleaning for restoration—mineral spirits, turpentine or denatured alcohol.  


These are two main ways you can sand your furniture: dry and wet sanding. If you want a really smooth and shiny result, it’s best to opt for wet sanding. If you don’t know what is wet sanding, you can check out the Internet and find many useful tips and tricks that will make your furniture look amazing. Just remember that you need to leave your wood to dry properly (two or three days) before you continue your process. Always make sure to sand in the same direction as the grain, rather than against the grain. The quality of your final work is really going to depend on how much care you take with this step. Taking enough time to sand the piece thoroughly will make a big difference. 


There are several options when it comes to staining wood. You can choose from water-based stains, oil-based ones, gel stains and one-step stains/finishes. When it comes to applying stain, it’s best to use a brush with natural bristles, leave the coat on for about five minutes and wipe off the excess with a clean rag. Finish with a sanding sealer and let sit overnight. The next day, you can repeat the sanding with a smaller sandpaper grit and finally choose your finish.

Cheap softwood is notoriously difficult to stain. Each of the different woods take stain differently, sometimes it’s blotchy, sometimes it’s not the color you intended. Many things can go wrong. We recommand you to test your stain first on a scrap piece. Is it blotchy or super dark? Test and test and test until you get the shade you’re looking for. This simple tip will allow you to make gorgeous pieces from cheap woods, and have them turn out exactly how you want. 


Once the wood is completely dry it’s time for a topcoat. You should consider many factors when determining the type of finish to use. Consider what look you’re going for, your skill level, how durable you need the finish to be and how the item will be used. Apply the top coat in nice long strokes, always following the grain. Let the top coat dry. After applying the final layer, you’ll need to allow the wood to fully cure for 24 hours before use. 


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★★★★★ (1,032 ratings)

It is totally possible to use cheap wood and get a high quality result… it just takes a little extra time and patience. Finding the best boards in the store is crucial, and a thorough sanding goes a long way. So, making cheap wood look pretty and expensive is totally achievable… there’s just a bit of work involved! 

Josh J. Gur - CEO

CEO of Sanrico


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