Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Face Lift For An Old Rocker.

Back in very late 2006 I was a new mom with very little money or space. So when My Uncle Bill generously offered me one of his (many..many!) rocking chairs saying "Every mom needs a rocker for her baby" I couldn't say no. It wasn't glamorous, it certainly wasn't my style, but it was comfortable, and it was free. 

{dusty old rocker pulled from storage}
As the time went on I had more space and more flexibility with my budget, and seriously considered re-upholstering the rocker, I even went so far as to buy 3.5 yards of upholstery weight fabric. But then I never seemed to be able to find the time to sit down and get started on the project. 

{blue abstract floral upholstery weight fabric}
Time continued to pass, we bought a house, started a blog and still couldn't find time to start project rocker face-lift. My tastes also changed a little too, as did my original vision.While I still really like the fabric I originally picked out, I'll be saving it for another project. In the meantime I picked out four yards of a different fabric that I feel will suit the piece & where I plan to put it a little better.



Refinishing any piece of furniture is a labour of love and patience. Even though it can be tedious at times during the preparation I cannot stress enough how important it is to take your time to do a proper and thorough job. The final results are worth it. Trust me, I am the most impatient person in the world but having a crappy finish in the end is not worth the rush of just getting it done. You won't be happy with the results and you'll be even less thrilled about the idea of doing it all over again. So take your time, walk away if you're bored or frustrated, let someone else spend some time sanding the crap out of your piece while you have a cup of tea or a glass of wine to de-stress. 

{ready to striiip}
Applying a finish remover with an old paint brush (I used Circa 1850, because it was low fume and said it could be used to remove paint, poly or lacquer & I wasn't 100% sure if I was working with a lacquer or a poly topcoat), paying special attention to the curved and decorative areas I had to wait about five minutes before using a putty knife to gently remove the finish. I wiped the surface with a clean rag as I went to be better able to see which areas were clean and which still needed attention.

Once the chair was completely stripped, I had to finish preparing the surface. To ensure good adhesion and a smooth surface the next step was to sand down every part that would be receiving a new coat of colour. Using a fine grit finishing sand paper, making sure to get in all the grooves and curves, being sure to 'go with the grain' at all times.

{sanding, stage one}
 Once everything was sanded down I went over the entire chair with a clean, damp rag to pick up any dust or grit left by the sandpaper. Now that the wood was ready to be re-finished I had to make the hard decision, paint or stain?
{sanded & ready for a new finish}

As much as I love the look of a well-painted piece of furniture, what I really dislike is the time it takes for paint to properly cure on wood. Having painted our own kitchen cabinets, I'm no stranger to how long this curing time can actually be (even when giving the piece ample time to cure, humidity and surface pressure can cause long cured paint to chip and peel). Knowing that the rocking chair will be getting ample use, and not always the TLC it deserves (every six year old knows rocking chairs are the BEST type of furniture to do a flying leap on or off of), I was already leaning toward re-staining. When I saw this article from Apartment Therapy*  I was pretty much sold on the whole re-staining thing.
{1st coat}
Because of the red hues in the wood, the first coat of stain ended up looking a lot richer (more walnut-y?) than it would on a blond wood like pine or birch (where it would be a bit more grey after the first coat). But That didn't bother me because I had expected the stain to run closer to a super deep brown rather than a true black because of the type of wood (I'm thinking it might be a red oak... or something). 
{2nd coat}
After the second coat went on there were no doubts left that I would be happy with the results as the colour just kept getting richer and more even. It took four coats (sanding lightly in between each) of Miniwax in Ebony to get the dark rich colour I wanted. 

{stained & poly'd rocker with new upholstery fabric}

 It took me about two weeks (with ample breaks, some sanding help and no crazy focus) to re-finish this chair, I think the biggest time suck was sanding in all the grooves, curves and detailing. If this was a more modern design it probably would have taken a lot less time. Now that my old rocking chair has a new finish it was ready for some updated upholstery too!

**{I was not paid or perked to mention or link to Apartment Therapy's article. I personally think there are some great articles and inspiration to be found on the site, this being one that helped me with my project and may be applicable to others considering similar refinishing jobs.}**