Restore Old Furniture Without Power Tools.




About: Maker at heart, normally I don't have the money to buy the stuff I need/want, so I build them myself. I've been a blacksmith, built cigar box guitars, work on cars,and one hell of a cook.

This is my first Instructable, so cut me some slack.

This is a very old chair but it has a lot of sentimental value in my family, it used to belong to my grandpa, so as a special mothers day gift I restored it for my mom.

I'm not a pro at this every thing i know about wood working i learned from my uncle Nachi (RIP) so this instructable is dedicated to his memory.

I used very basic tools and techniques but if you have some free time you can get pretty good results out of them.

So just give yourself time and if you get bored give it a rest and start when ever youre ready again so you don't mess up.

Step 1: Find a Place to Work

It's allways best if you have a place to work where you can leave every thing if you get tired, plus if you make a mess who cares it's your shop any ways.

so this is my little shop of horrors

Step 2: The Tools

this are very basic tools, just some hammers, a flat head screw, some pliers and then on the second pic we have sand papers, a dust mask, wood filler, shellack, and thats about all i used to restore this old chair.

Step 3: Out With the Old

the first thing i did was to remove the old and dried up leather.

for this i used mostly the screwdriver as a pry bar, i also used the claw hammer ad the pliers to remove the old nails and tacks holding the leather down, this is pretty straight forward just remove anything thats not made of wood.

Step 4: It's Time for Muscle Power

so this is when we start sanding the wood i started out using a 120 grit and that's the only grit i used for this step.

i'll tell you why in the next step.

Step 5: Filler Up.

remember i only sanded the wood with 120 grit, that was because we need to use the wood filler to even up all the nicks in the chair.

this is a messy step but who cares just have fun, and remember use a lot of filler you will sand it down later any ways.

Step 6: Sand Some More.

this is the step where you break a sweat and the most time consuming also, start with the 120 grit so most of the filler evens up with the wood, thn work your way up to the other grits.

Step 7: French Polish

since i wanted this chair to be as original s possible i french polished it, this also takes some time but it's not as hard as you think

to french polish you use shellac dilluted in alcohol and some cotton in a rag this thing is called a mu�equilla, to do this you first wet the mu�equilla with the shellac and start with long strokes, then you make some round ones and figure eight ones, and then some more long strokes, used a ketchup bottle to hold the shellac and wet the mu�equilla from time to time.

Step 8: Go to the Local Tanners.

i don'y have pics of this step, but go to your local tanners and buy some leather to upholster the chair again, get creative in this step, leather's expensive ( i spent about 60 USD) so you can experiment with other fabrics. also dont forget to buy tacks and nails to hold te leather down.

i first nailed the leather and then used the tacks to cover up the nails.

Step 9: You Are Done!

so this is what my chair looks like when i finished it, the leather looks a little orange but it will get darker with use so it will get brown in time, anyways since youre done give your self a pat in the back and make your mom proud.

good luck, have fun and take your time i spent about to weeks on the project but it was worth it because of th sentimental value.



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    14 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great job! To save money on buying leather - look out for old leather chairs and sofas being chucked out - then take a craft or utility knife and go skin it!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice work! I like it when people restore old things rather than just throw them out. Good job!


    9 years ago on Step 6

    You're hott. Also, like your restoration a lot, and it gives me inspiration and motivation to get to some of the things lying around the house, like "chairs designated for guests we don't like" (meaning, they'd fall apart if you sat in them). Nice instructable, and keep up the great work hott stuff.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 6

    Thanks, you should see me now that i shaved haha! Give restoring a try it's fun and kind of relaxing at the same time.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Si yo tuviera que adivinar, diría que es usted español. : ) Nice, nice work. I'm sure your uncle and mother are very proud of you. I had one question, though: what is the proportion of alcohol to shellac you used?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    en realidad soy mexicano pero de familia española. There wasn't an actual proportion fo alcohol to shellac, but it's something like 1/6 of shellac and 4/6 of alcohol all of this was more eyeballed than having real proportions. Dilluted shellac (if the dark kind) should look coffee with a lot of water, if you have more questions please ask. Thanks, my mom's still very proud because of her gift.

    Linda Allen

    9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm sure it was the best Mother's Day ever for her! I'm working on a massive old wooden chair, and now I'm going to consider the French polish. Thanks for the instructable.

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very, very nice! It is so lovely to see something that is a wreck, made into something so good! Well done!