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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Learning how to Restore


Antique Chair
Antique Chair  

Back of chair
Back of chair  
What advice can you provide to someone who wants to learn how to restore furniture?  For example, I bought a chair I really loved but it was going to cost between $200 - $300 to restore a $10 chair I bought.  I ended up giving it away to someone who knew what they were doing but sure wished there was a class I could have taken to learn how to restore it myself.  It needed to be reglued, and there was piece missing from the back of the chair & needed to be revarnished.   Where did you get your knowledge ... was it a family business, did you take a class, etc.

Hi Diann
Nice to hear from you.
The type of repairs this chair needs require more than basic skills so you were smart to get rid of it.
The broken back would require a bench saw sander and drill to repair and the chair would need to be taken apart and reglued which requires a big selection of bar clamps.
I see missing veneer on the front.
Replacing veneer is at the higest skill level. You would need to duplicate the exact thickness and grain of the surrounding veneer.
After the repairs are made, the entire piece would need stripping and the piece refinished.
And the seat redone too.
So the first thing you should do is look for old pieces that need no or little repair.
Avoid pieces with broken veneer. Look for solid wood. Start with small pieces.
Years ago I took some classes but most of my knowledge came from hands on doing.
It was something I loved.
I was also lucky to work for some very knowledgable folks who shared their knowledge.
Today we are so fortunate in that we can learn to do most things from the internet.
I am going to send you my refinishing info.
Look for a small piece to start on. Follow the instructions. Its pretty easy.
And keep in touch as you go.
I will be here to help.

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.

Good Luck

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Eileen Cronk


I can answer most questions about the repairing and refinishing of all your old furniture items (the things we call antiques). I can also give you advice on what wood items to choose and what wood items to avoid at auctions, flea markets etc. I DO NOT give appraisals on antiques as this is not my field of expertise.


I have been repairing, refinishing and of course buying old furniture for the past 30 years. On any given weekend I can be found at auction sales or flea markets searching out a good buy. I have taken several courses in this area over the years, but I find "Hands On" learning to be the best teacher. I can help you avoid the pitfalls and problems of this wonderful rewarding craft.

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