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How to remove thick varnish on furniture to get natural wood?

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How to remove thick varnish on furniture to get natural wood?


I have recently picked up a secondhand dresser.

it is hardwood with a very heavy dark varnish on it. I have tried sanding it back with an electric sander and 120 grit paper (the sander itself is quite old and not an orbital sander). 
i am struggling to get through the varnish to get it back to the natural wood. 
are there any chemicals or strippers that will make the process easier? At the rate I’m going it will take me a year just to sand the top on the dresser 

Bunnings Team Member
Bunnings Team Member

Re: how to remove think varnish in furniture to get natural wood

Welcome to the Bunnings Workshop community @kate1992. It's wonderful to have you join us, and many thanks for your question about removing varnish.


You can certainly look at a chemical stripper to remove the coating. Pick up a paint scraper at the same time to scrape off the varnish once it has bubbled up with the stripper. The stripper will be much more effective if you can scuff up the surface with sandpaper first before applying it. Once you've applied the stripper, cover the unit with a plastic paint drop sheet to encapsulate the fumes. This accelerates the process.


After you've scraped off the varnish, the dresser will still need to be sanded to remove any remnants. However, the stripper will cut through the bulk of the varnish and make the job much easier.


We'd all be keen to follow along with your project, so feel free to post some pictures. Please let me know if you have any questions.


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