Mark repaired a chair that was badly broken. Can you see the break on the repaired picture?
The snow has gone, the grass has riz, I wonder where all the birdies is! This is a rhyme my marketing teacher in high school said one day at the end of the winter while looking out the classroom window. I don’t know where he came up with it, but it made me laugh and have never forgotten. Every time someone mentions that spring is in the air; the rhyme immediately comes to mind.
The second thing that comes to mind is all the Auctions and yard sales where you can pick up some pretty good deals. One thing I’m very careful of is painted furniture because of the cost of refinishing. Refinishing can be expensive if you want to bring the piece back to bare wood. Paint hides many imperfections and can be disappointing to many.
There are things you should check before making the purchase such as; how thick is the paint, are there several coats? Check for cracks especially on the seats. Do all the legs match? Are you dealing with oil base or latex paint? This may not seem like a big deal, but it will be if you decide to take the new purchase to a professional refinisher like myself. When I see someone come in with a piece to inquire about the cost of refinishing, I immediately think of my costs to do the job. The cost of the stripper and the sand paper glue, stain, the dismantling of the chair and of course, all the hidden repairs; most of the time it just isn’t feasible to do the work unless the chair itself has some significant value. When I give the price, the customer will usually tell me they only paid five dollars for it at the local yard sale or auction. My next approach is to suggest the customer do it themselves and have no problem educating them on exactly how to do that.
I will take a moment to give some idea of a rough cost to do it yourself. The best over the counter stripper is Circa 1850 at about a cost of fifteen dollars a small can, but trust me one can will not do it so plan to spend thirty dollars or more. You will need a bottle of paint thinner for cleaning purposes. I’m not sure of that cost but would guess around ten dollars. You will also need two roles of sand paper, 150 and 100 grit at a cost of about fifteen dollars and don’t forget the wood glue, so let’s add another ten dollars. That great deal at the yard sale isn’t so much of a good deal anymore and you have yet to put the hours it’s going to take to do the work. However, if you enjoy doing the work and you love the piece of furniture and you have the ability, the cost may not be such a big deal.
There is another cheaper way though that will cut out most of the work and some of the cost if you like painted furniture. If you’re buying an older piece then I can almost guarantee it will be coated in an oil base paint. Oil base paint in the very near future will be a thing of the past, so use a latex one hundred percent acrylic paint. Rule number one is never put latex over oil, it will not last! The paint store will tell you it will but trust me, your wasting your time! You can buy a primer that is referred to as conversion paint. ICI sells a product called Gripper; Para sells a primer called Super stick. Most paint companies sell conversion primers. My suggestion would be to use B.I.N because you can buy it from any hardware store and it works. Sand the furniture just to scratch it up so the primer will adhere. It’s always best to put on two coats. Let the primer dry completely by following the instructions on the can and then apply your latex paint. Your paint store usually will sell a paint that is formulated for furniture use. Before you pay full pop for the paint ask if they have any miss tints available. Miss tints are paints that were mixed the wrong colour and go in a pile with the rest of the miss tints. You may luck in and find a colour you like at about 25% of the cost.
The good thing about buying painted furniture is sometimes you can find a real gem just because what’s hidden under the paint. It could be that under the paint is a very expensive wood that would look great once it is stripped. If you’re looking at a chair for example, look under the seat, which most likely is bare wood and you may be able to determine the type of wood. It could be Oak, Ash, Walnut etc. On cabinets open the doors and look inside because there is bare wood somewhere. I’m never afraid to buy painted furniture depending on the wood.
So next time you’re out on the hunt consider what you have just learned in this article and shop wisely. Thinking that you just got a cheap chair or cabinet may be very disappointing if you take it to a professional refinisher. Don’t be surprised if the refinisher is not too excited to do the work for the simple reason of the cost to the refinisher and of course, most importantly the cost to the customer. If you’re willing to take on the task yourself then it may not be such an issue and the work can be very rewarding. There’s nothing like making something old look new again.
Antique furniture refinishers generally use a commercial stripper, but you can find a good stripper locally!
So I was working on a set of six chairs from a 1930's dining room table when the customer called and requested to view these before a stain was picked. It's common for this to happen and to me, it's just a feather in my cap to let the customer see how clean and sturdy their chairs have become. What I didn't know was that my sixth chair was only half finished and the customer would be here at noon. I tell one of my staff, Ryan, to stop what you're doing and jump in the truck and go to the local hardware store and pick me up a stripper. Ryan looks at me a little cross eyed but doesn't question as he was well aware he was to come in Saturday to finish the stripping. An hour later, no Ryan. I can see the hardware store from the shop so what's taking so long? Ten minutes later I get a call from the store manager and he tells me that Ryan is outside the store asking customers if they know where he could get a good stripper. One of the girls he asked was a local painter that I know well. She stopped at the shop to have a bit of a laugh. Playing around with the new guy eh Marco! The local painter was wearing clothes full of paint and to Ryan it made sense to ask her and she probably looked familiar to him as I had completed some painted furniture for her not long ago and she had frequented the shop. I asked, so what did you tell him? Well I told him that I used to strip often but it just didn't make sense anymore since you guys have opened and that his boss was very familiar with all the local strippers. He was afraid to call you so he then went in the store and I observed and listened to him ask another girl if she knew where he could find a good stripper cheap and this was his first time doing this. This girl yelled for the manager, then I watched the manager call and ask for you.
Now, that I have your attention!! You can buy furniture strippers from your local hardware stores but don't waste your money trying to figure out which one. In my opinion the Circa 1850 is the strongest and most effective over the counter furniture stripper. The formula allows the removal of old finishes like paint, urethane's and lacquer. It comes in two forms, one being a liquid and the other a paste. One will work on horizontal surfaces the other on vertical surfaces. I believe the paste is a heavy body remover, able to remove several coats of paint. You can buy it in a small can just under a litre or a 3.78 litre can. The small can is around $15 dollars and the larger can is $32 to $45 dollars. Do the math and this can be important because a small can is not enough to do a chair. If you end up buying the small can to save money you're actually going to spend more. So unless you're doing a small item you would be wise to buy the larger can. Make no mistake, all strippers are very dangerous to your health and usually full of carcinogens. Have lots of ventilation and if possible do your stripping outside, but still wear a good mask. The fumes will rise from your work directly into the air you are breathing. Wear rubber gloves, and protective eye wear and a long sleeve shirt. Stripper will burn the moment it hits your skin and can only be neutralized by water, so have some water ready and available. If you're doing this inside, set up some fans so you're bringing fresh air in and blowing the old air out. Strippers dry by evaporation if you don't have fresh air you will certainly be breathing in some very toxic chemicals. Don't let this scare you though and to make it easy just work outside but take the same precautions you would if you were in a closed room and be sure to wear a mask. You can try the other strippers but you will waste money as many of them do not work and they can be very expensive. You can also try the non-toxic, non-chemical type environmentally safe strippers but trust me it's a waste of time and money.
My biggest suggestion though is not to go outside your local hardware store and ask the local ladies if they know of a good stripper. Circa 1850 has been around since I was a young kid and has stood the test of time. This would be my no nonsense recommendation and a proven product. If you require any further information just drop me a line and I would be happy to help you out!
One of the first steps to refinishing an antique chair or any chair for that matter, is to take it apart in order to properly refinishing, repair and restore the item. The video below demonstrates the process of dismantling a dining room chair.
All around good guy. Down to earth and great sense of humour. A perfectionist, meticulous, taking pride in the work completed on each piece of furniture.