Saturday, July 10, 2010

Refinishing (Blonde Wood Has More Fun)

Last summer I inherited two beautiful 100 yr+ wooden chairs, which had spent their last 5 decades in a barn upstate.


- industrial strength rubber gloves

- steel wool

- chemical stripper

- a dry cloth

- a well-ventilated area - outside is really really really really preferable, in terms of mess as well as your health

- an assortment of sandpaper grades

- varnish

- a couple foam wedge brushes

- a mask and goggles are also very good ideas

Prep Work

- If it's a chair, remove the seats. Most seats are attached with long screws at the four corners on the bottom.

- Shake up the stripper.

The Real Work

*Be sure to wear your gloves, goggles and mask*

Un-seated and Ready For Action:

1. Apply a liberal coat of stripper over the entire surface - I pour gobs onto the steel wool and then apply it to the wood. Let it soak in for the recommended time: usually at least 15 minutes.
The wood, especially if it is dark, will turn a chalky, lighter color.

Minutes after the chemical stripper application (on the one in front):

2. With the steel wool, begin to scrub on the wood. It will start to dust off. This part requires a lot of elbow grease, a number of bits of steel wool, and PATIENCE. Go over (and over) every surface you can reach, reapplying stripper as needed - working it in and then off. The more you can remove now, the easier your life will be in the next steps.
* Wipe the dry cloth over the surface periodically to check your progress *

3. After you've exhausted the limits of the steel wool, it's time to get to the sandpaper. Start with the coarsest, of course, and work down.

Try to move the paper in the direction of the wood grain, though in the corners you may have to go against it sometimes.

4. Once you're satisfied, diligently wipe down the entire surface with a dampened cloth.
All dust needs to be gone before you apply the varnish, and the surface must be well dried.

5. You might want to pour out some varnish into a shallow dish. I usually just gob it onto the foam wedge brush to apply.
* Be smart about how you apply the varnish: start on the bottom of the furniture piece first, so that you can turn it over without getting fingerprints anywhere.*

Brush the varnish on in an even, thin coat in the direction of the wood grain. Be careful not to let pools collect in the corners.

6. Let it dry (preferably outside, weather-permitting) for at least 6 hours.

7. Resand, wipe down, and add another layer of varnish. This depends on your preference and patience (but technically at least two coats are recommended).

Happily lightened up and in situ:

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