09 May 2012

Refinishing antique chairs this week!

I thought I'd share my latest project....amongst others of course!  Furniture refinishing!  I done a fair amount of refinishing over the years, but these are a real stinker!  The old varnish is just black with age and it's such a thick coat of nasty!  It was like removing gum!!

These chairs were given to me by my mother-in-law, and she also gave me an antique threshing table with 6 leaves.  She wanted a new dining set.  They have been in my basement for at least 15 years, used for extra seating.  She refinished the table years ago and put a coat of polyurethane on the top, so I decided to start on the chairs and the table needs it's top done as well.

I wanted to remove the old varnish, but hopefully keep the stain intact.  I armed myself with 2 cans of stripper (strypeeze brand), 3 packages of #2 steel wool, a pair of chemical resistant gloves (NOT the disposable, tried it and they are not sturdy enough) 2 natural bristle paint brushes, plenty of newspaper and a lot of energy.

Since the chairs are so detailed, a scraper was useless to me, so I applied the stripper with a paint brush on half the chair, allowed to sit for 20 minutes and scrubbed off the goo with multiple pieces of steel wool that I unwound first.

These chairs took about 2 1/2 applications of stripper, as it was tough to hit every nook and cranny the first time around.  If you're leaving the stain intact, be cautious to scrub in the same direction as the wood grain, or the stain will follow the scrubbing motion.  I only used water on one chair that was particularly stubborn.

Once the finish was removed, I sanded the wood with superfine sand paper and wiped it down with a "tack cloth" basically a treated fabric used to remove dust and bits.

I stained in a "Minwax Red Chestnut" oil stain which looks great with my cherry floor in the kitchen/dining room.  I wiped the stain on using a cloth (you could do a foam brush too) which I prefer for more control and less dripping to a brush.  I used about 2 coats, softly buffing off any additional stain when absorbed to the desired color.  Be cautious when staining that you don't allow drips, as they can show up on your finished wood.

I am using "Minwax Polyurethane Clear Satin" to seal and protect.  I chose the satin finish as I like a soft wood look, as if it's just been polished, without too much gloss.  Minwax makes it in many styles.  I went with the oil based type, as I feel it holds up to everyday wear better than latex, but that's your call.

Tomorrow I will be finishing the last coat of polyurethane and the table top!  I'll post a photo of it all put together!!


  1. Wow! What a difference. Can't wait to see the finished chairs--and the threshing table.

  2. I really love antique wood chairs. There's something about the old wood finishes that really make me appreciate good furniture. Great work in this redo .... looks great and still looks old!