DIY Network

How to Refinish a Vintage Midcentury Modern Chair (page 2 of 3)

Iconic midcentury furniture is known for its high-quality construction, use of beautiful woods and great modern design. Learn what to look for when buying a vintage piece and how to properly refurbish it.

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Deactivate the Stripper

Use odorless mineral spirits and a plastic-bristle brush to scrub off the access stripper and finish. Mineral spirits will deactivate the stripper and if any got down into the pores of the wood, it will be safe to refinish over a trace amount. It should be turning a bit white at this point, but don't worry; it can be sanded off later.

Disassemble the Chair

You may ask why now and not earlier. Stripper is a bear to work with when you have nothing to grab, so keeping the chair intact while doing it makes the process a lot easier. Plus, it is easier to sand (with the grain) when in pieces. Separate the chair into as many pieces as you can easily take apart. Our chair has four pieces: a right side, left side, seat and back.

Machine Sand

This is where you make or break the project, so take your time and be methodical. Use 150-grit sandpaper on a palm sander and follow the contours of the chair. (Good sandpaper is worth the extra cost, so buy the good stuff. It will last longer and won't tear as quickly.) Sand everything evenly, and be careful not to "chatter" the sander on the edges, as it will leave marks on the wood you are trying to smooth out. If you get into a tight area, just leave it for hand sanding.

Hand Sand — Very Carefully

Cut sandpaper into manageable squares. You should be able to get four squares out of each full-size sheet of sandpaper. Fold each square in half and start working in the hard-to-reach areas that you couldn't get with the palm sander. Try to sand with the grain even if it means going in short strokes when butting up against a constricting area.

Very Important: All of the sanding marks will show through on the finished piece. The key to a professional-looking job is in the sanding as much as in the finishing.

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