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September 10, 1989|Barbara Thornburg

The Weekend Refinisher by BRUCE E. JOHNSON (Ballantine Books; 1989)

BRUCE JOHNSON, retired English teacher and professional wood refinisher, wrote "The Weekend Refinisher: How to Make the Most of Your Furniture, a Step by Step Guide" for enthusiasts who, in spite of their busy schedules, are nevertheless determined to return the patina to grandmother's rocker. Covered is everything from setting up the perfect weekend workshop (any place from kitchen or basement to the back of a Ford van will do) to a listing of commonly required tools. Advice on how they might be used for a variety of purposes is given, such as "a sock-covered hammer doubles as a padded mallet for tapping apart a loose joint."

Invaluable lessons include when to save rather than strip a finish, how to avoid sanding, how to remove stains from wood and marble, and how to pick the best finish for each project. According to Johnson, "Each major furniture finish has its own particular solvent; using the wrong one could turn a simple restoration into a major disaster." By listing finishes used from the 1700s to the present, Johnson reassuringly guides selection of the correct solvent.

Johnson also covers the pros and cons of various stripping agents including water, turpentine and paint thinners and "Uncle George's secret weapon." He often uses household products such as chlorine bleach and Q-Tips to remove water stains and ink spots; felt-tip pens and crayons for blending-in and disguising scratches. Cautionary advice from years of refinishing experience will save the reader time and money.

There is also a helpful listing of sources and restoration supplies that professional refinishers turn to "when they need a special stain, an unusual piece of hardware or a particular type of veneer," as well as a glossary of refinishing terms. ($8.95)

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