Q: HEMNES stripped to natural wood?

Sophie asks, “Has anyone ever tried to bring that HEMNES solid wood bookshelf to natural?”

IKEA bookcase


Hi Sophie

Firstly, I’m not sure the bookcase in the photo is a HEMNES. The legs are a little different from the HEMNES’ straight legs. And the HEMNES top isn’t flared. Perhaps an older HEMNES? I’m not sure.

HEMNES bookcase in natural wood

HEMNES bookcase | Buy on IKEA.com

But anyways, to answer your question. Yes it’s possible to take the solid wood HEMNES bookcase from lacquered to natural. And if your bookcase is solid wood with a lacquered top, you can pretty much follow the same steps.

I’ve seen some pretty examples of it, especially this one. In that hack, Janson removed the white lacquer to reveal the natural pine wood beneath.

Stripping HEMNES to natural wood

Basic steps include using an orbital sander to remove the lacquer on the surface. Start with an 80 grit sandpaper to remove the top layer then switch to a 120 grit to smooth out the wood.

Some prefer to disassemble the item and then sand each piece. I would probably go with that to make sure the orbital sander does a thorough job. If you rather not disassemble it (because we know it can be a pain), then sand the main flat surfaces with a sander and then use a sanding block or sandpaper for those pesky nooks and crannies.

This would probably take up the bulk of your time. Remember to go slow to minimise swirl marks from the sander.

After you’re satisfied with the sanding, give it a good wipe-down to remove the dust.

At this point, some prefer to assemble the unit before staining. Some prefer to finish the stain job before assembly. My personal preference would be to stain before assembly. And assemble before sealing for a smooth finish.

To stain, get a piece of rag and dip a section into the stain of your choice. Then, apply a thin coat, following the grain of the wood. Rub off excess with a dry cloth. If the stain is too light, leave it on for a little longer before rubbing off.

Leave the stain to dry thoroughly (usually 24 hours) before moving to the last step.

The last thing to do is to seal the stain with a layer of polyurethane. Again, wipe down the bookcase to prep the surface. Then, using a foam brush apply as many coats as you think necessary, leaving to dry thoroughly between applications.

After everything cures, voilà! Your bookcase au naturel.

Show us how it looks after.

Happy hacking,


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Jules Yap