Results from Restor-A-Finish

October 18, 2011

My little sis pesters me about furniture because she’s always looking for great finds and she knows if she gets me talking about old furniture I’ll ramble on for days. Sis has been looking for a small sideboard or buffet, so when I stumbled upon this antique at a thrift store last week for $75, I quickly snatched it up for her. I liked the size and solid structure with its dovetail joints, plus it had no major damage. But it was a little sad looking and definitely in need of new stain, or perhaps even paint.  

I was on the fence about whether to paint it, but thought I’d try to restore the wood first. I had heard about a product from several antique dealers that breathes new life into tired old antiques and doesn’t require the typical strip/stain/poly steps that are required to fully refurbish wood furniture. The product is Howard’s Restor-A-Finish and I thought this latest vintage piece was the perfect candidate to give it a try.

I followed the instructions and used a very fine grade steel wool (level 000) to wipe down the buffet in the direction of the wood grain, then applied two coats of the Restor-A-Finish. I also pulled off the acanthus applique attached to the back because it was bugging me, then replaced the center hardware and broken pulls with new ones lightly coated with Rub N’Buff in ‘Antique Gold’. 

Here’s a peek at the easy transformation that took about an hour.


buffet before


buffet after final

Not bad!

I grabbed these three products at my local True Value Hardware to see how well they’d perform on this buffet.

restor a finish etc


I confess, I was a little surprised. I’m not a fan of gimmicky products but after using the Restor-A-Finish, I do think the surface is much improved.  I followed up the Restor-A-Finish with the recommended Feed-N-Wax but before I did that, I tried out the Minwax Blend-Fil pencil to fill in a few deep scratches.  My response to the Blend-Fil was mixed. From a distance, the deep scratch is minimized but up close, you can see it’s a waxy filler, and on this piece the shade is a little off.   

blend fil pencil


The finish ends up being a little oily, so be sure to rub off the Restor-A-Finish as directed and don’t leave it on your wood.  Also, I noticed the product seemed to enhance the underlying deteriorating layers of original varnish. This picture doesn’t show that, and it’s very subtle, but I notice it in bright light.    restor a finish top before and after


The thing that impressed me the most about the Restor-A-Finish was the removal of these small water spots on the front.


water spots before 2


no more water marks


If there were deeper water (or heat) marks, gentle sanding and restaining would be the real solution. I do give a thumbs up to the Feed-N-Wax. I’ve used that product a few times over the years, it smells much better and gives wood a nice luster. 

restore a finish results


Here is my initial impression of Howard’s Restor-A-Finish:

Pros: Restor-A-Finish removes cosmetic surface water spots and minimizes scratches, it comes in several shades, and is great for beginners who don’t want to take on a full refinishing job. 

Cons:  Restor-A-Finish is really stinky but the odor dissipates quickly. It should be used only in a well ventilated area. You cannot apply poly over it, only wax, which is fine with me, but requires waxing every few months to maintain the luster. In my opinion, because of its oily nature, it enhances any imperfections that may exist in the layers of original varnish underneath. 

Bottom line, this product is like plastic surgery for furniture. It won’t return your piece to the flawless finish of its youth but it will take 10 years off, and at $12 bucks a can, that’s a pretty good price for a quick facelift.

Have you ever tried Restor-A-Finish?  What were your results?  Were you pleased or displeased? 


True Value Blog Squad legalese: “I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.”



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