Mid-Century Modern Chair Refinishing

Our latest project is a set of mid-century modern dining chairs that we found at Habitat for Humanity's Silver Spring Re-Store. It's a brand new store with a lot of surplus, salvage, and antique building materials and furniture.

There was a sale happening that day, and we got them for 30% off, which resulted in six chairs costing about 70 bucks. Not bad, but when you consider that we spent more than four times that on all the materials, fabric, tools, and sandpaper, not to mention our time, they weren't all that cheap. But it is fun.

The chairs were in pretty poor shape. The finish was all rubbed off on the edges, and almost all of them were repaired poorly at some point in their lives. Most of them were wobbly too, requiring a rebuild.

The finish really cleaned up nicely, and we picked out a fairly simple, but definitely true to mid-century-modern style fabric to replace the black naugahyde upholstery. Most of the work has involved sanding, drilling, filling, gluing, and finally upholstering.

You can see how bad the previous repairs were in this picture. They used angle brackets (which were all broken in two), nasty glue, and hastily built-up dowels. Holes must have been drilled by hand, because everywhere they drilled a hole, they split the wood. Evidently they didn't use clamps. Anywhere.

You can see how bad the previous repairs were in this picture. They used angle brackets (which were all broken in two), nasty glue, and hastily built-up dowels. Holes must have been drilled by hand, because everywhere they drilled a hole, they split the wood. Evidently they didn't use clamps. Anywhere.

On a couple of the chairs, they created new holes for long screws to try to strengthen the chairs. I removed that stuff and repaired the holes with plugs of walnut. The repairs really came out nicely.

These dining chairs were manufactured in Tampa, Florida by the Foster McDavid company, which evidently made furniture in the 50's and 60's. They are made of walnut, most likely. We broke them apart, repaired cracks, screw holes, and gouges, and sanded the entire finish off using 150 grit (trying to remove as little material as possible).

After re-assembling the chairs, we sanded them with 350 grit one last time and dusted them off with a tack rag. Then we applied Watco Danish Oil in the natural color.

Wow.

A few days later I applied a furniture wax, which made them look even better. The wood feels so silky.