This is a great project to do over the winter.
The goal of this project is to bring new life to your drawers and cabinet doors.
Tools you will need
Painters tape (Blue masking tape)
Felt tip pen
Small painters pan
Palm orbital sander
150 grit sandpaper
220 grit sandpaper
Using the painters tape and the felt tip marker assign each cabinet door a letter and mark both the door and the opening with the letter (using the painters tape allows you to move the tag if necessary). Remove each door and drawer. Remove the pulls and either save them to reuse or keep a sample to bring with you to find new hardware. If you are reusing the hinges then mark the hinges with the letter and a number so they go back in the same place.
We did the work in our garage.
Once all the cabinet doors are removed place them on 2X4s so you can work on them without moving them a lot. The drawers can be stood on their ends if you prefer
With 150 grit sandpaper sand the old finish down. If possible do this outside to keep the dust down in your work area.
CAUTION - The birch face is a thin layer of the wood you are refinishing just try to sand the old finish down till it is level. Try not to sand through the thin layer of birch.
Wipe down the sanded surfaces. They should be as dust free as possible.
This is were you will have to make some choices.
Marine spar varnish (this is very close to the original varnish - it is expensive).
Spar varnish from your home center. The big blue home center had spar varnish and it was 1/3 the cost of Marine grade. I am not sure if it has UV additives or not.
Polyurethane this is now the finish of choice for kitchen and baths today.
We choose to use Marine Spar varnish, mostly because of recommendations from others and the UV and solid additives that marine spar varnish contains. Since this is an item that receives abuse we wanted the toughest finish we could get.
Apply the first coat of finish. You can apply this one pretty heavy and in most cases much of it will be absorbed back into the wood. Brush/Roll the finish with the grain, against the grain, and then with the grain to work the finish into the wood.
Wait the required time to allow the stain to dry. It should not feel sticky to the touch.
Sand using 220 grit sand paper gently sand the finished surface, following the grain. Wipe pice down to remove all dust.
Apply a second coat. Make sure to do edges with this coat. This should take less time and finish.
If you notice bubbles on the surface as you apply the finish try using less pressure. If they still are present try running the roller slowly over the surface with as little pressure as possible (thanks Lydia) allow to dry to the touch
If the surface is not as smooth and glassy as you would like sand again with 220 grit sand paper with the grain
Apply a third coat of finish with the grain only. This should be the final coat.
Allow to dry for at least 24 hours before attaching hardware.
Because the temperature varied so much during this project; I am sanding the cabinet doors and applying a fourth coat.
Because of our design plan we applied a chestnut stain to the kitchen cabinet doors and drawers (we want a high contrast) before applying the first coat of varnish.
The inside of our cabinets had a dark vinyl contact paper that we dislike. I have removed the contact paper and will sand and paint the interior of the drawers an off white to make the drawers lighter inside and to help seal them. Three of the drawers had big ugly red stains under the contact paper. I am also going to try some other finishes on the inside of the cabinet doors to see how they compare. More later. Nick