You are here:

Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Refinishing antique pie safe


Pie safe
Pie safe  

My husband recently contacted you about this pie safe. I guess it's from the 1930's, made of poplar and pretty recently stained in dark finish, I think is walnut. While this is a low end piece I like thing done well and the bad stain job does not make me happy. In fact, I am in the process of removing the dark stain, it was all over, even on the tins. While the tins are completely clean now the wood is not and shows different coloration and even areas where the stain had run inside leaving very visible marks. I have used a methylene based paint stripper with great success on the tins but does nothing for the wood. I think my only option is to sand it down to bare wood. The question is: what should I use to refinish it? I want to use tung oil but having no experience I don't know how it would look on bare poplar. Should I stain it first? Thank you in advance.

Karina - You need to be aware of the fact that poplar is a multi-colored wood to start with. Even a new piece fresh from the sawmill will not be a uniform color. Also it is a fairly soft wood and readily absorbs stains.

While hard sanding will even out the color somewhat, it will not achieve the look of unstained wood. The next best thing is to bleach it with wood bleach. Do not use Clorox, it will turn the wood green. I used to use Klean Strip two part wood bleach with great success in my restoration shop. I bought it in pint kits (one pint each of  Parts A and B)but the only thing I can find online now is gallon kits (one gallon of each part) and it sells in the $100 range.

I suggest its time to consult a furniture professional who may have access to newer products. Make your problem the professional's problem and only pay for satisfactory results.

Good luck.

Fred Taylor

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Fred Taylor


I will attempt to answer questions about American antique furniture, including construction details, style, period, manufacturers, care, repair and storage. I do not have any background in appliances, musical instruments, sewing machines, trunks, lighting, clocks or children's and baby furniture and will not respond to questions about those items.


I ran an antique furniture restoration business for twenty years. I am a nationally syndicated columnist on the subject of antique furniture for such publications as Antique Week and New England Antiques Journal. I have produced one video on the subject of furniture identification and my book "HOW TO BE A FURNITURE DETECTIVE" is now available.I have also published articles in Antique Trader, Chicago Art Deco Society, Northeast Magazine, Victorian Decorating and Lifestyles, Professional Refinishing, Antiques and Art Around Florida and Antique Shoppe. You can visit my website at

BSBA Finance, University of Florida, MBA Finance, University of Florida

©2016 All rights reserved.