Furniture Painting

Prep and Tools of The Trade-Furniture Painting 101-Episode 3

Prep and Tools Of The Trade

Welcome to Episode 3 of Furniture Painting 101! I hope you have found episodes 1 & 2 to be a helpful guide to get started in your furniture painting adventures. Today in Episode 3, we will be discussing the prep and tools of the trade.

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Keeping A List Of Your Expenses & Time

A planner or a small notebook can be very handy for tracking your pieces. You may think you will remember every little expense, but as you go along it is likely you will miss things and end up undercharging for your finished piece. So, it is a great idea to have a place to track your purchases, materials used, and money spent on each piece. It is good for pricing, taxes, and if the customer wants to come back to match another piece, you have all the information handy.


furniture cleaner

White Lightning (click photo)

Prep: the first place you start is cleaning your piece. TSP. Trisodium Phosphate (aka TSP) and TSP substitute products are our go-to products for cleaning surfaces. I am especially fond of  Dixie Belle’s White Lightning. This product is effective at stripping oils and grime off used furniture This product will take the grime off for your paint to adhere better. It comes in a handy, sealable jar for around $5.

More options for cleaning

Other things that you can clean with are mineral spirits, and Dawn dishwashing liquid. You have to get all dust, dirt, Pledge furniture polish, etc off of the surface. If you think that little dirt in that corner will not affect your outcome, in my experience it certainly does. Prep to me is a very important piece to having great long-lasting results with your painted piece.

When you find a piece that has old paint that did not adhere well, usually it is an indication of poor prepping. In this instance, for your best results, you should remove the paint. I do not do that often, but In the event it is needed, I use Citrus strip.

When you clean with TSP, or are using wood stain, or anything that would stain or be harsh to my hands, I recommend wearing gloves to protect your hands. I get mine at  You don’t have to get them there, of course, that is just where I buy them. I recommend keeping gloves on your supply list. You will be happy you have them to save your hands from the staining! You can also get them on Amazon, Lowe’s, Harbor Freight, and places like that.

Bonus tip: I find these two items very handy to use.  The Handy Paint Cup and the Handy Roller Cup.  You can get liners for both of these items which are very handy for clean up! They have magnetic grips to keep your brush from falling into the paint, and they keep you from contaminating your original jar of paint. (I am guilty of being a double jar dipper, and in being disappointed in my laziness when I go back to the paint and it smells rancid because I introduced something into the jar between dips!)

Finishing Pads & Sponges

Finishing pads are used for buffing at the end, no only waxes, but Gator Hide and clear coats, or even unsealed paint can be buffed to a nice sheen. The finishing pad uses way less elbow grease than a soft cloth!

You can get inexpensive sponges at Dollar General, Dollar Tree, or wherever you normally shop. The ones with the rough side and regular sponge side are my preference. I get them in the multi-packs and keep several packs on hand. They are perfect for use with White Lightning, for rinsing, and wiping between sanding layers.  Sea sponges can be used for a different technique and finish the look (remember the faux wall techniques of the 90’s?) The tiny pores of Gator hide sponge, or a carwash sponge make them perfect for applying a brush-stroke-free topcoat. Put an old knee high stocking over it for an even smoother finish!

Tip: My best tip for using the carwash sponge is to take them and cut them into quarters or halves. The flat side will go into the corners and edges perfectly.

I typically use applicator pads for staining. I do reuse the pad for several uses, if there is a corner left unstained. The No Pain gel stain does get stiff on them, but Voodoo doesn’t. Apply with one and wipe off with a different one. I also use these applicators for salves, hemp oil, and Big Mama’s Butta.

How to clean and care for your brushes (click photo)

More Supplies

For more descriptive details on each of these, the video is here.



Tools are a necessity when it comes to furniture makeovers. A hammer, different head screwdrivers, wood glue, Gorilla glue, E-6000 adhesive. I LOVE my cordless glue gun. One of the things I love to use it for is to make moulds, I will make the designs with glue then use the glue to stick them on. Box cutters (utility knives) are always to have in your toolbox. Other handy tools I use are a miter box and saw and a rubber mallet.

Remember, when you are just getting started it is not necessary to purchase all the top-end items. You can upgrade as you go along.

If you are going to be focused on older furniture that needs repairs, power tools are going to be your friends. They can be intimidating at first, but they can and will make your life so much easier!


Electric & Battery Operated Power Tools

Tools, tips, & questions video (click Photo)


You don’t have to invest in the most expensive tools in the beginning, for sure, but I do choose quality brands when I can afford the investment. A good DeWalt, Ryobi, Makita, Porter-Cable, or Craftsman tool will likely be the last one you ever need to buy for your studio. Power tools are like good shoes, really important for saving wear and tear on your body.

Some of the tools I use often are:

For more descriptive details, click on the YouTube video.


There are a few more necessities that do not fall under the other categories. These are listed below. More details about these are in my video below.

These are the main tools of the trade in my studio, and I am certain will be important in yours, too. By approximately the three-year mark, you need to have a good stash of quality tools and good supplies. This will come by reinvesting into your business.

Next Episode, episode 4 we will be discussing choosing paints. We will be reviewing in great detail the different types and brands of paints. Who doesn’t love some great paint!

Catch the full video

Happy Painting!



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