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How To: Refinish Maple Wood Furniture

DIY how to refinishing wood

Get Gorgeous Grain Pop on Maple with Good Prep and Preval

Classic maple wood furnishings like desks and dressers always look best with a gleaming finish. No matter how dinged and worn down from years of use, you can obtain great grain pop with any piece of maple furniture through careful sanding, the right stain application and a final polyurethane varnish coat.

To get the best grain pop with your maple furniture project, consider staining the wood with a lightly tinted stain. Wood conditioner will seal the grain to prevent over-absorption, and the use of gel stain should help provide an even more vivid finished product.

As is true with every finishing project, the amount of preparation you put in is directly proportional to the quality of the finished result. Maple is a particularly tricky wood to finish, so we recommended you do a “practice run” or two on a small piece of maple until you get your desired color and gloss.    

Follow these instructions to give your early American furniture or other maple pieces a lasting luster and durable finish.  


Latex gloves
Eye protection
Sandpaper or blocks with #120, #240 and #320 grit
OOOO steel wool pad
Clean rags

Mineral spirits 
Pre-stain wood conditioner
Sanding sealer
 Gel stain of matching color
Polyurethane varnish
Lacquer thinner
Sponge brush/roller or,
Preval Sprayer, or

vFan Airbrush System  

Carnauba wax

  • Plastic bristle brush


  • This How-To is focused on touch ups, but for a complete refinish and the application of a new stain color, chemical stripper may be required. If so, follow the stripper's instructions carefully, wear proper eye and skin protection, and work in a very well-ventilated area.      
  • Sanding and prep are the key to a good finish on your cabinet. Ensure your wood is free of sanding dust before you begin to stain. Stain takes best to dust- and dirt-free surfaces. 
  • Some finishers recommend a thin coat of varnish between sanding and staining to enhance the maple's grain. 
  • If you use the Preval Sprayer or vFan instead of a sponge brush, hold the sprayer about 6" - 10" from the surface for each pass. 
  • Stain and varnish are highly flammable and odorous; apply in a well-ventilated area and be mindful of potential sparks or open flames near your work area. 
  • Use an even 1:1 mix of lacquer and lacquer thinner in the Preval Sprayer.


  1. Put on eye protection. 
  2. Sand every surface that will be stained, with the grain, beginning with the #120, then working your way to the finer #240 and #320 grits until the wood is smooth and even.  
  3. When doing a touch-up on a piece of furniture, make sure to remove and smooth down any loose lacquer, then sand the surrounding area until the gloss is dulled and the nearby surface roughed.
  4. Maple is a soft and porous wood. Your objective when sanding should be to even out the pores, cracks and crevices in the surface.
  5. Blow off dust and wipe down the wood with a clean cloth and mineral spirits to remove any remaining residue. 
  6. Use 0000 steel wool pad to scrub the finish with the mineral spirits.
  7. Apply a pre-stain conditioner with a sponge brush or cloth, then allow to dry. 
    1. NOTE: This is an optional step, but it will enhance the grain of the maple


  1. Put on latex gloves and eye protection.  
  2. Mix the stain thoroughly by tipping the can over and back several times, then shaking. 
  3. Put on respirator.
  4. Using a sponge brush, Preval Sprayer or vFan Airbrush, apply a coat of stain. 
  5. Allow the wood to absorb the stain for 2 minutes, then wipe away excess stain.
  6. Repeat steps 7 & 8 until three coats of stain have been applied, sanding lightly between coats using #320 grit sandpaper.
  7. Apply two coats of sanding sealer with a sponge brush or Preval Sprayer, then allow to dry for 1 hour. 
  8. Do a light scour between coats with 0000 steel wool. 
  9. Using the Preval Sprayer or vFan, apply one or two coats of polyurethane varnish. 
    1. Use a cloth for a satin finish, or 
    2. For a high gloss look, use the Preval Sprayer. 
  10. Let dry in a well-ventilated area. 
  11. Wax with carnuba, then wipe with a clean cloth for to create a gleaming finish.  

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