How to Restore Antique Chairs

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How to Restore Antique Chairs

Antique chair restoration is a process that can be easily performed by anyone who is motivated and patient. This guide was created so that anyone can gain a full understanding of exactly what is required in antique chair restoration. One of the most important things to consider is the history of antique chairs, the many benefits that DIY chair restoration can bring, as well as some of the risks. Probably the most important section in this guide will be the step by step guide to making any chair look like new and the list of tools that any amateur antique restorer will need. Before restoring any antique chair there are several important factors and features that every owner needs to be aware of to avoid doing any lasting harm to their investment. Finally, having a full grasp of the proper care methods, as well as the many important historical manufacturers of antique chairs, can help maintain the results acquired through antique restoration. After finishing this guide, any owner of damaged or weathered antique chairs should feel more confident in starting their own restoration project.

History of Antique Chair Restoration

Chairs have existed since ancient times, but were almost exclusively reserved for the very powerful or wealthy. Chairs were a symbol of status that was reserved for kings and emperors; common folk most often used benches and stools. However, this changed in the Renaissance when chairs began to be owned by the wider population. Once the sense of social importance had been removed from the chair, it began to see a much wider use in all segments of society. The earliest chairs were simple designs that were most often made of wood and had no padding to speak of. As fashion trends advanced, leather and sometimes silk began to be used as a covering and horsehair was favourite cushioning material of the time. During the reign of William and Mary, English chairs saw a boom in production, leading to a sort of golden age of chair design in England. This era of chair design was known for beautiful upholstery and heavy wood construction. The chair would see further changes in the nineteenthand twentiethcenturies where they were influenced by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, providing even more unique designs and styles. Understanding the history of antique chairs is an important step to learning the ins and outs of antique chair restoration.

Discover Antique Chair Restoration

Restoring unwanted chairs can often be an ideal way to save money while still enjoying the benefits of handcrafted antique furniture. Most fully restored antique chairs can be quite expensive and any owner that decides to take the process of restoration into their own hands can avoid a lot of the costs associated with buying pristine antique chairs. However, restoring chairs does carry risks, and the owner must assess whether it may be preferable to take it to a professional. Many antique chairs are covered in unsightly paint and varnishes that hide their true beauty. Striping them down to their original materials can often reveal a valuable item.

Steps Involved in Antique Chair Restoration

While there are many types of antique chairs, with each presenting their own difficulties, the majority of antique chairs can be restored using a simple step-by-step process. Chair restoration is not a quick process and requires a certain level of dedication and patience. Be sure to carefully follow each step.



Examine the chair for important markings

It is important to examine any chair before restoration occurs. It is important to find the hallmark and identify how rare the chair is.


The first real step in any restoration process is to disassemble the chair. This step must be done as gently as possible so as to avoid any unnecessary stress or damage.

Clean old glue and replace damaged screws and nails

After disassembly, it is key to remove nails or screws and clean old glue off of key parts. It is important to collect any pieces and replace anything this is rusted or damaged.

Water treatment

First try to clean off paint and varnish with warm soapy water. Try not to wet the wood unnecessarily.

Apply semi-paste stripper

To remove paint or varnish, it is best to apply semi-paste stripper to lift off the paint. After an hour the paint should lift and become easy to push, not scrape, off with a scrapper or brush. Do not scrape the paint away. Once this is completed remove any remaining paint and stripper by carefully brushing each piece with No. 2 steel wool. Once completed rub dry with a soft cloth.

Apply liquid stripper to detailed areas

For paint found in more detailed crevices apply a liquid stripper but do not allow it to touch the flat parts of the chair. This will create an uneven look.

Leave to dry

Leave the chair parts to dry over night before continuing.

Remove the glaze left by the stripper

Once dry carefully brush away the glaze left by the stripping solution. Do this carefully and always brush with the grain. The goal is not to sand the chair pieces.

Apply stain

At this point the wood should be ready for staining. Apply all colouring lightly and wait a few minutes before using a soft cloth to rub it in. Do not attempt to apply a deep coat all at once, show patience and the final results will appear much more natural.

Leave to dry

Once again, any stained pieces should be left overnight to dry and set.

Rub and dust

Before applying any varnish, it is important to go over every piece carefully with a soft cloth. This will remove any dust and grime that might otherwise be sealed under the varnish.

