Stripping chairs is a messy project. It’s not necessarily a hard thing to do, just a time consuming. And depending on the chair, say if it’s a straight forward chair with no curves or details, it will be easier to strip and refinish. But we didn’t go that route because we are hoping to have our beautiful dining room chairs for a very long time.
We picked up these beautiful 1930’s chairs (approximately) at my favorite antique store, Ken’s Oddities in La Verne, CA. If you want to know more about the chairs or Ken’s check out this post. We knew immediately that we wanted to take off the old finish which, depending on the chair can mean, varnish, stain, etc…So that means taking a stripping liquid and going to town. Side note here stripping agents can go by paint stripper, paint removers or varnish strippers – it’s all the same thing.
First things first: make sure you strip the chairs in a well-ventilated and open area. This stuff is potent. Once you’ve established your area, put something down on the floor, a drop cloth, an old box, etc…because it’s messy. Also, you’ll need to wear full coverage clothes. Again, the stripper is intense. Intense as-in: it will feel like it’s burning a hole into you. This is first hand advice here guys. Ouch.
After you’ve prepped properly, unscrew the seat cushion and take off – should you have one. Then you’ll move onto sanding areas of the chair that are particularly rough – which for us was the weave on the back of the chairs. You don’t have to go to town here sanding, just make everything looks pretty smooth.
Next, pour the stripper into a bucket so it’s easier to dip your paint brushed into. We purchased Klean Strip Premium Stripper. When applying the stripper apply liberally – nice and thick. See that picture below on the left? That’s what you want – you’re trying to get the wood stain off! Cover the entire chair evenly and wait around 15 minutes until the next step.
Now you’ll take a putty knife and scrap off the first round of stripper – gently. See that brown muck below? That’s the first layer of stain. Make sure to scrap the varnish off before the stripper dries.
After you’ve scrapped the chair, particularly on the spots that look extra dark where the stain/varnish is, you’ll need to scrub it all over. Take a bucket and put a very small amount of soap in and fill the bucket full of water. You’ll dip a bristle brush into the soapy water and scrub away. We estimated about one large mildly soapy bucket per chair. Keep scrubbing until you see the chair and not all the gobs of stain/varnish.
If you see more stain, perhaps it looks uneven, you’ll need another coat of stripper. You probably will need to do a second application when stripping chairs. For our chairs, we applied the stripper a second time in specific spots where we could tell the dark varnish was still on. Just look at the before and after on our sexy dining room chair legs below!
Should you have more than one chair, it makes life easier to bring in help. However, I do recommend stripping one chair first to see how it responds and what’s needed to strip it. That’s what we did, so we’ve only stripped chair. Thanks nap time. Only three more chairs to go!
STRIPPING CHAIRS – How To
- drop cloth
- full coverage clothes
- paint brush
- 2 buckets
- putty knife
- large bristle brush
- Choose a well ventilated and open area to strip the chairs.
- Prep yourself by wearing full coverage clothing, goggles and gloves.
- Lay down drop cloth.
- If there is a seat, unscrew seat cushion and take off.
- Sand down any weaves, bumps or large areas.
- Pour stripper into bucket.
- Apply stripper with paint brush, liberally.
- Wait 15 minutes to scrap off stripper, but don’t let it dry.
- Using a putty knife, scrape the stripper off gently. Do not use a lot of force.
- Make a bucket of lightly soapy water.
- Dip a bristle brush in the soapy water and scrub chairs until clean from stripping agent and varnish. Approximately one large bucket per chair.
- May have to apply multiple coats of stripper. Second coast might only be applied to certain areas that have a lot of stain, not to entire chair.
- Let dry.
Step 2: Staining the chairs – coming soon!