Vintage Recliner Restoration

A few weeks ago I came across an ad on Gumtree advertising two vintage recliners. They were advertised at $60.00 each. The photos were dark and unclear but there was just enough there to make me think that the chairs were something different.

I contacted the seller to ask if I could buy one of the chairs. She informed me that the chairs were already taken. That’s life, so didn’t think much more of it. The next day, however, I received a message that the buyer had pulled the pin and the chairs were available again if I wanted them. What’s more, the seller had identified some issues with the second chair and I could have both for $60.00. Good deal I thought and went to collect.

The chairs were in a bit of a sad state. They had been used as outdoor chairs. Thankfully, they were under some cover, so the damage was only skin deep. One chair was structurally sound but the other chair had a broken leg.

I got the chairs home and made a decision to fix the good one up first. I found a makers mark, indicating that the chairs had been constructed in 1977. The vinyl on the chairs was in relatively good condition given the age and that they had been outside but some splits were visible. I picked the best pieces from both chairs and ended up with good vinyl for one chair that had the look of aged leather.

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I pulled apart the good chair as much as possible without interfering with the joints. The vinyl had left a nasty black funk on some of the wood, which took elbow grease with soap and water to remove. There was inconsistent fading on the armrests where the vinyl had been. Overall though, the chair was solid with only minor bumps and scratches.

I proceeded with removing the lacquer. Firstly with paint remover and then with fine grade sandpaper. I was very pleased to find a lovely grain underneath that just needed some love. I willnote that, by definition, what I am doing is refinishing and not restoration but I consider the term is used for both these days.

After completing the sanding, I ran over the wood with fine steel wool. Even at this stage, the beauty of the chair was starting to become clear. I then coated the chair with two coats of Danish oil. I prefer to put the oil on before I reassemble to make sure all surfaces are coated equally.

I started to put the chair back together to find that the vinyl armrests were a little too retro. The look without the armrests was far more vintage/mid-century and far more attractive.

I have decided to list the completed chair for sale. I have full confidence I will get my money back and more as it has come up so nicely. A bit more money to contribute to my retirement fund I hope.

I have kept the damaged chair to repair and restore. As it has the worst of the vinyl, I intend to recover in fabric for a mid-century aesthetic. Upholstery is not currently amongst my skill sets as yet, so we will have to wait and see on that one. Once complete, I will post for critique.

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