Tips for Refinishing the Wood on an Antique Chair

So, you just inherited a chair that’s been in you family for fifty years, and if you were to be honest, you’d agree that it looked it has. But, while the thing may look a little ratty now, you know that with a little TLC, that chair will look as good as new. And in fact, you’re right. Modern furniture just isn’t built as well or as solid as the ones owned by our grandparents and sometimes, just refinishing or refurbishing a piece can add years of use to it. But, the first thing you’ll have to determine is – does the chair need refinished or refurbished?

Refinishing Vs Refurbishing

Many people get confused when it comes to determining whether a piece of furniture needs refinished or refurbished. Here’s the quick answer – when a piece of furniture is broken or in need of physical repair, it needs refurbished. If the piece simply needs some cosmetic work, it’s in need of refinishing.

Chair Refinishing Tips

When you make the decision to refinish an antique chair, you should take into consideration that the less you do to it, the greater its worth will be. Antique chairs are worth more in their original condition so the fewer changes you make to them, the better. That being said, some antique chairs are in pretty bad shape, so you should always try to refinish them back to their original look and design.

If the chair’s wooden features are in good condition, but a little grungy looking, some water and a mild cleansing agent will help restore the look of the wood.

Chair Refinishing Tips – Cracks

If there are cracks in the wood, they can be filled with a commercial wood filler. Here’s a quick tip – mix some wood filler with some acetone to thin the filler a little. Then, fill a plastic syringe (without a needle) with the mixture. Squeeze the mixture into the cracks to the point that it is slightly overfilled. Spread some talcum powder over the liquid and use your finger to pat it into the crack. Wait for it to dry, blow off the powder and sand the area with 180-grit sandpaper.

Chair Refinishing Tips – Water Stains

If the wood on your chair has water stains, there are a few things you can try to get them out. First, you can spray furniture polish on it and let it stand overnight. Wipe it off the next day and the stain may be gone. If this doesn’t work, you could try using a small amount of alcohol to rub out the stain. Be careful in this approach, however, as the alcohol can damage the finish.

You may have to use the proper solvent to get rid of these pesky stains. For lacquer finishes, you will have to use lacquer thinner. For shellac, you would use the alcohol method. These solvents will cause the finish to dissolve and allow the trapped moisture to dissipate.

Always use these agents in a well-ventilated area and wear the appropriate glasses, gloves and breathing filter.

Dave Donovan is a freelance copywriter living in Atco, N.J. An electrician for 15 years, an injury forced him to pursue his true passion - writing.