My family and I recently went to Montana to visit my sister. On the way there, we stopped at a flea market in Stevensville that we spotted from the side of the road. As we were looking around I found an antique rocking chair from the late 1800s that I instantly fell in love with. My husband, grandma, and children, on the other hand, thought that I could possibly be loosing my mind to want to spend $45 on a chair that was quite literally falling apart. My grandma, who was with me at the time, told me that her great-grandmother had a chair just like this one when she was a little girl. Although she loved the quick trip down memory lane, she was doubtful that I would be successful with this antique chair makeover. Her story made me fall in love with this dilapidated piece of furniture even more and I was set to prove her wrong. I love redoing furniture, and even more than that, I LOVE history. Furniture with history seems to give me a sense of belonging… weird, I know! It just makes my heart sing!
As soon as I got home, I got busy carefully taking apart the chair one square nail at a time. I was amazed at all of the details that went into it. They used 4 different fabrics, including the leather that covered it. The inside was stuffed with burlap, a rough-looking cotton, and straw.
About 2,000 square nails later, it was ready for sanding! My Black & Decker Mouse made light work out of the job. I used a 180 grit sandpaper to get down past the paint stain and then a 240 grit to smooth everything out. There were a few small splits in the wood that I choose not to fill in with wood putty. Other than the slight cracking on an arm, this chair is great condition and I wanted to leave some character to tell its age.
I decided not to keep the original spring system in the seat, so when I finished sanding all of the wood down, I cut a board to make a new base for the seat cushion. I used milk bottle paper on the inside of the chair to make a template and cut out the shape with an exacto knife. After tracing the shape from the paper onto the board I used a jigsaw to cut it out. Voila! I had my base for the seat, finished.
Everything in my house has a dark wood stain but surprisingly enough, it was a bit of a challenge picking out the best stain color to match. Thankfully, the amazing people at the hardware store let me try out a few different samples in the store before purchasing. I ended up choosing Ebony Minwax Wood Finish without poly added to it. I seem to have better luck avoiding drips that way. I put two coats of stain and then a coat of clear satin polyurethane. If you put on too much at once, you will get drip marks. Make sure each coat is completely dry before adding the next to avoid bubbling and streaks. Slow and steady wins the race when applying any stain or top coat.
I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. Now I’m itching to get started on the seat cushions and back. I will be sure to update you as soon as I finish, so keep an eye out for the next post on my little antique chair makeover!