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When painting old wooden chairs makes sense

The effect that a professional has when painting old wooden chairs (or any piece of furniture for that matter) can be dramatic.  In fact, if done properly painting chairs can totally alter your opinion of the furniture piece both in terms of the appearance and your opinion of the quality.

I’ll use a set of chairs that we refinished recently as an example of how painting old wooden chairs makes sense.   These chairs were purchased at a flee market by a client and brought in for refinishing.   Understand that there was nothing inherently valuable about these chairs but they were soundly built and sturdy.   The previous owners used green when painting chairs and made them look horrendous.  Not only did the paint look bad but it made the chairs look inferior in quality.

painting old wooden chairs

Painting old wooden chairs

This is the before pic…. I suspect you agree with my opinion.

As with all furniture we refinish, we take great care in the prep work. These chairs were stripped of all the ugly green mess.  We then sanded the wood surfaces to achieve a smooth surface to apply the new finish on.  We sprayed a couple coats of primer then sprayed the color.    We finished it off with a couple coats of clear lacquer.  Again, sanding between coats to ensure the smoothest finish.   Lastly we recovered the seats.

Here’s the result…

painting old wooden chairs

Notice how the new color and finish totally changes ones opinion of the chairs. They now look like a much higher quality chair.

The total investment by the client  for our portion of the work was $95 per chair.  This fairs well when compared to what the price of new similar quality chairs would be.

As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover….

Additional links on painting old wooden chairs:

  • Supplies at Lowe’s when painting wood furniture: Click here
  • 5 Biggest Mistakes When Painting Furniture (Country Living): Click here
  • Buying Old Chairs on eBay: Click here

Cedar Chest Restoration

Here is the cedar chest restoration job we recently completed.  We’re quite pleased with the results.

How we approached the Cedar Chest Restoration…

We started by stripping off all the old finish.  This chest had been “loved” on for many years and what little of the original finish that was remaining was in rough shape – so we had no choice but to take it down to the bear wood.  Since we’re a professional shop, we have an overflow system that allows stripper to be pumped through a fluid hose with a brush on the end.  The piece sits in a shallow tub while we gently scrub and rinse it down with stripper.  This “washing” off of the finish is very efficient and not harmful to the piece.

After we had all of the old finish stripped off we wiped it clean with lacquer thinner and left to dry for a day.  Once dried there were a few areas of veneer that were damaged so we repaired these areas prior to staining.   In this case we used one our own stain colors which is similar to the color Minwax’s English Chestnut.   After staining with our own stain, we air brushed some black stain around some of the edges and crevices. This enhances the details and assist in bringing back some of the patina that was removed when stripping.

Notice in the picture  below we saved the advertisement that was attached to the inside of the chest and reapplied once done with the restoration.  Lane must have had a collaboration with an insurance company that offered insurance. How cool is that??  But given inflation you’d probably need a bit more than $100.00.

Finally we applied several coats of lacquer, rubbing out in between coats.  The final result is a nice soft luster on a piece that will last another couple generations.

Lane cedar chest restoration

Refinished French Country Table Top

The Refinished French Country Table Top project

This table top had been in use for a couple generations and was completely worn out. Furthermore, because of the heavy use and accumulation of oils, grease, furniture polish and who knows what else, the finish had become soft and gooey.

Sooooo… As a starting point we had to sand the top all the way back to bare wood. In this case we didn’t chemically strip it because we were saving the original hand painted skirt.  Yes it was all heavy sanding and elbow grease. After we sanded it back we wiped it down many times with lacquer thinner to ensure we’d gotten any remaining chemical residue off the wood.  This remaining residue can wreck havoc on a new finish.


Refinished French Country Table Top

Building the brown base color was fairly straightforward and we sealed this in with a couple coats of lacquer.  However the slightly blueish/gray haze that was originally on the table proved the most challenging aspect to reproduce.  After experimenting with various methods we finally were able to tint our lacquer such that we achieved the desired affect. After getting the haze just right, we we then covered the entire surface with a few more coats of lacquer.

