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Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/Refinishing vintage paddle arm chairs


QUESTION: A neighbor was discarding these chairs and I rescued them from the street. They appear to be maple. I was wondering what is the best way to finish them? A friend suggested tung oil. If I do use tung oil, would I still be able to stain them at a later time, or would the oil prevent the stain from penetrating?

ANSWER: Hi Catherine
Nice score.
You are correct. If you oil them now, you will have to remove the oil in order to stain.
Personally, I would do them once the right way.
First they must be stripped of any finish that is on them (not much by the look of it), but they need stripping just the same.
Then your stain, then the oil.

Here is the complete info to do your chairs.
And heed the part that says "no sanding".

The first thing you must do is assemble the material to do the job.
The stripper is the most important item.  
I am hoping you can get "CIRCA 1850" brand paint and varnish remover in your area.
Here is a link

MATERIAL LIST For the stripping stage.
1 gallon stripper
3 boxes of Bull Dog steel wool in medium grade.
One 3 inch oil based paint brush.
Rubber gloves (like you do dishes with), and a pair of cotton gloves inside the rubber ones.
People react differently to stripper. A lot of people feel heat through the rubber gloves, but I feel cold. Have no idea why.
An empty large coffee can. (for the stripper)
A couple of old tooth brushes.
Lots of old rags (I like t-shirts or cotton but for this first stage whatever you have)
Lots of newspaper to protect the garage floor
That's all you need to get started.
Work in sections.
Brush on the stripper with the brush. Stripper will quit working if it dries, so keep it wet till the finish softens.
Then take a rag and wipe this mess off.
Then another coat of stripper, rag off again, then while the wood is still wet, take the steel wool and rub with the grain till the wood is nice and clean.
Depending on the material you are removing, another coat of stripper is often needed but you will know this as you progress into the job.
Use the toothbrush in crevices.
Thats all there is to it ...move to another section and continue.
No other prep is necessary...and DO NOT SAND
When the stripping is complete, stain with Minwax stain applied with a rag, then 3 or 4 coats of low lustre tung oil also applied with a rag.
Please let me know if anything is not 100% clear.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your quick and detailed message Eileen. A follow up Q...  I know it's a matter of personal taste, and you don't know my home decor, but typically... What color stain have you seen these chairs finished in ? I think they are similar to Cushman club chairs. Would you suggest a similar finish? Thanks!!

Thanks for the great ratings. It makes helping others nice.
And yes, I would definately aim for a stain similar to the Cushman color.
You may have to mix your own but its easy.
And a bit of trial and error.
So..get 2 of those tiny cans of Minwax oil stain.
Get one in a "special walnut" color, and the other in "Golden oak " color.
Start by mixing a teaspoon of each (half and half).
Try it on a hidden spot. If its too dark, add 1 teas. of the oak. Too light, add a teas. of the walnut.
Sample each color combo as you go. You will get close this way.
Once you have the color right, mix a larger portion.
There will be enough stain in the two cans to do both chairs. You just wipe it on with a rag.
And just for info purposes..If this was new maple, there is no way it will take a stain. It would have to have colored lacquer sprayed on.
Your chairs however are old and weathered. They will stain beautifully.
A great project and well worth the time to do.
Get back if needed

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Eileen Cronk


Hi..I can answer most questions about the repairing,stripping and refinishing of all your old furniture and wood items(the things we call antiques)I can give advice about what to buy/avoid at auctions/flea markets. I do not give appraisals on antiques.


I have been refinishing antiques for the past 30yrs. While I have taken several courses over the years,I have found that "hands on" learning is the best teacher. Perhaps I can help you avoid some of the mistakes I made while learning.

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