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Rocking Chair Restoration #1: Getting started

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Blog entry by Dave Polaschek posted 01-15-2022 01:56 AM 433 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Rocking Chair Restoration series Part 2: Undercarriage work »

I have an old beat up rocker (should I name it Eddie Money?)

It belonged to my mom, and she refinished the paint on it at some point. But the joints in the undercarriage have been falling apart for a decade, and it’s finally time for me to fix it up.

I started with the pot of hot hide glue yesterday. There are a total of 16 joints in the undercarriage, and all but three of them came apart with a little warm water poured around the joint. So I applied glue to all thirteen tenons, and then assembled things as quickly as I could.

After giving it overnight to let the glue set, they all feel solid now. Woohoo! But the chair is still pretty beat up. My sweetie and I are going to repaint it, with Real Milk Paint Plum over the black, probably letting a little of the black show through. Since I’m not sure what mom used to repaint it, I’m going to start by putting a coat of shellac on everything (shellac sticks to everything, and everything sticks to shellac!). But there are some cracks in the rockers and the arms that I want to repair first.

I ragged a coat of shellac onto all the bottom surfaces, filled the obvious holes with wood filler (Rockler Wunderfill). Here are comparison shots, before (but after a coat of linseed oil) and after, of the two rockers.

The cracks in the arms weren’t missing any wood, they were just cracked. So I dribbled a little CA glue into the cracks and then applied a very thin coat of filler into the cracks. I think it’ll make them a little more sturdy.

I also mixed up some black iron milk paint, promptly spilled most of it, but used the bit I didn’t spill to put a first coat on the bottom surfaces of the chair. Mostly I wanted to see how it would cover the Wunderfill, and the answer is “not great.” I’ll mix up another batch tomorrow, apply a second coat to the filled areas and also to any spots on the top of the chair that need more black, and then I’ll apply a coat of shellac over everything, top and bottom so we can start painting with the plum. We’re also going to test the gloss and low-sheen finishing creams on the underside of the chair to see which we like better. May also try tung oil over the paint, but that’ll change the color more. Again, the bottom of the seat seems like the safest place to do our tests.

I also need to figure out what to use on the bottom of the rockers. Maybe polyurethane. Maybe epoxy. Any thoughts?

-- Dave - Santa Fe



13 comments so far

View Oldtool's profile

Oldtool

3403 posts in 3525 days


#1 posted 01-15-2022 11:58 AM

Furniture restoration can be as addictive as making new, it offers the challenges of creativity in solutions. I find watching YT professionals doing this both interesting & informative.
Because the bottom of the rocker will see full weight during use as well as some possible flexing, I was wondering if any filler would survive, maybe popping out or crushing. The original construction of one solid piece of wood could withstand both the point pressure & flexing movement. This is a tough one, unless I’m just over thinking it, which I have a tendency to do.
I can’t think of any ideas at present, so I’ll be curious to see the rest of this story.

Ah-ha, found this with Google;

https://www.finewoodworking.com/forum/how-to-repair-rocker-runner

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

9330 posts in 1917 days


#2 posted 01-15-2022 12:54 PM

Agreed, Tom. I wasn’t sure if the rocker repair would hold or not, but there were spots where, due to the paint having been gone for years, the pores in the wood were large. I think the filler will at least be able to fill those so I can get a decent surface to paint.

I like the idea of gluing on a thin strip to repair the worn bottom. I have some thick ash veneer (or micro-lumber) that might work for gluing on a new surface. I’ll look at that later on when I’m in the shop. I think there are a couple straight-grained pieces that might work, but I may just paint over the filler I have and call it good and see what happens when the chair gets used.

Thinking more about it, I also have a piece of white oak I had planned to use for legs for a future project. I could maybe slice a piece off one side of that slab, giving myself a 1/16” thick piece of straight-grained oak. That would probably serve as a new bottom as well. The only trick is wrestling the big piece (12/4 by over 8” wide, by 5’ long) up onto the bandsaw to slice that piece off an edge.

Thanks for the thoughts!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View recycle1943's profile

recycle1943

6184 posts in 2957 days


#3 posted 01-15-2022 12:59 PM

I also need to figure out what to use on the bottom of the rockers. Maybe polyurethane. Maybe epoxy. Any thoughts?

