Antique Chair Refinishing - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 09-04-2019, 10:04 AM Thread Starter
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Antique Chair Refinishing

I am refinishing the antique shown in the first picture below. Initially I thought the chair was all mahogany but the second picture clearly shows that only the back of the chair is mahogany (and very, very thin veneer at that).

My concern is that even though I can sand almost the whole chair down to bare wood (not yet complete) stripping and sanding the front leg feet and the front arm rests are almost impossible tasks due to the complicated structure. I have done aggressive stripping but much of the old stain color remains.

I would appreciate advice on how best to prepare these parts to ensure that staining will be done properly. Should I be sealing these parts with diluted Zinsser Sealcoat? Should I seal the whole chair?

As always, feedback and advice are greatly appreciated.

Gary
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post #2 of 13 Old 09-04-2019, 12:40 PM
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You may have to use different shades of stain to get it even. I found gel stain easier to control.
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post #3 of 13 Old 09-12-2019, 11:37 PM
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It was probably finished originally with lacquer toners to get the shading correct rather than stained. You can get toners in aerosol cans from Mohawk or buy the toner to mix with lacquer to spray from a gun.

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post #4 of 13 Old 09-13-2019, 08:33 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by difalkner View Post
It was probably finished originally with lacquer toners to get the shading correct rather than stained. You can get toners in aerosol cans from Mohawk or buy the toner to mix with lacquer to spray from a gun.

David
Thanks for the feedback, David. I have some spray can toners so I may suggest this approach to my customer.

Gary
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post #5 of 13 Old 09-14-2019, 09:26 AM
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Your chair just has a typical factory finish. It was sprayed with a dye stain and then probably an oil stain over the top. The dye stain being more like ink has gotten into the wood. The detail places you just can't sand the wood as well as the rest of it so you have to use a dye to even it out. If you are trying to get rid of the red you can brush some green dye on the detail spots which you can't sand. Then with a more brown dye try to color the rest of the wood to where it is one color as best as you can. Once you get the color more uniform you should be able to use an oil stain like it was new wood. On a project such as this you need a selection of dye stains so you can mix the color needed for each application. If you buy mohawk dyes mark the labels with a sharpie. for some reason their labels quickly fade away and you don't know what color you have.
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post #6 of 13 Old 09-14-2019, 01:57 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
Your chair just has a typical factory finish. It was sprayed with a dye stain and then probably an oil stain over the top. The dye stain being more like ink has gotten into the wood. The detail places you just can't sand the wood as well as the rest of it so you have to use a dye to even it out. If you are trying to get rid of the red you can brush some green dye on the detail spots which you can't sand. Then with a more brown dye try to color the rest of the wood to where it is one color as best as you can. Once you get the color more uniform you should be able to use an oil stain like it was new wood. On a project such as this you need a selection of dye stains so you can mix the color needed for each application. If you buy mohawk dyes mark the labels with a sharpie. for some reason their labels quickly fade away and you don't know what color you have.
Steve, once again thanks for lots of detail. But this is way above my skill set. It surprises me that in over 170 projects I have never really run into anything like this before.

Perhaps lucky for me the customer has decided that she really does not want a traditional refinishing job … she wants the chair painted in a shabby chic style. I told her I was unable to do this. She accepted this well. Next time I need to ask way better questions to avoid this situation for me and the customer.

Gary
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post #7 of 13 Old 09-14-2019, 03:15 PM
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Steve, once again thanks for lots of detail. But this is way above my skill set. It surprises me that in over 170 projects I have never really run into anything like this before.

Perhaps lucky for me the customer has decided that she really does not want a traditional refinishing job … she wants the chair painted in a shabby chic style. I told her I was unable to do this. She accepted this well. Next time I need to ask way better questions to avoid this situation for me and the customer.

Gary
When someone asks me to paint a piece of furniture I normally use a clear sealer first. That way the next person that refinishes doesn't have as much trouble getting the pigment out of the wood. If you do this you might as well practice with the dyes to see if you can get it uniform. Someday you may have the same situation only the person wants it stained instead and then you can even it out without thinking about it.
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post #8 of 13 Old 09-14-2019, 04:28 PM
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............I have never really run into anything like this before...............
This was very common during the Great Depression in the 1930's. Most people were having a really hard time getting by. That led to manufacturers trying to stay alive. They used whatever they had available. They couldn't afford to buy the proper lumber so they used up what they had. Sometimes even the good stuff, as long as they didn't have to buy new.

Since you are new at this, you will get in way over your head at times. The thing is to recognize it and walk away as you already have.

