Windsor Chair Restoration

Furniture Restoration Challenge

It was the second term and we were ready for a week of restoration under the expert tutorship of Simon McIntyre! A pile of antiques had arrived from various sources which the students selected by means of a lottery. There was a Georgian table, a Regency sideboard… lots of quality pieces. So anything but number 7, the tatty old Windsor chair in the corner would be fine. Yes, you guessed it. Number 7 appeared on the crumpled bit of paper in my hand!

Sad Old Windsor Chair

So off I went, feeling a bit gloomy, with what turned out to be an 18th century Windsor chair with only 3 legs, 2 stretchers and a corner that had totally been munched by woodworm. Not to mention the green paint covered by red paint covered by some kind of black gunge.

Step 1

The first thing to be done was the corner of the elm seat. I cut a v shaped section to remove the crumbling corner and cut a piece of new elm to try and match the grain. The v shape helped to hide the join and maximised the surface to be glued for strength. This was then glued until set and then sculpted to match the seat shape using a power file.

Step 2

Next I carefully turned a new stretcher to match the remaining one and glued it and a new leg. The new stretcher was fox wedged into the older structure for added strength and the leg length adjusted until the chair was stable.

Step 3

So far so good. But now it needed to be stripped of the paint while preserving the patina and hopefully not adding any new pits and scratches. I used a chemical paint stripper which I rubbed into all the crevices, however the lead based 19th century paint turned to porridge rather than peeling off like the adverts promised! The stripping took a whole afternoon and was a severe test of my patience and stamina. However the advantage of being up to the neck in gunge was that it was worked into the new wood which now blended perfectly with the old.

Better than New!

A quick rub down with meths to get the last traces and a rub with black wax brought the chair back to a gorgeous finish! The project was definitely worth all the gunge and the chair is now fit for another 250 years!

Brian Webster
Student 2008/9

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