5 steps to update a classic wooden office chair:
I found this solid oak desk chair at a thrift store. It was very dirty and dusty and the seat had split leaving a long crack. There was no other visible damage and the mechanisms seemed to function just fine. So for $10, I decided to take a chance that I would be able to fix the crack and clean it up without a lot of work. Before:Close-up showing where the wood is cracked and the surface is worn. This is what I did:
1. Repair any damage
I started by applying some glue to the crack and I used my finger to push the glue into the gap as much as possible along the full length of the crack. When I put the clamps on and tightened them the glue squeezed out and I wiped it with a damp cloth to remove the excess. Unfortunately, after two hours when I came back to check on the chair, more glue had oozed out and had dried on the surface. The glue had hardened so I could not wipe it off.
2. Sand the chair
I would have given the chair a quick sanding anyway, but the dried glue on the surface would mean additional time and effort to sand more thoroughly before refinishing. I tried sanding the area by hand, but that was going to take too long, so I switched over to my mouse sander, and that was still not powerful enough. The belt sander with medium grit paper was what finally got the job done – and quickly too. Then I took some fine grit sandpaper and rubbed all of the wood on the chair. I did not try to get all of the previous finish off the chair, I just sanded enough to scuff up the surface.
3. Apply stain to the chair
I wiped the entire chair down with a dry cloth to remove any dust. Working in a well ventilated area, I took a fresh cloth, dipped it into the stain and wiped a generous amount of stain onto the chair. I started with the chair upside-down, and applied the stain to all four legs first. Then I went back over the legs to remove any excess stain. I turned the chair right-side up and continued with the same technique on the main part of the chair, being careful to get a generous and even coverage on the chair. After one coat I was satisfied with the color. In fact, I was more than satisfied. Even though I had completely stripped some of the original finish, while just hand-sanding other parts, I was prepared to have to deal with an uneven finish. The result exceeded my expectations. This might have been result of the age of the chair and the finish was mostly worn off anyway, but whatever the reason, the stain was even and I was very optimistic that the chair would turn out great.
4. Apply varnish to the chair
I applied a wipe on varnish, and used the same technique that I used with the stain. I started on the base, wipe on, wipe off, turn the chair upright, wipe on and wipe off. After allowing time for the first coat to dry, I applied a second coat.
5. Clean the chair’s mechanical parts
I really should have done this first, but I was too anxious to get started. Plus, the main concern with this chair was whether the crack could be repaired adequately. If the repair had not worked, then any effort spent on cleaning the chair’s mechanical parts would have been a waste of time. I took a damp cloth and firmly wiped all of the exposed metal components of the chair. I also wiped off the wheels. The mechanism for raising and lowering the seat, the wheels, and the tilt function all worked great and did not need anything more than a wipe with a cloth. Yay! The chair works well and looks great in my son’s room. The crack is not at all visible. I was doing a bit of travel with my job, as well as a family vacation in between, so this took several weeks in duration, but the actual effort was probably 3-4 hours.