Do It Yourself Furniture Repair

  • Wax your furniture- to build up the finish, cover scratches or damages, and to obtain a more durable and long-lasting improvement than oil polish. Apply a hard paste wax with 0000 steel wool using a few drops of water to help emulsify the wax, and apply it as thinly as possible, rubbing with the grain of the wood. When finished applying the wax, let it dry and harden for an hour or so, then wipe off all excess wax with a clean, unused dry steel wool pad. Complete the waxing by buffing with a clean pure cotton rag, an old tee shirt will work well, or cheesecloth. Repeat the process and apply as many coats as you need to build up the finish on the furniture. Wax will not hurt anything, although it can dull a glossy finish. Wax can be removed readily with mineral spirits or turpentine, which should be done if there is a grimy build up.
  • Recovering a dining room chair “slip” seat- A slip seat is padded over a plywood panel, about 1 1/2″ thick, and held in place under the chair with four screws at the corners. Remove the seat, remove all the old fabric if the padding is thin or uncomfortable and strip away the padding. Glue with contact cement a 1″ thick medium to high density foam rubber cut off even with the edges of the chair seat panel, and apply a 1/2″ polyester batting over the foam rubber. Then apply your fabric over the padding with about 1″ extra around the bottom of the seat, pull tight and tack in place around the corners of the seat, then pull between the tacks and staple using ¼” staples (T-50 staples will work well), pulling the fabric tightly and evenly around the seat.
  • Regluing a platform chair (with wooden seat)- A chair should be maintained so it is always tight. There should not be any wobbling or looseness detectable. A chair is a dangerous thing if not well maintained. A dining table can collapse and you will only lose dinner. A chair can collapse, and a person’s back can be injured. You will need a least a dozen metal clamps about 24″ or longer, a coping saw and pine or fir to cut for clamping brackets, and yellow wood glue or hide glue. Don’t use epoxy or polyurethane glue. You should also have some mechanical aptitude to judge how the work is progressing.
  • Removing grime from furniture- This should be done with sensitivity, or the finish may be damaged. Try on inconspicuous spots first, and see how it looks a day later before working on the entire piece of furniture. There are many different types of finishes, including oil finish, wax, lacquer (most common), varnishes, and shellac and they can be damaged by what you use to remove the grimy buildup. We will only describe a relatively safe technique for removing oily, waxy buildup from lacquer, shellac, and varnish finishes. Purchase a water base wax stripper, dilute it, and apply with a small cotton pad in an inconspicuous area. If the result is good, continue. If little

    result is obtained, try a more concentrated solution. Be careful that you are not damaging the underlying finish. Old varnishes can be soft and easily removed, and you may not want to go that far.
  • Removing paint spatters from lacquered furniture- Try using xylene mixed half and half with mineral spirits. Apply with cotton pads, wearing rubber or nitrile surgical gloves. If this doesn’t work rapidly enough, try full strength xylene. What Not To Do, unless you really want to Do It Yourself-
  • Do not try to strip and refinish furniture in an apartment. If you manage to strip the furniture without getting spatters of remover all over other possessions and ruining them, you will most likely get sickened from the remover, or get dust all over everything you own, in all the rooms, from the sanding. REMOVE FINISHES AND SAND OUTSIDE, OR DON’T DO IT ALL.
  • Do not iron clothes on your dining table, unless you want to refinish it.
  • Do not remove or apply nail polish over a dining table, EVER! Nail polish remover is an excellent furniture finish remover, and a few choice spots, and that is what you will have to do.
  • Do not fail to walk your dog, it needs one hour a day of exercise, and will make you suffer otherwise by nervously chewing on your furniture.
  • Do not fail to have an interesting scratching and climbing post for your cat, or your furniture may suffer when you are not there. When you are there, try yelling “NO!” and squirting your cat if you catch it scratching something it has no business doing.
  • Do not let guests sit in weak or too small chairs. Try a rope across the seat. Fat people love to sit in tight chairs to prove how skinny they aren’t.
  • Don’t think nails, screws, or duct tape are the solution for everything. If they were not in the furniture before, they will only serve as a focus to break up the furniture further if it is loose.
  • Do not let upholsterers or your building superintendent repair your furniture. A cabinetmaker knows how to do it, an upholsterer will make repairs you will regret and pay a cabinetmaker to fix later.