Chair Refinishing Project

August 29th, 2009 by: cheyenne

We got this chair at a garage sale for $2. Aside from the disgusting stained seat, I though it was rather pretty. It is more or less sturdy (no wobbly legs) and made of what looks like mahogany—just needs a bit of sanding and some finishing oil. No problem!

We huffed it home and I took it apart to inspect the seat. It had four layers of totally disgusting fabric and about fifty billion disintegrating staples, which I pried out with a screwdriver. Joshua came to check on me an hour or so after I had started and was surprised to see me still bent over the seat-back, pulling bits of metal out and swearing (well, he wasn’t surprised about the swearing). Look at this fabric; can you even imagine the splendor of what once was? The mind boggles.

Here are the seat covers I removed, each more stained than the previous layer. As I picked broken-off staples out of the crumbling fabric, I thought about a lot of things. Ancient diaper leaks, spilled chicken juice, bedbugs; and I ask you: what sort of person picked out the striped yellow fabric and said, “Yes. This is the one.” It gave me the shivers.

Of course then I had to sand it. Because I didn’t have a vibrating sander (left it in Texas), we had to go out to the hardware store and buy one. Then I made Joshua bring home paper because I guess I used all the paper I thought I had at home, or else I lost it. Then I sanded and sanded and sanded out all those nicks and scratches and asked my dad for refinishing advice and discovered that I should sand at a finer grit so I resanded and resanded and with a tear in my eye had to ditch the sander and use my fingers and bent-up bits of paper and I sanded and sanded and bitched and griped about how easy it is to forget how much one hates sanding all those weird little nooks and crannies and that dry scritchy flimsy bits of paper. But then it was finished and I got to apply the finishing oil (I had to go to two different stores before I found the right stuff, naturally). Putting oil on wood is so satisfying, like creating jewels out of dust. I painted on the oil, painted on more and sanded it wet with really fine grit black paper, then wiped it off and painted a final coat the next day.

Et voila! I thought Ronin would dig the fish.

Soooo pretty. Totally worth all that sanding.

10 Comments on “Chair Refinishing Project”

  1. melissa says:

    Good job. I like the fabric you put on it. The chair looks really delicate.

  2. george says:

    Wow! Gorgeous! Well done!

  3. cheyenne says:

    Yeah, it is delicate; I would guess it was made to be a dining room chair rather than some sort of lounge-about. Ronin was pleased with the new addition and immediately put Nigel on the chair (quite an honor for the chair).

  4. Michelle says:

    I like how the beginning picture is taken on a gray day, dreary and frumpy and then the final result is sunny, sparkling clean and beautiful, almost youthful. It’s like the weight loss ads in the Sunday magazine where the before picture is depressed, non-smiling and dark and then, voila, smiles abound and there’s a happy new person after shedding a layer! I think that chair is thrilled at the lovely job you’ve done :) The depression began with the yellow stripes…

  5. Gramma Peg says:

    I think the yellow stripes cover was circa 1964 or so—-the years of avocado refrigerators and “Mad Men” decor. I love your Japanese fish motif. Glad Ronin and Nigel approve. You did a splendid job. There is something about old garage sale furniture (well sometimes..) that just beats anything IKEA has to offer. I can’t wait to try it out. Gotta get up to Portland, maybe this Fall or Winter. Love, Gramma Peg

  6. Shanti says:

    My gramma had a whole dining room set recovered with that striped chenille, probably in the mid to late 60s. Needless to say, it didn’t make the cut of stuff to haul back from Arkansas and put in storage. Interesting that they chose to put it crosswise on the seat. The chair is really nice.

  7. Kresling says:

    You’ve definitely chosen a fabric that will never become dated in the manner of the striped yellow stuff. Never happen.

  8. cheyenne says:

    That’s what I thought; modish/hipster will NEVER go out of style. And anyway, if I get sick of it, or if Ronin pees on it or something, I can just keep recovering it. Shoot in another six or seven hundred staples…

  9. Gramma Peg says:

    Well, I bet the fish will look very dated in 10-15 years. Just a hunch. Trends are weird. Everything changes. I see yellow striped chintz maybe in the future. We’ll see—-Gramma Peg

  10. vida says:

    you did a great job! did you do that all in one day?? my mother recently brought up my itty bitty childhood chair. it is in serious need of the sort of work you just did, fortunately though, there is no upholstery, just wood.

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Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell