Master Bedroom Makeover–Chair Refinish

This post originally appeared April 12, 2012 on My Repurposed Life. I am republishing it here in case you missed it.
I found this chair at a local antique store for $8. I was so cheap and cute, I figured I could easily fix it up.
Caned Chair
My original plan was to redo the caning in the seat since I’ve done that before and had all the supplies on hand. Sadly, once I removed the caning, I discovered that the groove needed to hold the caning in place was broken. The chair resisted all my attempts to fix it, so I had to switch directions.
I started off by stripping the old finish from the chair. The finish was old and I loved the crazing (crackled finished) in the back of the chair, but the seat was really beat up.
I have used a couple different products for stripping furniture, most of which are very stinky. I decided to give Citristrip a go this time because of it’s low odor. For stripping the finish, I like to use Steel Wool (#0 Grade) and high-quality chemical gloves. You can also use a paint brush to apply the stripper and a plastic putty knife to scrape off the old finish.
It’s a preference thing, but when removing a stain/varnish finish, I prefer the Steel Wool method and save the paint brush/putty knife method for paint removal.
Follow the instructions on the stripper, but it’s basically:
1. Apply the Stripper

The more layers you have to remove, the thicker the coat of stripper and the longer the wait time.

2. Wait

You can see it working, so you just have to judge by your piece of furniture. It’s more obvious when removing paint since it bubbles, but stain and varnish just start to look melty, if that makes sense.
Those dark patches are the old stain and finishes coming off.
The white-ish looking section here is where I left the stripper on too long. It dried and left this filmy color on the wood. I just used more stripper in a wipe on/wipe back off move and was able to remove the film.
3. Remove Stripper

Use the steel wool to take off the finish. Make small, circular motions to wipe off the old finish. You will use a lot of steel wool. Just switch to a new piece when it feels like you are putting more gunk on than taking off.
4. Assess and Repeat, If Necessary

After the initial stripping, let the furniture dry and see how things look. You can see along the joins and edges, I have so darker areas. When things are still wet, it’s hard to see, so letting thing dry will show you any places you’ve missed.
Can you can see the darker areas on the inside of the leg? Those need another round of stripper to even out the color and finish.
Once your old finish is removed, you can re-stain and finish how you want. I didn’t take pictures of the steps, but I used a light coat of Dark Walnut and then 3 layers of Minwax Paste Finishing Wax. I love how the lighter finish on the chair shows the grain of the wood. We have a dresser in our room with a similar finish making these two pieces go very well together.
The back looks too red in the above picture, the color in real life is more like the seat below.
To upholster the seat, I taped off the area where I want the seat to be. You can see the old nail marks in this chair when it was upholstered once upon a time. I taped just outside that area so it will be covered up.
Using some webbing, I wove a new seat for the chair.
To Weave An Upholstered Seat Using Webbing:
Chair Makeover1
The seat was big enough for 4 strips of webbing in each direction. I started the first piece to the left of the center of the chair back. When you put your first row of staples in, leave about an inch of webbing to fold back over the first set of staples (picture 2).
If you have a webbing stretcher, you can use that for steps 3 & 4. I did a poor man’s version by wrapping some needle-nose pliers in the webbing (so as to not scratch the wood). You need to have a good grip on the webbing to pull it tight and wrapping it around the pliers will give you a good hold. I had my son shoot about 3 staples into the webbing on the same side where I was pulling it. Then, I wrapped my pliers on the other side of the webbing and stretched the webbing while he put in the rest of the staples.
When I got to the edge of the seat, I folded back the side and notched the corner. Notching will help remove some of the bulk when you fold back the edge.
Do the same steps for the webbing across the seat, making sure to weave it in and out of the first row of webbing.
Cut a 1” thick foam cushion to match the woven seat. Wrap the foam in a layer of batting.
For the fabric, I used a drop cloth that I drew on with a Sharpie Marker. You can read about how I do that and the meaning behind the artwork over on post, Bedroom Makeover – Chair Seat on frou fruGal.
Staple the fabric onto the chair, being sure to pull the fabric tightly. There’s a fine line between tight enough and too tight. You can only learn this by practice, so be prepared to pull out a few staples to get it right.
I use a pneumatic staple gun for all my upholstery work. If you don’t have an air compressor and staple gun and plan to do any amount of upholstery, it’s a good investment. At the very least, buy a quality electric stapler, but just know that hard woods, like this chair, can be too hard for some non-electric and electric staplers.
Trim any excess fabric close to the staples. Using a hot glue gun, cover the staples with some gimp.
There you have it.

Cost Breakdown:

  • Chair – $8.00
  • Chemical Stripper – $3.82 (Used about 1/3 of an $11.48 bottle)
  • Fabric – $.50
  • Webbing – $3.16
  • Foam Pad – $3.29 (40% off coupon)
  • Gimp – $3.98
  • Gloves/Staples/Batting/Steel Wool – Stash on Hand

Total Project Cost – $22.75

Total Project Time – 5 hours
This chair is part of a makeover for my master bedroom. I’ve blogged about my master plan for the room, my new bedding, headboard and bench, and about some Centsational Girl-inspired pillow shams that I made. I’d love for you to check out my other projects.
Thank you for reading Frou-FruGal. For more projects, please click to my site,