Introduction: Refinish a Rocking Chair for the Nursury

About: Howdy, I am a bit of a tinker gnome. I like playing with hardware/technology along with making stuff I want out of old stuff I have or find. I should warn you that I am like Dog from "Up". There will be no…

I recently stumbled across the folder that I thought lost on refinishing an antique rocking chair for my daughter. She is now 1 yr old, and I have spent many a night rocking her in her nursery, as has her mother.

5 years ago I was able to find a antique rocking chair that was perfect for a little boys nursery. It was dark wood with a nautical theme and as you can see from the initial pictures at one time it was beautiful Unfortunately my ex wife kept it in a storage unit for several years where it got wet and turned into the state found in the second picture. To say the finish was in bad shape was an understatement but it was still mostly solid.

Mrs, TinkerGNome and I were expecting a daughter and the old rocker needed some TLC to be used in her nursery. But there in lies the problem I have never refinished furniture before. I figured it couldn't be that hard I would approach it like a car. Sand down the yuck finish, putty the inperfections, sand some more, prime, and paint. Anything would be an improvement and I feel that it turned out quite nicely.

Here are some pictures I took of the process for her Baby Book. Plus the kiddo's have the story to share that they both were rocked in that chair by their dad. And I think the chair should be able to withstand another 40 years or so, to be used when my children have children of their own.

Step 1: Assess the Damage

As you can see by the pictures it was in poor shape cosmetically but structurally it was still very solid.
There was a split in one of the rails and no big gouges.

I feel that all of these issues need to be addressed in the following order

  • Structural repair
  • Rough sanding
  • Filling of cracks / deep scratches
  • Uniform Sanding
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Trim paint.

The tools I used were just a mixture of common hand tools,

  • A rubber putty knife for smearing wood filler paste
  • A paint can tool
  • Sand paper in 60 grit 100 grit and 220 grit (what I had on hand)
  • Paint stirrers
  • Thin CA Glue for reinforcing cracks. And flowing into old joints.
  • Paint brushes of various widths. I had a 3/4 inch and a 3 inch brush
  • A quart of primer and the finish top coat of what ever color you choose.

Step 2: Fixing and Sanding, and Gluing and Clamping

To Fix the crack in the rocker

First I filled the crack with CA. To clamp the repair I used 2 paint stir sticks, along with a piece of poly bailing twine, to form a tourniquet clamp. The idea was to provide the paint stir sticks so that the poly twine would not dig into the wood when torsion is applied via a screwdriver. This clamp uses the same principals that a medic uses in a tourniquet.

After that crack was stabilized and set up, I went over the rest of the chair looking for large cracks and loose pieces. Although I did not find any as bad as the one pictured I still put a bead of glue to soak into the few hairline cracks in the arms.

I was over all impressed in the condition of the chair as it was stamped as made in Czechoslovakia 1973. I picked it up from a local flea market. The vendor I presume acquired it from he local childrens hospital ward. They recently moved to a new building and I presume they were clearing old surplus furniture. Each room had one of these chairs in them. Now with the new building the hospital has new glider rockers.

After about 10 minutes or so I removed the clamp and commenced with sanding and filling and sanding some more.


Sanding is a boring process. As I was just working on scuffing the whole chair to get my primer to stick I didn't take too many pictures. Start off with the 60 grit to get all the loose flakes of polyurethane off, and start the process to expose wood so that your filler has something to stick to.

After you have sanded the Spot to be filled squeeze some filler into the crack or gouge using the rubber spatula/spreader. After it has cured per the directions on the can/tube, continue sanding until the repair is now flush.

Step 3: Optimize the Prime

Ok so that pun was even more terrible then they usually are.

After you putty has dried and have gone over all surfaces of the chair with 220 sandpaper. Start applying your primer in light coats preferably on a day with low relative humidity.

I went with the bottom first and put a good 4 coats on the runners before working on the rest. This is by far the most time consuming step. The wood was dry and thirsty and kept sucking my paint right in. By the time I went through the entire quart can of primer the seating surface got 6 coats along with the rockers, the rest of the chair received about 4 quarts. It was time to play with the trim paint I used a pink paint pen to see how I wanted the finished piece to be but as we did not have the final nursery colors picked out yet primer with a pink would have to do.

About this time Mrs. TinkerGNome arrived home from work to the surprise of the chair in its primed state.

Step 4: It's the Final Countdown....

After a couple days we finally got the paint colors picked out and while painting Miss Abigail's room I was able to put a few coats on the chair in the same colors.

We went with a antique white for the top half and a shade of pink for the bottom half. The chair was painted with 2 coats of the white and I went back with a tiny pant brush and did the detail work with the pink so that it matched perfectly but complemented as the white shown up on the pink.

I hope you my gentle reader has been inspired to try something out of your comfort zone as the skills really do layer on top of each other.

On a Budget Contest

Participated in the
On a Budget Contest