Q: I am trying to finish an old breakfront that has a painted antique finish. I can’t strip, as it has parts done in veneer. I’m thinking of a painted antique finish, such as painting a base coat of red and black over the red, then sanding the black to show some of the red. Will this work, or do you have any other ideas?
A: Let’s start with the statement “I can’t strip as it has parts done in veneer.” That is completely erroneous. You most certainly can strip it, using paint remover, without affecting the veneer one way or the other. Bear in mind that the vast majority of furniture is veneered, and if paint remover could not safely handle that, it would disappear from the marketplace.
That leaves us with the question of whether you need to strip the existing finish. While it is a good idea to do so, it is not always necessary. If the existing finish is in good shape with no cracking or peeling, you can usually paint over it. Start by cleaning and degreasing the surface with either mineral spirits or TSP on nylon abrasive pads. When it is clean, sand lightly and seal with a coat of primer. Once the primer is dry, apply at least two coats of the red you have chosen. That way, you’ll have enough material to sand back to red without sanding through it to the primer. Apply just enough black paint to cover, which will probably be one thin coat. It goes without saying that both colors should be the same type of paint and, if possible, the same brand.
When the black is dry, use either very fine paper or fine nylon abrasive pads to wear through the black until you get the right amount of red showing. Once you like the look, seal it with a coat of clear sealer of the same type as the paint you used: apply oil-based polyurethane over oil-based paints and water-based polyurethane over water-based paints.