Restoring an armchair – my pretty oak chair


I didn’t set out to find a project restoring an armchair. Finding an oak armchair happened by accident. While finishing off shopping at Christmas, I spied the chair for £5 in a charity shop. It was pretty and I thought it would be handy as an extra seat over the holiday period.

restoring an oak armchair from a charity shot

When I got the chair home, it was more like a rocking chair! It moved backwards and forwards and from side to side. The oak frame was very dirty with old varnish peeling and chipped. It was more of a restoration project than I had realised.

Forward a month or so and I finally found time to give some time to restoring the armchair.

restoring an armchair

The frame is such an attractive shape with barley sugar twist arms and legs at the front.

I started by stripping off the old varnish with Nitromors. I used fine wire wool to remove the softened varnish. Purists would probably choose a less harsh method of removing varnish from oak. Even using Nitromors varnish stripper it took several hours before the mellow oak began to show behind the thick sticky black varnish.

If you use Nitromors, it is best to work outside or in a very well ventilated room. The fumes are strong.

back of oak armchair

After removing the varnish, I washed the chair with warm soapy water. I left it indoors overnight to dry out. You just don’t get detail like this on modern chairs. What a bargain it was for £5.00.

Next it was time to get the screwdriver out and tighten the back blocks of the seat. Front joints were glued so the chair was sound to sit on again.

new seat on restored armchair

With the frame sorted, it was time to recover the drop in seat. I had a remnant of wool fabric that I’d bought to make cushion covers. It was perfect for the seat cover.

I made pencil marks on the back of the seat pad as a guide so I didn’t distort the fabric as I stapled it in place.

I fixed the fabric at the centre of the front and back and again at each side. Then it was a case of working round, easing the fabric taut.

More in keeping with the style in our office, the chair has replaced the office chair I recovered last year.

It’s fun restoring an armchair like this and I am pleased with how it has turned out.

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