Thursday, December 4, 2014

Refinishing and Restoring

I am planning for this winter to be my 'finish projects season' . . . and possibly start a few more, too. :) One project I am hoping to finish is the restoration of three antique oak dining room chairs. One chair is completed save for getting a new cane seat put in it, and the others were almost all the way disassembled and ready to start the restoration process.

This past Saturday with a high forecast to be in the mid-60's, it was a perfect day to strip the two remaining chairs of their finish. (The stripper I use has a minimum working temperature of 65 degrees so there are not many days this time of year that would work!)

Before starting on that, though, I finished disassembling the chairs using a rubber headed mallet. Then labeled the remaining pieces (where each one goes on each chair), set up a working space outside, and began stripping . . .

 Most of the dowels and front legs of chair one with the stripper coating them. 
At the ends of the dowels, you can see that they are labeled where they go. One end has written on it whether it is a "Back Top", "Left Middle", etc. while the other end says whether the dowel end was facing left, right, front or back. All of chair number 2's pieces are also marked with a "2".

 In the process of using steel wool to remove the stripper/stain/varnish. The decorative dowel near the back has already been done. I always like seeing what the wood looks like once the finish is all off!

 One of the chair backs with the stripper on the back half.
To make reassembly easier, I didn't remove the back slats completely. Though had to separate the three bottom ones on one side in order to remove the bottom dowels on the chair. 

Stripped and ready to sand once it's dry. 
(And most of the 'whiter' looking spots on parts of the chair are where I didn't quite get all of the stripper wiped off. It leaves white residue when it dries which will all be sanded off.)

I had forgotten that back when I was removing the old spline from the chair grooves that I hadn't finished removing it from one of them. So I did that recently, too . . . which is easier said than done. I do not know what kind of glue was used to attach the spline before, but whatever it was does not dissolve easily! It took a lot of vinegar, a lot of work and a lot of time to finally have the rest of the spline removed and the groove cleaned. The spline that had been used was also larger than what should have been used for this size of groove making it even harder to get out.

I was quite glad when the last little bit of spline (which I am working on removing here) peeled right out! Then came removing all of the glue and the remaining pieces of the old caning.

The groove all cleaned

So now the chair seat grooves are ready, and the chair pieces have all been stripped. What is left to do is sanding all of the pieces, reassembling the chairs (with my Dad's help), staining them, putting on the finish, and then putting the cane seats in each of them.

I really enjoy doing projects like this and am looking forward to continuing to work on it in the coming weeks!


  1. Wow, Sarah, that's quite an undertaking! I'm sure they will be beautiful when you are all finished.

  2. Thank you, Mrs. Anne! It has been a fun project so far. :)


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