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Hi all

I have my mother's pressed-back child's rocking chair, it's about 75 years old. The cane seat is blown out but I found some replacement material and I'm going to repair and refinish it like new.

The chair has 75 years worth of accumulated dust, dirt, and skin oils, and I am unsure how to properly clean it before refinishing.

Any advice would be appreciated.
 

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I've seen videos of Soda Blasting on wood, but it takes a massive compressor. I used it to remove paint, but my media gun wasn't rated for a high enough PSI rating(!) to get far.

I've never used soda on wood, so this is only a suggestion 'to learn more.'
 

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If you are going to refinish it I would ignore the dirt and just strip it. If you use a water wash remover it will cut the finish and the dirt both. Stripping furniture just isn't a winter sport. No remover works well below 70 degrees and you especially don't want to do it in an enclosed garage with the heater on. The chemicals are very harmful to breathe and there is the potential of explosion with solvent types.

On a warm day I would strip it outside and use Kleen Strip paint and varnish remover. Apply a liberal coat and let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes applying more to the spots that dry. Then use a brass stripping brush and see if the finish is loose. If you can brush it to bare wood work it all over with the brush as quick as possible and rinse it off. You can use lacquer thinner on rags or what I use is a power washer that is low powered (below 1500 psi). Then while it's wet soak the area around the cane with vinegar and use a narrow screwdriver and pry out the can material and clean the groove. The old spline is just put in with wood glue and takes a little soaking to loosen. Once that is done rinse the vinegar off and let dry. Once dry it can be sanded and finished. It's a good time to check the joints. It may need to be reglued.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the tips Steve, I appreciate it.

Here are my concerns: There is a lot of 3D detail, like the pressed back design and fluted parts of the chair. There doesn't seem to be much in terms of varnish or shellac, but the wood is stained. I'm concerned that if I try and strip it down to bare wood, I'll have lots of areas where I just can't get there due to the little nooks and crannies. I was going to just try and clean it as best I can, then stain the bare areas to match the rest.

What do you think of that approach?
 

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Thanks for the tips Steve, I appreciate it.

Here are my concerns: There is a lot of 3D detail, like the pressed back design and fluted parts of the chair. There doesn't seem to be much in terms of varnish or shellac, but the wood is stained. I'm concerned that if I try and strip it down to bare wood, I'll have lots of areas where I just can't get there due to the little nooks and crannies. I was going to just try and clean it as best I can, then stain the bare areas to match the rest.

What do you think of that approach?
The details is why I recommend using a low powered power washer. It will lift the finish and old stain out of cracks and crevices better than anything you could use. As long as you use a washer with the pressure turned down low it won't damage the wood. for many years I had been using washers that were 1000 to 1200 psi having inexperienced laborers do the work and they didn't damage a single piece. Recently my power washer broke down so I bought a cheap harbor freight one that was 1500 psi and if you put the nozzle down close to the wood it can fuzz it up a little. This is the reason I recommended going below 1500 psi. If that isn't an option you could thoroughly go over with a brass stripping brush with lacquer thinner to rinse it off. The important thing is flush a lot of solvents over the wood because removers contain wax to help prevent evaporation.
 

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Here are my concerns: There is a lot of 3D detail, like the pressed back design and fluted parts of the chair. There doesn't seem to be much in terms of varnish or shellac, but the wood is stained. I'm concerned that if I try and strip it down to bare wood, I'll have lots of areas where I just can't get there due to the little nooks and crannies. I was going to just try and clean it as best I can, then stain the bare areas to match the rest.

What do you think of that approach?
Your initial thoughts of just cleaning off oils, and light debris would work with just using mineral spirits. It won't remove any finish, and would leave the surface in a better state to determine if some "touch up" staining can be done, instead of a complete stripping. Once clean, you could try stains or dyes for "fill ins", or if more color is needed, gel stain would work well.

If you decide you need to strip off the finish, start with the least toxic, like CitraStrip. It's a waterbase stripper that can be used indoors, and has an easy clean up. If that doesn't cut it (literally), try lacquer thinner as a wipe/rub. That should remove most film finishes. If that doesn't cut it, go to an MC (methylene chloride) based stripper. It's very toxic, and you would need to closely follow the directions.

I wouldn't use a power washer, as it has to be used outside. It will displace toxic chemical all over the place...on the grass, concrete, or asphalt. It can kill foliage. It will spritz chemical on yourself, and it can burn through the skin. If it gets into your eyes you could be blinded.

It can dislodge previous repair work, loosen joints and dislodge veneer if present. It will pressure force water into the pores of the wood, changing the moisture content. That could cause expansion of the wood and joints, and when the wood finally dries out, could crack. It also will raise the grain.






.
 

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No one has asked what kind of wood the chair is made of----------If the wood is red oak, a common wood for press back chairs---avoid using any water based strippers--The water will turn the wood gray---Been there,done that--big mistake---
 

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Hi all

I have my mother's pressed-back child's rocking chair, it's about 75 years old. The cane seat is blown out but I found some replacement material and I'm going to repair and refinish it like new.

The chair has 75 years worth of accumulated dust, dirt, and skin oils, and I am unsure how to properly clean it before refinishing.

Any advice would be appreciated.
if it was mine i would just clean it , that way it will still look like a antique and not a new one from a store. their are post that say how to clean, i have striped lot's of furn. and not a job i would do now, i was a lot younger than, if this is you first job at this , just clean and repair the seat, that way it is still a good antique with the old age still left on it, but clean my 3 cents inflation
 
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