DIY Home Improvement Forum banner

Refinishing Natural Oak Cabinets without stain

4289 Views 2 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Ceo
Hi, I am attempting to refinish my 20 year old natural oak cabinets. I do not believe they were ever stained, but the finish has turned orangey/yellow and has worn around the handles, causing slight darkening of the wood. Unlike many others who have posted, I am not trying to darken the color to one of the more modern cherry finishes, as I do like the beauty of natural oak, even though I seem to be a dying breed. So, my plan is simply to sand (finished with fine grade sandpaper) off the existing thin finish, which is probably polyurethane, and apply a clear furniture lacquer- (Deft clear self leveling furniture lacquer in satin finish was recommended to me). I completed a few drawer fronts and they looked great, just like new. The drawer fronts are significantly lighter than before, which was my goal, and although they still have the natural yellowish color of oak, they appear "blonder" rather than orangey. The natural oak grain can be seen but is not too pronounced on these pieces. I then proceeded to try this technique on the first cabinet door. Sanding was fairly easy as before, and the wood appeared smooth and uniform in color. However, when I applied the clear lacquer, the vertical grain on this piece darkened more dramatically than the drawer fronts and looks more "orangey", even though no stain was used. Now this piece looks different from the drawer fronts and does not have the same "blonder" look. I have heard of others using grain fillers or sanding sealers on oak to fill the grain, but most are attempting to apply a darker stain rather than just seal the natural oak. What I am seeing must be a natural variation in the grain of each piece, with the clear sealer darkening the grain significantly. I was wondering if anyone has refinished oak without staining and what process was used to achieve good results. Is there anything that will minimize the darkening of the grain before applying the lacquer to achieve a more uniform appearance? If not, I will just finish and enjoy the natural look and variation of the oak grain. I think its beautiful even though it has fallen out of style during the recent trend of dark woods. Thanks!
1 - 3 of 3 Posts

· Registered
2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
oak cabinets

Steve, I could not capture the difference on my pictures but I am happy to report that I since refinished two more cabinet doors and they came out beautifully, more uniform than the first piece. What I've concluded is that the first piece is more heavily grained which is absorbing the lacquer and highlighting it. I will probably see this again as I proceed with others as I have about 20 doors to go, as oak does have a heavy grain. The doors do look new and the sanding has removed years of wear and tear. I could probably have covered some of the grain if I used an oak colored stain, but since I chose to go with the original natural oak color, the effect I am seeing is just the natural variation in the wood. Luckily, I like oak and I'm just going to finish the project as is.
Thanks for your reply,
1 - 3 of 3 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.