Give antique look to furniture in 5 easy steps

I like to give an antique look to furniture when it makes sense. I recently was asked to make a small bench for a client. Here’s how we did it. Because we wanted the resulting end look to be very rustic, distressed and aged, I followed specific procedures.   So, when I picked out the lumber I chose pieces that had lots of dents, scratches, nicks and saw marks.    

The Bench Project – Giving antique look to furniture

(Also, I picked Oak because the finishing steps described below work best on open grain woods like oak, pine, etc..)   The rest of the antique look to furniture appearance I achieved during the finishing process.
Making wood look old

Here is how I did it 5 easy steps for giving an antique look to furniture….

Read more

Repurposed Armoire

Armoir Repurposed
Armoire Repurposed

This Repurposed Armoire was challenging, but the end result made it well worth the time and effort. Moreover, the client was thrilled so all is well!  Remember how the old armories were built very large and deep to house large TVs? Now that TV’s have gotten so slim, Armoires are generally not used for TV’s as they are hung directly on the wall.  As such you can find these old pieces for sale all over the place for next to nothing.  Read more

Old Dining Table Refinish Project

For this old dining table refinish project I noticed how the leaves in the middle don’t match. There was a few steps for this old dining table, chairs and buffet refinish.

Old Dining Table Refinish Project

In this situation I had to strip off all the old finish and gett down to the bare wood.  Then I had to sand through the color (as much as possible without going through the veneer) to get back to the original unstained wood.    Then I restained all of it together to get a much better matching base coat of stain color. Read more

Staining different woods to match

When finishing furniture, one often finds that the piece may be made from several different types of wood, so staining different woods to match becomes a challenge.  Because woods take stain differently, it is helpful to know a few techniques that allow you to color the wood (across different species) and achieve a uniform and pleasing color.   Additionally, not all projects can be made from mahogany and walnut.  However, just because you have a piece made from pine you are not prevented from creating a dark wood, fine finish similar to what you might find on a more formal piece.    See the steps below which were adapted using techniques and materials readily available to the DIY person. Read more

Refinishing Queen Anne Furniture

A client called asking that I help in refinishing Queen Anne furniture, specifically a desk they attempted to strip.  The piece was a fairly nice, well built Queen Anne desk that was in great shape except for the sanding that the owner attempted to do.

Before Refinishing Queen Anne Furniture

before repainting queen anne furniture

When refinishing a piece it is always preferable to remove the top coat (the clear protective layer) in the least intrusive way possible.  Since we are a professional shop we use chemicals that flow out of a brush and the piece is in essence washed until the finish is softened and removed.   This method removes all the hard protective finish but doesn’t remove all the color and patina.
If this is not possible, then a gel stripper would be my next choice.   This is much more time consuming but is not abrasive.  You brush on the stripper then scrape off with a puddy knife.  Then you clean thoroughly with mineral spirits.
If this choice is not available, (the stripper won’t dissolve the finish or bad sections require sanding) then you have no choice but to sand it back entirely.  When sanding, always use the highest grit possible that still allows proper sanding. (such as 220 grit) The lease amount of abrasive used is the best.  In this case I had no choice but to sand the entire piece because the client had begun that way.
 After I sanded entirely I cleaned with mineral spirits then applied the color stain I liked.  Heres’s what it looked like after the first coat of coloring. I used a standard Burnt Umber – very light coat.
 After coloring…

Queen Anne Desk after base color

Next, I sprayed a seal coat and then brushed on a very light coat of very diluted black glaze.  I then “aged” the piece by brushing black glaze in all the crevices and corners.. notice the black highlights on the leg closeup.
 Glazed crevices

Glaze used to highlight carvings and crevices

Then I sprayed several coats of the final finish….seems easy doesn’t it??
Here’s the finalized piece.

final picture of queen anne desk refinished