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Last edited by difalkner; 09-14-2019 at 10:37 PM. Reason: fixed quote
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post #9 of 13 Old 09-14-2019, 06:03 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
When someone asks me to paint a piece of furniture I normally use a clear sealer first. That way the next person that refinishes doesn't have as much trouble getting the pigment out of the wood. If you do this you might as well practice with the dyes to see if you can get it uniform. Someday you may have the same situation only the person wants it stained instead and then you can even it out without thinking about it.
Steve, it turns out that the customer wants someone else to do the painting and I am delighted with that turn of events. I did not want to paint the chair.

Gary
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post #10 of 13 Old 09-14-2019, 06:05 PM Thread Starter
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This was very common during the Great Depression in the 1930's. Most people were having a really hard time getting by. That led to manufacturers trying to stay alive. They used whatever they had available. They couldn't afford to buy the proper lumber so they used up what they had. Sometimes even the good stuff, as long as they didn't have to buy new.

Since you are new at this, you will get in way over your head at times. The thing is to recognize it and walk away as you already have.
Tony, live and learn as they say and this time I was able to walk away. Got lucky.

Gary
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post #11 of 13 Old 09-15-2019, 09:20 AM
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Gary

I have painted lots of furniture. That seems to be the going trend. Most of the commercial furniture you are going to see will have a factory lacquer finish. If someone wants it painted with lacquer, you must clean it thoroughly first. Refinishing suppliers sell a "de-waxer". If you cant find any, auto paint suppliers sell a similar product for use on car painting. After the de-waxer, sand lightly with 220 grit. Then spray a vinyl sealer and top coat with the colored lacquer that they want.

If you are going to try and make money at this you will have to spray, like it or not. Actually, you will love it. I'm talking about pre-cat lacquer, but lets just say lacquer for short. Several years back, I bought an Earlex spray set-up from Rockler for around $350. It is a totally self contained HVLP unit. Get an extra spray can for around $25 from Earlex. Or buy one from Harbor Freight with the gun attached. The cans are interchangable.

Spraying lacquer is quick and easy and easy to learn. I use old coffee cans either plastic or metal, inverted, and put a small wooden block on top of each can. Turn the table top face down and set on those small wooden blocks.

Spray the bottom side first with sealer, clean gun, wait 10 minutes then spray it with pre-cat. Clean gun again. After 10 minutes, flip table over and spray with vinyl sealer. Clean gun, wait 10 minutes and spray with top coat of pre-cat. Wait another 10 minutes and spray another top coat of pre-cat and you are done.

In less than an hour, your top is completely finished and everything cleaned and put away.

Because lacquer dries so quickly, dust is not as serious an issue as with other top coats.

Tony B



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Last edited by Tony B; 09-15-2019 at 09:40 AM. Reason: I cut down the wording
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post #12 of 13 Old 09-16-2019, 08:52 AM Thread Starter
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Gary

I have painted lots of furniture. That seems to be the going trend. Most of the commercial furniture you are going to see will have a factory lacquer finish. If someone wants it painted with lacquer, you must clean it thoroughly first. Refinishing suppliers sell a "de-waxer". If you cant find any, auto paint suppliers sell a similar product for use on car painting. After the de-waxer, sand lightly with 220 grit. Then spray a vinyl sealer and top coat with the colored lacquer that they want.

If you are going to try and make money at this you will have to spray, like it or not. Actually, you will love it. I'm talking about pre-cat lacquer, but lets just say lacquer for short. Several years back, I bought an Earlex spray set-up from Rockler for around $350. It is a totally self contained HVLP unit. Get an extra spray can for around $25 from Earlex. Or buy one from Harbor Freight with the gun attached. The cans are interchangable.

Spraying lacquer is quick and easy and easy to learn. I use old coffee cans either plastic or metal, inverted, and put a small wooden block on top of each can. Turn the table top face down and set on those small wooden blocks.

Spray the bottom side first with sealer, clean gun, wait 10 minutes then spray it with pre-cat. Clean gun again. After 10 minutes, flip table over and spray with vinyl sealer. Clean gun, wait 10 minutes and spray with top coat of pre-cat. Wait another 10 minutes and spray another top coat of pre-cat and you are done.

In less than an hour, your top is completely finished and everything cleaned and put away.

Because lacquer dries so quickly, dust is not as serious an issue as with other top coats.
Tony, that is a lot of information and way beyond my skill set as refinishing is a hobby only for me. The trend to painting furniture is something that I am not a fan of nor do I have the skills or spraying capability. I will have to pass on this project for now.
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post #13 of 13 Old 09-16-2019, 11:59 AM
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It's better to pass than to screw something up especially if it is NOT yours.
The best way to learn repair and refinishing is to look for furniture that has been kicked to the curb or buy cheap stuff at Good Will or Salvation Army. You will find many pieces that are virtually non-fixable. Play with some of those so you will know how to identify lost causes in the future.
The worst way to learn is to do work for friends and family.

Tony B



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