Apply first coat of varnish

The first coat of varnish should be applied with a lint free rag. Be sure to work the coating in well and avoid excess coating in corners and edges.

Let dry and dust

Leave the varnish to fully dry and then dust again before adding second coat.

Repeat as wanted

Repeat these steps as often as desired, but be sure to add less and less varnish with each coat.

Scrub with steel wool

Once completed. Scrub lightly with No. 0000 steel wool.


Reassemble the pieces using any nails or screws that were saved. Use white glue to reattach pieces and wipe access glue away with a wet cloth.


If desired a light coating of paste wax can be applied to add a 'museum' like finish to the chair.

For upholstered or padded seats there are a few additional steps that need to be taken.



Remove old fabric and batting

Carefully remove old fabric and batting from the seat cover, being careful not to damage the frame.

Cut replacement fabric

Using the old material cut out a new piece of fabric, but be sure to add several inches to either side as a precaution.

Reattach the new fabric and batting

Turn the seat over and secure the fabric by wrapping it around the frame and securing it with staples underneath.

Tools Needed for Antique Chair Restoration

Before beginning any attempt to restore an antique chair it is important to have the right tools already available. The most important tools include:




Absolutely necessary to protect the restorer from harm.


Long thin scraper ideal for removing excess paint.

Steel wool

No. 2 and No. 0000 wool required for soft touch ups.

Cloth gloves

Perfect for handling wood and other materials.

Semi-paste stripper

A powerful paint stripper that gently lifts the paint from the wood.

Liquid stripper

Perfect for stripping paint from crevices and decorative marks.


Several cloths are required for cleaning and wiping.

Replacement nails and screws

For any screws or nails that cannot be easily replaced.


A solid wood varnish to protect newly restored wood.

Wood stain

Creates a wonderful look if applied carefully.

Replacement padding

Necessary for damaged upholstery

Wood Glue

Solid glue required for keeping some parts together.

Factors to Consider When Restoring Antique Chairs

Before attempting a restoration of an antique chair there are several important factors that need to be considered before making the attempt.

  • How rare is the chair – An exceptionally rare chair may lose value if it is restored, especially if not done by a professional. An owner should understand the worth of the chair both financially, and personally, before potentially altering it with restoration work.
  • Damaged Upholstery – It can be difficult to fully restore damaged upholstery without replacing substantial amounts of the original material. Decide carefully on whether it is best to patch up damages or fully replace them.

Typical Features of Antique Chairs

There are several key features that can help make restoring antique chairs a worthwhile investment. Some of the key features include:

1.  Hand made strength

One of the most important features in antique chairs is the amount of work that went into their creation. Antique chairs were handcrafted and as such have been able to survive hundreds of years.

2.  Upholstery

Antique upholstery is considered to be some of the most comfortable furniture. These pieces are often worthy additions to living rooms and other relaxing rooms in a home.

3.  Increasing value

Like most antiques a well-maintained chair may increase in value as the years go on.

How to Care for Antique Chairs

So long as these chairs are treated with the care they deserve, maintenance should be a simple task. A simple waxing, using antique furniture wax every few months is usually enough to protect a solid chair. Be sure to mend antique upholstery as soon as possible because rips and tears will only continue to widen.

Popular Antique Dining Chair Manufacturers

When looking for the most value in a restoration project it is important to learn the most popular manufacturers. These are the names that are seen as being the most valuable in the antique collecting world. Some of the most notable include:

  • Killarney-Ware
  • Samuel Bennett
  • William Kent
  • Thomas Chippendale
  • John Cobb and William Vile
  • George Seddon
  • George Hepplewhite
  • Gillow's
  • Thomas Sheraton

Finding Antique Chairs on eBay

If you want to purchase an antique chair visit the Antiques portal on eBay then click on ‘Antique Furniture’ and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Chairs on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique chairs. For example, to find a Victorian chair, type ‘Victorian Chair’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antique chairs with keywords. If you can’t find the exact antique chair you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


Restoring antique chairs is a difficult but rewarding process that can easily become an important hobby for any owner. Restoration can revive a chair to its former glory, and also preserve it as a functioning piece of furniture. However, any restoration should only be done after full research of the work involved, tools needed and potential outcomes. Once you have collected this information, you can restore your antique that you purchased safely and securely on eBay.

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