Restoring Antique Chair

Improving my woodworking experience restoring a 70 years old caoba chair. (October 12, 2009)


Antique Caoba Chair I found this antique caoba chair in my parent's house. I remember myself using it sometimes, I didn't believe it still standing. How an almost-70-years-old chair can survive so long, even when I did grow up using and abusing it?


Perhaps a miracle. Perhaps at that time carpenters and woodworkers did a good job. Today's wooden chairs doesn't last too long.


I decided to give this chair an opportunity to live longer, so I decided to restore it. I don't have a lot of experience but I wanted to give it a try.


First, I did a review about the status of the chair. There is a lot of damages as you can see in the pictures. Fortunately, only a small piece of wood is missing so I can restore it without using any additional wood.


Chair Damages Burn marks on chair.


Most of the damages on the chair was caused by rusted nails. Previous restoration jobs used a lot of nails. There are some burn marks [right photo] that I made long, long, long time ago. At that time, I was exploring my pyromaniac side. Fortunately, I settled on electronics and computers as hobby. I guess an arsonist career doesn't last too long.


Stickers on wooden chair. I also found some stickers that reminders me my childhood. Almost every furniture on my parents house have at least one sticker. I don't remember how or where we got those sticker. I said "we" because most of the sticker-vandals were my brothers. Let's move on.


Disassembling the caoba Chair The next step, and the hardest one, was to disassemble the chair without damaging the wood. Some parts were easy to remove as the glue in the joints were completely gone. Only nails were holding the chair.


Lots of rusted nails ... and I should say: "Lots of rusted nails were holding the chair". It's really hard to remove the parts without damaging the wood. Even worse, some nails breaks when I try to remove it from the wood, making it harder to take it out.


The black marks on the wood were done by the rubber mallet.


Nails in joints Small nails in the joints needed to be removed, but I found no easy way to remove it. As I was using only a few basic tools, I had to devise a way to do the job. So, here is how I did remove the difficult ones:


Removing nails from wood.


Using a piece of aluminum, I protected the wood when pulling it with pliers.


Removing nails with nails. As some nail heads breaks when pulling it, I had to use a nail to remove a nail. Quite effective, but it makes a bigger hole sometimes.


Using a magnet to find nails I did use a magnet to find hidden nails. Sometimes when I tried to pull the part I wasn't able to. I found that some nails are not visible.


Broken wooden part I got a broken piece of wood. Appears that a big nail cracked the wood since long time ago. The disassemble process separated the broken part.


It's not my fault mom! it was broken!


Fixing the chair with glue. Not a big deal. Some glue, pressure and time will fix it.


Look at me mom! Look! I'm fixing it!


Antique chair disassembled. Finally, here is the entire wooden chair disassembled. I did remove about one hundred nails from the chair. The nails that you see at the left picture, were the one hiding in the wood.


Sanding wooden chair parts It's time to sand each part and restore the beauty of the wood. I always follow safety procedures when doing any job or projects. I do use a mask when sanding and eye protection. Fortunately I still have two fully working eyes, contrary to what a reader believe.


Joints needed special attention as it were difficult to sand.


Sanding Wooden Joints Sanding joints


Assembling the restored chair. Once each part was completely sanded, I assembled the chair just to be sure each part is in the correct place. Regardless some parts looks identical to other piece, it may not fit in any other place.


As soon I finish it, I will play hopscotch.


Once the chair was assembled using glue, I started to fix some damages. Holes left by the nails were covered. I did apply some glue and sanded the area.


Fixing wood damages Sanding damages on wood


restoring antique chair Here is the chair restored with the natural wood color. I'm not sure if it was originally protected by any kind of sealant or varnish. I decided to use clear nitrocellulose as varnish.


The result exceeded my expectations. Regardless the chair is not a Louis XV chair, I like it. This chair has been in my family for a couple of generations and I expect that it will last another 70 years more.


Here is the "Before" and "After" photos of the restored chair:


Antique caoba Chair restored caoba Chair


The restoration process took one week. I think I'm willing to do it again. There is another piece of furniture that may be worth of restoration.


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