Refinishing Wood Chairs

I admit, I am a thrift store shopper.  When I walk through the door and smell that mix of Fabreze, mildew, and old people (you frequent thrift shoppers know what I’m talking about) “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (in case you live under a rock)  starts playing in my head on repeat like my personal theme song and I get a surge of adrenaline while I run for the furniture section to see what treasure possibly awaits me.  I’m pretty much a modern day female Jack Sparrow.  OK not really, but sometimes I pretend I am.

Anyway, my husband and I decided we needed a table or something to put next to our television stand in the living room and so we headed to the local thrift store.  As we divided and conquered the heaps of trash and half broken furniture, there hiding under a table were these two wooden chairs.  At first I didn’t think much of it, mostly because we were in the market for a table.  Soon we realized this store had no quality tables at the moment, so I let my eyes start to wander to other pieces and I came back to these chairs.  They were half covered in a weird brown paint, half naked wood.  They were super sturdy, made during a time when quality mattered.  And the best part, the price tag per chair was a staggering $6.  I was in love.  I hadn’t refinished furniture before, but I wanted to give it a shot with these chairs.  After breaking the bank with a $12 transaction, my husband and I headed straight to Home Depot and purchased sand paper, a nice paint brush, and a clear urethane.  We then headed to Target and found two $20 green pillows (I know, they were a splurge but I really loved the intricacy of the woven pattern) and a $40 multicolored geometric shaped ottoman.  You know, it is ironic we spent 100 extra dollars because of our 12 dollar chairs, but it’s beside the point.

The only "BEFORE" picture I have
The only “BEFORE” picture I have

After the chairs sat in our home for a few months begging me to finish them, I finally found the time.  This is what I did:

1. I took the two chairs, the sand paper, the paint brush, and clear urethane out to the garage so I could make as big of a mess as I wanted.

2. I sanded the junk out of the chairs.  This was by far the hardest part.  In retrospect, I wish I had double the amount of sandpaper as I did (and I was too lazy to go back to the store), or ideally I wish I had an electric sander.  I used a courser grit to try to get the bigger paint chunks off of it, and then I used a finer grit to make it all smooth.  Getting into all the nooks and crannies was also really difficult and took a lot of hand work.  I left some of the brown on the chairs to give it that worn/old/I-just-came-out-of-a-barn look.  My biggest piece of advice, get more sandpaper than you think you will need (unless you are less lazy than I am) or use an electric sander.  With these chairs anyway, an electric sander wouldn’t have done me a whole lot of good because there were so many tight spaces.  The bright side, I got a NICE arm workout from this!!

3.  Once the brown paint to raw wood was just as I liked it (and let’s be honest, when my arm told me I was done sanding) I laid out newspapers on the ground and placed the chairs on top.  Then it was time for the urethane!  The kind I got starts white and dries clear which was really nice because I was able to make sure I got every little piece covered.  The container recommended two thin coats, but I was getting tired and decided to do one thick coat.  I was paranoid that my brush strokes were going to show when it dried, so after I put a thick coat on a small part I would go back over it with an almost dry brush going all the same direction.  Once it fully dried I am not sure you can really see any brush strokes, but I like to think that extra step was worth it.  The urethane dried pretty quickly, so make sure you touch up all mistakes as you go.  I started from the top and worked my way down to the bottom so I could cover up all drips.

4.  Once I was all done with the second chair, the first chair was dry to the touch.  I left them in the garage overnight and then took them inside in the morning, though I am pretty sure if I gave them about another hour they would have been fine to move around.

fixed 2 fixed

Even though there was no drastic change, I am still super happy with how they turned out.  You can see the grains of the wood which I love.  The clear coat gave them a beautiful sheen that makes them look finished and fancy.  They are pretty comfortable to sit in on their own, but the green pillows from Target really gives them the homey touch.  We don’t have a dining room table, so when we have guests over (which let’s face it, isn’t often) I get so excited to bring these chairs around the coffee table.  These chairs have become one of my favorite pieces and no matter where we move to, these chairs will always be coming with us.


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