• How I Restore An Antique Chair

    This is how "I" restore an antique chair rather than how "to", purely because everyone does things differently and there are hundreds of ways to do it.  I also thought you might find it interesting to see what actually goes on in what seems like a fairly simple restoration...
    I know it doesn't look like it would take much, just a new seat cover and a bit of polish?  No... its actually a little more involved...
    WARNING: There may be the odd swear word.
     This amazing old Oak chair doesn't look that bad in this photo, but the seat was all mouldy, and the frame was covered in tiny paint splatters. 
    Why do ALL old chairs have paint splatters? 
    Also the wood was all dried out and really lackluster...
     It was so grimy with dust and 100 years worth of god knows what in every crevice... I removed the cushion seat and gave the frame a good scrub with warm water and a tiny bit of dish wash detergent (Eco Store is best) which gets rid of all the surface crap.
    A good dry with a towel then its left to air in the sun and breeze.  I never leave anything to drip dry.
    This is a great way to get to know the chair.  Check for any repairs that may need doing and to see any damage or flaws up close.  This chair is so beautiful!  Its so well made, super sturdy and is going to look amazing!  There were a few old repairs that had already been done really well a long time ago, no structural work was needed at all!
    Here are the tools I use to fight with fabric stuck to chairs... you may think its quite simple to just rip off a cover, well sometimes it is, but more often than not its a freaking nightmare... 
    Pretty much everytime I start to pull apart something it uncovers a huge amount of evil... this one is no exception...
    At the first corner I can see that the base is broken, so I know this part which should be a 5 minute job will turn into an hour (at least) with repairs... I do love good repair job though!
    This little set of pliers is actually my most valuable tool, some staples are real a-holes so they need to be extracted with pliers, if you leave them then this happens and it freaking hurts, I constantly have snagged hands!
    I always start out one staple at a time, but if it gets too tedious I just start cutting and ripping... this cover is so stuck with a million rusty old staples that keep breaking, this is the hardest part of restoration when it doesn't come apart with ease... A few swear words, a good playlist and a heap of coffee normally gets me through these tough times...
    Every chair I pull apart reveals a different way of layering, so interesting, and so dusty!!  Such a shame this old board was damaged... 
    Finally!  Stripped bare!  You may think it would have been easier to just make a new frame, but that's where I have gone wrong in the past. 
    These old frames move and warp with time and this frame will already be molded perfectly to the chair, so I always use as much of the original chair as possible, I will however make a new seat... 
    Not sure if this is helpful or not, but I pull apart things on a slippery white foamy underlay, then everything just slips off into the rubbish and I can reuse it next time... (theres always 3 million staples on the ground though!)...
    Woohoo!  Time to get the power tools out!  I normally freestyle my measurements (I know - but it works for me!) but thought I had better do it properly for you with my paint stirring ruler...
    I need more projects that allow me to use my jigsaw thingy... just saying.
    Oops, bit off the mark, will still do the job!
    whack it on with a few tacs, new seat done!
    I have tried a hundred different ways to restore old wood, including all the wood revivers, oils and waxes you can buy.  But Boiled Linseed Oil is my go to, it does the best job and is the easiest to use.
    I prefer to use both steel wool pads and actual steel wool, in different grades from 00 to 0000, it gets off all the paint splatters and grime, but leaves the natural patina that I find so gorgeous on antique furniture.
    A toothbrush gets into all those grooves.
    The oil is wiped as I go with a lint free cloth.
    Its hard to see in photos but the difference is astounding... Such a great sense of achievement at this stage... I live for this sh*t!
    I use a moving blanket to staple tightly on the base, just so if any of the tacs pop up they wont dig into your butt, and it makes it all a bit more secure.
    I use the seat as a template for the foam, I really need a new knife for cutting foam, don't use scissors, it never works out well.
    This is an important part!
    Pop the seat back into the frame to see how much allowance there is for fabric and to make sure the base hasn't warped at all with all the staple pulling and ripping.
    I measure out the dacron the same way and spray glue each layer onto each other.
    Don't buy this glue, its really shit (for this job), I normally buy a really good one from the Foam Dustributors, but trialing a cheaper option has backfired, literally.
    DO NOT use any other type of glue, it burns or disintegrates the foam.
    Foam+Superglue = Burnyourhousedown
    Working with patterns can be a bit of a bit*h, if you pull it too tight on one side it warps the design and you have to unpick the whole thing!  I have learnt to just loosely put a few staples in, check it, then secure it all over.
    Don't talk to me about how many times I have had to redo covers more than once!
    I always check it right side up to make sure the pattern is sitting in a good place...  Also not all fabric is suitable for upholstery - believe me!
    How gorgeous is this fabric chosen by the owner though!  It is so much nicer in person!
    Just a few staples!  Check and secure.
    Corners are dicks, I just keep trying until I get it.
    Two days later... (just kidding, sometimes it feels like it though)...
    I like to make dust covers, they look tidier if your chair falls over.
    I LOVE this part... the Beeswax smells devine and it polishes the wood to a gleaming like new state with some elbow grease... So satisfying!
    Below is an essential step if you have pets or kids, or messy flatmates.
    After:  Quite possibly the most beautiful chair I have ever had the pleasure of working on, all ready to go back to its awesome owner.
    There are so many different types, all with different challenges... I love what I do, especially when the end result is like this!

    If you decide to tackle something after reading this I would love to see your before and afters, tag @walteralicestore on Instagram or Facebook...
    Also if you start something but can't be arsed finishing it, get in touch for a quote, I will happily do it for you.

  • Comments on this post (1 comment)

    • Fiona Mills says...

      This is so interesting to see your behind th scenes and techniques. Amazing work.

      July 16, 2018

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How I Restore An Antique Chair | Walter Alice Store ...