I’m not too sure I would put any finish on the area that makes contact with the floor especially if it’s a carpeted floor. But if I did, I would use a floor finish poly

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View mafe's profile

mafe

13682 posts in 4424 days


#4 posted 01-15-2022 01:14 PM

Hi Dave,

That’s a chair worth restoring, soon you will be sitting there rocking, with sweet memories of your mother.
Big laugh: promptly spilled most of it, but used the bit I didn’t spill.

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

9330 posts in 1917 days


#5 posted 01-15-2022 01:37 PM

Dick, the chair will go onto our composite tile floors. Maybe onto a rug, but more likely not. The bottom of the rockers were originally painted, best I can tell. I have a small can of floor poly (which I used to repair wear spots in my house in Minnesota with oak floors), which I could use. Epoxy came to mind as another option I can deploy fairly easily, but I’m not sure how well it would hold up to the flexing over time.

Thanks, Mads! I was stirring the mix (about 100ml) when the cup I was mixing it in slipped from my hand. The biggest problem is that I now have black milk-paint spots on the side of my workbench, the side of my bandsaw, my shoes, my jeans, and even the shirt I was wearing yesterday. It was quite a splash. But I had about 30ml left to use.

I think this chair will be used by my sweetie. I’m a bit large for it (if I were to use it for me, I would make new legs, about 5-7cm longer), and I have a larger oak rocker my dad made which I can use, although that also needs some repairs, as every joint in it squeaks and groans if one rocks in it. But that will be a more involved repair, as it was constructed with PVA glue and so I can’t just reapply glue in the joints, but instead need to take them apart, clean off the old glue, add some wood to make up the missing thickness, and then reglue the joints (this time with hide glue).

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View doubleDD's profile

doubleDD

10918 posts in 3378 days


#6 posted 01-15-2022 02:02 PM

Heck of a start Dave. The few furniture restorations I’ve done for people were a pain, complete nightmare and a lot of fun using the imagination. So did you use the 5 second rule when you spilled the paint. Hahaha

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

9330 posts in 1917 days


#7 posted 01-15-2022 02:07 PM

Nope, Dave. The cup fell straight down and landed on its bottom, splashing most of the contents all around the shop. But what remained in the cup seemed to be usable, so why not use it?

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View mafe's profile

mafe

13682 posts in 4424 days


#8 posted 01-15-2022 02:22 PM

I can imagine the picture Dave, auuuuchhh.

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View doubleDD's profile

doubleDD

10918 posts in 3378 days


#9 posted 01-15-2022 03:24 PM

Hope you didn’t destroy the cup.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View MikeB_UK's profile (online now)

MikeB_UK

837 posts in 2370 days


#10 posted 01-15-2022 03:47 PM

Use the canarywood cup next time for the extra grip ;)

I’d go with a floor poly if the wood is in decent shape, laminating some ash would be good though (not sure about the oak, doesn’t normally flex well, but that thin may be OK)

-- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

9330 posts in 1917 days


#11 posted 01-15-2022 07:00 PM

The cup I use for mixing paint is a plastic, disposable 5 oz graduated cup. They’re nearly indestructible, and cheap enough that if I’m switching colors, I can just toss the cup.

I’ll probably go with the floor poly. I looked at my big hunk of oak, and the grain isn’t as straight as I’d like on either edge, which would probably mean splintering if I tried to bend it without steaming. And I haven’t even started to think where I’m going to set up a steam box.

We’re trying to decide how many coats of plum go over the black. 2 is too few. 8 is too many. But the color changes quite a bit as it dries, especially when painting over black, so we’ll look at it tomorrow and see. I also had lots of problems today with the plum foaming on me every time I mixed it up. Not sure what’s up with that, but it didn’t do that last time.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View crowie's profile

crowie

5255 posts in 3286 days


#12 posted 01-15-2022 09:55 PM

I’m just waiting to see this beautiful old chair fully restored and on use.

-- Lifes good, Enjoy each new day...... Cheers from "On Top DownUnder" Crowie

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

9330 posts in 1917 days


#13 posted 01-15-2022 10:21 PM

Thanks, Peter!

For the curious, here are the colors that maybe involved.

Most likely it will be the plum over the black. Neither of us likes the blue with the black as much.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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