Friday, October 11, 2013

Dining room chair makeover

Once upon a time, long, long ago, my lovely in-laws gave us a small dining room table and chair set.  It was perfect for our apartment, but when we moved into our house, it looked a little...well, little.

Just moved in

Off to Goodwill.  Farewell, tiny table and uncomfy chairs.

One day, World Market had one of their "this is the last one, please take it away from here" sales, and I found a perfect replacement table.
Even with cushions, these uncomfy chairs' days were numbered

But then, the hunt was on for new chairs.  Every single one I loved was too expensive for my tiny budget, so the hunt took a few frustrating months.

In September (2012), I found a serious score on Craigslist.  6 Thonet chairs for $165 ($27.50 each).  The nicest older couple was selling them, and were originally listing 3, but threw in the other 3 for free because they were in some rough shape.   In July, I finally finished them.  Phew. (Yes, that was a rather lot of dinner at the coffee table).


The chairs had obviously been refinished once before, and not in the most expert way.  The stain was a little goopy and streaked in spots, and most of the caned seats needed replacing.  But, underneath, I knew loveliness awaited.

Because they're older chairs, I figured it would be smarter (and easier to make sure all the bits would fit back together with minimal cursing) to refinish them one at a time.  This made the process feel really, really long, but worked out well in the end.

All in bits.

The wood was in pretty good shape, mostly.  For the inevitable places where time had taken its divots, Timber Mate wood filler worked BEAUTIFULLY.  And good old Elmer's wood glue and a clamp fixed the seams that had started to separate.

I stripped off the old finish with water based stripper (Motsenboker's Lift Off) and my trusty 5-in-one tool.  It worked the warmer months.  Even with a space heater in my garage, the stripping took at least 3 times as long in the colder months than when it was warmer.  So, please heed the temperature warning on the back of whatever product you use!

After getting the big chunks off with the Lift Off, I sanded everything down with 150 grit sandpaper.  Then, I ran some tack cloth over everything to get all the little sanded bits off and the wood clean and ready for paint.

Next, I wiped some whitewash on with some clean shop rags, and let it dry.  Finally, one more round of 220 grit sandpaper to distress the whitewash, and then re-assembled everything.  Some of the screws didn't survive the removal process, and none of the cover buttons did, but those were easy enough to find replacements for.

When I was finished with all the wood parts, it was time to turn my attention to the seats.  While I actually am really good at re-caning, the original re-do left the holes and seats in such bad shape that caning will have to be left to an actual professional.  Someday, when we have a few extra dollars, I'll send them out.  For now, we need a place to sit and eat.

I'm not sure why I missed pictures of this process, but we fashioned some seats out of plywood, with the thickest batting we could find at the craft store.  I'm pretty sure it was something like this.  We used a jigsaw to cut the plywood to the shape of the seat, and scissors that gave their life for the cause to cut the batting.  We used spray adhesive to attach the foam to the plywood, then used pattern paper to make a custom pattern for the seat covers.  We (OK, really, my mom) sewed all of the seat covers in one marathon session using cheapy mattress ticking fabric, slid them over the batting, and secured them under the seats with a little painter's tape.  Then, we drove a few screws into the bottom of the seat, so it will be not too difficult to remove if someone spills and the ScotchGuard fails.
A view from below

Because this lifted the seat a little, we had to make sure we lifted the table as well (it has some leveling screws built into the legs, luckily).

It took a LONG time, but I'm so happy with the finished product, and the everyone is loving having a comfy place to sit for family dinners!

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