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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I picked up this chair the other day and I'm not sure how to clean it up without losing all the patina.


I'd like more of the grain to come through, and lots of areas are scaly and rough.



From what I can see I'm assuming oak...



and while it needs to have the cane replaced, it looks like it might have had another seat on it at some point.

 

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It looks like oak to me also. What are your intentions? do you want to touch it up and pretty much leave it like it is or do you want to refinish it? If you want to refinish it I would start there. If you want to touch it up I would remove the cane, touch it up and then install the cane. The pictures are too small to see the cane. If it looks like there is a strip of the cane material holding it in then that is easy enough anyone can replace it. If there is a series of holes where the cane is woven into the chair you need to have it done. Assuming the cane is put in with a spline it is glued in with a glue like wood glue. You soak the spline with vinegar until it loosen the glue and dig it out with a small tool like narrow screwdriver or a scratch awl. Then clean the channel out as best as you can. There are a number of different places you can purchase the cane which comes already woven in sheets. One place is Van ****'s Restorers. You cut the sheet to extend 1/2" over the groove for the spline, then soak it in warm water. When it is soft you put it on the chair and press the edges of the material into the groove with a wooden wedge and install the new spline with wood glue. I would start in the back so the seam will be in the center and work your way around until your back where you started and cut the spline and your done. Just let it dry overnight before you do anything with it. It will probably be pooched up a little innitially but as it dries the sheet will shrink and tighten.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I definitely want to keep the color and patina, but I'm not sure how much is patina, and how much is just gunk; especially areas where the finish is so rough.

Thanks for the tips on replacing the cane. The underside of the caned area does have a ring of holes.. but it also looks like there is a spline as you described and there isn't anything coming through the holes. It looks like I'll have to decide between taking it to someone to replace the cane or learning a new skill.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Here's a closer look at the seat area:



And here's the rough finish:



It looks like a crackle glaze, and seems fairly stable. I haven't even tried wiping it down with water yet, so I'm not sure how it will do with even a basic cleaning. I thought I'd see what folks here thought because I've heard stories of people ruining antiques so easily.
 

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The wood is definitely oak, the back is quarter sawn red oak. You will not be able to get all the black out of the seat. It's a mixture of skin oil and dirt that is penetrated into the finish. All you will be able to do is get the dirt and oil off the surface.

The first thing I would do then is to remove the cane first. It sounds like originally it was intended to be hand woven cane and someone modified it to accept the pre-woven cane. The pre-woven cane really is easy to do if you want to give it a try or it shouldn't cost very much to have it done if you clean the old stuff out. Once you get the cane out wash the chair down with a wax and grease remover. Mohawk Finishing Products makes a product called Cabinet and Furniture Cleaner that would work well. You could also go to a local store that sells automotive paint and ask for Dupont Prepsol Solvent. They will either have it or a similar product of a different brand. This will clean off any hand oils, furniture polish and gunk that might be on the chair. It can be used with 0000 steel wool but be sure you clean that off with clean solvent and another clean cloth. Sometimes several cleanings may help so you might give it more than one cleaning. Once clean use either transtint dye or an aniline dye mixed with alcohol to color the worn and damaged places. Some touch up markers would be handy too for some of the smaller places. Then put a coat of satin wiping varnish on the chair to seal it. If the finish doesn't look like it's enough you can put another coat on when it's dry to the touch. If you let it dry overnight you will need to scuff sand it with 0000 steel wool for better adhesion. Just make sure you thoroughly clean steel wool off. Try not to get the varnish in the groove where the cane goes as it will need to be glued again. Once the finish as dried for a few days then the cane can be replaced.
 

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Wash it down with naptha OUTDOORS (fumes). Dries very quickly, won't harm the original finish if ya don't go nuts rubbing the chair.
Use nitrile gloves if you choose this solvent.
Good info in the previous posts about caning.
Bill
 
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