Stripping—it’s just a part of restoring wood furniture, right? Not necessarily. While there may be cases where stripping is needed to properly restore a piece of furniture, it will not be needed in all cases. Whether you are looking to fix up your latest find or keep a family heirloom looking great, you can restore and increase the value of your antique, oak wood bookshelf without stripping it.

If You Can, Avoid It

Stripping an entire oak bookshelf is a lot of work, and most DIYers do not have a lot of space to do it in. Not to mention that the chemical strippers used in the process are not very pleasant. Basically, there are much better ways to spend your weekend.

While seeing a stained or otherwise damaged surface might make you feel like you need to remove it, it is best to consider the alternatives first. For one, these alternatives will most likely be much easier than stripping the entire piece.. But more importantly, they can actually help the piece retain more of its value.

Completely removing the original finish on your bookshelf will likely cause its value to plummet. Even if you aren’t looking to sell the piece, removing the finish is like removing part of its history, taking away the marks of time and much of the patina the piece has developed over the years. Once the finish is gone, all you have left is the wood. Beyond that, the chemicals in many strippers can loosen the glue in the joints and damage veneer, resulting in your bookshelf becoming less stable.

Put simply, it’s best if you can avoid stripping your antique oak bookcase.

When Stripping the Wood Is the Best Option

As stated above, if you can, avoid it. But you can’t always avoid stripping. When finishes are so damaged that they no longer protect the wood, it’s time for them to go. If a finish has been damaged by water, is sticky, or has large areas where the finish is missing, it is best to go ahead and remove it from the bookshelf.

Alternative to Stripping Your Bookshelf

There are a few methods you can use to avoid stripping your antique oak bookshelf. Below is what we recommend.

Seal the Damage: If there are dents and scratches, or even small spots where the finish is missing, you can seal the damage instead of removing the finish. Apply several, light coats of shellac to the damaged areas before you clean in order to prevent further damage from occurring.

Clean the Piece: It is important that you use the correct cleaner for finish of the piece. If you are not sure what finish was used, you can consult a DIY guide to figure it out or turn to a professional. Our recommendation is consulting a professional, especially if the stakes are high.

Abrade the Piece: Once the piece is clean, you may find that the finish still appears hazy. This is often caused by small cracks in the finish that reflect light, causing the muddled appearance. Assuming these cracks do not run all the way down to the wood, abrading will repair them. Use sandpaper to sand in straight lines and constantly wipe away the residue. Keep your pressure light, as you do not want to remove the finish completely. Sand until the cracks disappear.

Seal with Wax: Find a quality furniture wax in the color that best matches your bookshelf. Use a clean cloth and gently apply the wax using a buffing motion. If there are difficult to reach spots, use a brush to apply the wax. Apply two coats, allowing it to dry in between.

Not Quite Ready for DIY?

Whether you are worried about making a mistake or simply do not have the time, we are happy to take the job off of your hands. Our professional furniture restoration team will get your bookshelf looking great and improve its value. Simply give us a call and we will pick up your furniture and get to work.