Last fall I saw a mention of a garage sale on Facebook with some pictures of furniture. Of course I click through all of them to see if there is any of interest. As I scrolled through I saw a lot of vintage and probably antique furniture in various states of distress. As I should Brian the pictures and asked me why I wasn’t in the car yet.
So I went over and there was a whole driveway full of stuff. It turns out that the wife used to paint furniture and now that they were moving there wasn’t a place to store all of it anymore. The husband was willing to make some deals and my biggest problem was trying to figure out what to take home. I gave myself a budget and tried to remember that I did not own a huge warehouse to store all of my treasures.
I ended up with 5 pieces that you will see over the coming months. Today I have a great claw foot chair that looked pretty ordinary when I saw it. AS you can see it had a really dark stain on it and a maybe leather on the seat. Old and dated. Maybe it once had mates in a dining set but now it was just by itself looking yucky.
You can see here that the finish had this terrible alligator texture to it. It was so even it looked like it was intentional instead of just cracked finish. But what you can also see here is the reason I brought it home – look at that wood underneath! That my dears is very old, beautiful grained oak.
I think oak is beautiful but the golden oak of the 80s gave it a bad rap. Those golden oak stained cabinets you see being ripped out of every kitchen on HGTV still make me cringe. But old school, vintage oak that was cut by a craftsman is a different animal. It usually has a crazy grain through it when it is cut a certain way, like when you hear of quarter sawn oak. I’m not sure how old this is exactly but it does have the old flat head screws I see on a lot of very old things. (Phillips head screws weren’t invented until the 1930s). So with that in mind I set out to get at that grain.
First you must know, oak is a bitch to sand. The “mighty oak” is a thing for reason. It’s hard as hell. So when you are looking at curved surfaces that you will have to hand sand I highly recommend starting with paint stripper. As always I slathered a thick coat of SoyGel on and let it work. Since Soygel is clear you can see all the black goo lifting off, and is quite addicting really.
After the bulk of the finish was off, I started sanding. This can be like going down a rabbit hole with oak. It has an open grain which means there are tons of tiny spaces that will have bit of stain or patina in them that you may never get out. And instead of seeing that as a problem, I try to use it to my advantage. I let it enhance the grain so it stands out even more. It also helps to keep the patina of a piece instead of looking brand new. I like to see the beauty in the scars, a story about where it’s been.
Another great way to bring out the grain? Pure tung oil. It is known for making grain pop. I use the Pure Tung Oil from Real Milk Paint which is just tung oil with no dryers or additives. It’s even food grade for cutting boards and it won’t melt your skin like some other finishes.
The upholstery was original from what I can tell. It was held in with tiny nails and was stuffed with dried hay. The fabric looked to be leather but it was hard to tell as it was so dry rotted it fell off in my hands. I reupholstered using a cotton fabric in a cool and breezy blue and white print. (For those paying attention, this was a leftover square from the Habitat for Humanity Rocking Chair I finished last spring). I think it helps the oak from being too stodgy, making it more modern and beachy.
And here is it all finished.
I love the grain on the arms. I don’t tend to swoon easily but really pretty wood grain makes me swoon. This is one of the reasons I love my husband because he understands this swooning and thinks it’s cute. (He also knows that when I say “He’s cute!” really loudly, I am probably talking about a horse I just saw online.)
Even the back of the chair has wonderful grain.
This chair is for sale on my new shop page right here on my own website!!! I just started to think about selling my furniture form here instead of Etsy so this is the first thing I am listing. I will tell you all about the shop when I have more listed soon.