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Old nasty ladder back chairs with cane seats

I saw my neighbor literally toss these 2 chairs and 2 more just like them to the curb for the trash pickup so as I went out one morning to get the paper, I darted over and rescued them from certain death. They sat on her porch for several years and just got dirty. What is going to be the best method of stripping/cleaning/protecting them while protecting the ok-in shape cane seats but get the other 2 recanted? All ideas will be appreciated.

30  of  62 comments
  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 5, 2014

    Sorry, recaned. LOL The spell checker put the t into the word! UGH! These are solid wood btw and heavy as lead. I really want to do the best I can by them.

  • Leona G
    Leona G Howey In The Hills, FL
    on Jan 5, 2014

    I would mix up a bucket of warm water with Ivory soap and make it very sudsy. I would use a sponge dipped into the suds and wipe every thing down. After that I would Murphy's oil soap to rinse and finish cleaning. Again with very little water. There used to be a website on caning and caning materials if you want to do it yourself. Good luck

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Thanks! Never thought of that. I was just going to start by sanding with a fine 0000 and wire brush the wood and cover the caning with paper and painters tape to protect. Not really sure where I'd have gone from there. Should I use any type of stripper after I do what you suggest? I really have never done anything like this in my life. Mom, Dad and I have only dealt with wood items.

  • Linda Crandall
    Linda Crandall Chandler, AZ
    on Jan 6, 2014

    For old furniture, cabinets and paneling with an undamaged shellac, lacquer or varnish finish, mix a little dishwasher liquid in water and wash thoroughly. Since unfinished wood will swell in water, use an oil-based cleaner like Murphy's Oil Soap. Apply generously and repeat until the wood is clean. Buff it with a soft cloth to restore its luster. Ingrained GrimeCarol Williams, Extension Agent at Utah State University, says a mix of 3 tbsp. boiled linseed oil and 2 tbsp. turpentine in a quart of hot water is best for deep dirt. Turpentine will clean soil and oil and soften built-up wax and polish; linseed oil will replace the oils and restore bare spots. For a stronger cleaner, dip a soft cloth in mineral spirits (paint thinner) to rub away deposits of oil, greasy grime and old wax or polish. Always wipe wood dry and buff with a soft cloth after cleaning. Read more: http://www.ehow.com/list_7439246_ways-clean-o...

  • Melanie Ritchie
    Melanie Ritchie Canada
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Hi Barbara...firstly the seats on those chairs are Rush seats not Cane. Because Rush is a grass it is best if you don't get the seats wet. I would try using some Murphy's oil soap on the wood although from the picture the wood looks like it has no finish on it. Best not to get the seats wet :)

  • Linda Crandall
    Linda Crandall Chandler, AZ
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Ps those two chairs would make an awesome bench if you are going to turn them into something else :-)

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Ah! Good suggestion. Still getting suggestions, will wait until Spring, can only work outdoors, no shop space. No rush. Thanks!

    • Linda Crandall
      Linda Crandall Chandler, AZ
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Barbara Turner Either way they are going to be awesome!

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    No. I'm simply going to refinish them. I'm planning on giving them to my little granddaughter when she gets older. She has already (at 2 1/2) gone around our house and given me the famous SMILE that she really likes something! My clue that she'd like to have it some day! LOL She adores several teapots an etagere I have and other items!

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Wow. Thanks so much. I've always thought seats like this were cane. Never even crossed my mind for rush. Now, I'm thinking that could be why neighbor gave up on thinking about doing anything for them.

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    One expert on here told me the seats are rush and not cane and not to get them wet at all. She said just to take Murphy's oil soap and clean them up. Do not get the seats wet. Now I wonder what to do with the damaged seats. Gonna keep open for suggestions. We have a caning mom and pop shop here in town and I'm gonna call tomorrow and see if they can assist.

  • Cindy
    Cindy Converse, IN
    on Jan 6, 2014

    I have a rocking chair with a rope seat. I bet if you got a roll of bailing twine, real-not the nylon, you could make a decant seat, the one I have is very comfy.

  • Bonnie
    Bonnie Maylene, AL
    on Jan 6, 2014

    they are rush seats. Do not get them wet is good advice. Murphy's oil soap is probably your best bet. Looks like they have either been stripped or the finish has just disappeared with age. Might have some value to them because of the seats, don't know but look like good, sturdy chairs.

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Thanks I'll consider it!

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Yes! They are quite heavy - about 25 lbs. each! Very solid wooden chairs. In fact I'd be willing to say they are from at least the 1930's. Thanks for the value part. Hadn't considered that. I'm def. gonna get the Murphy's Oil soap. Still gonna have them looked at for full and antique value. I still can't believe she was going to throw them out! Stupid people.

  • Kim Butler
    Kim Butler Henry, TN
    on Jan 6, 2014

    I am always looking for odd old chairs. We are on a very tight budget since there is only one of us working. You have truly found a treasure.

  • Sally Roesner Fuhr
    Sally Roesner Fuhr Taylor Ridge, IL
    on Jan 6, 2014

    I once had a set of ladder back chairs. Notice how the legs are perfectly vertical' i.e., perpendicular to the floor at a 90 degree angle. This, combined with the lighter weight of the caned seat, makes the ladder back heavy enough so that they are "tippy." Nudge them back a little to arise from the seat, and thwack-- chair tips over backwards. Test them first for this. I gave mine to my sister. She agreed. However you choose to refinish, try to introduce more weight toward the front of the chair. Looking back, I could have strung some sort of lead weights (maybe from the tackle box, to the underside of the caning at the front edge of the seat.

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    @Sally Roesner Fuhr - Ah! Yes they are. I'll def. consider that tip! I'm not starting them til Spring so I'm still gathering and researching! I'm determined to see them through.

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Yeah, thanks! I know! She threw them out one evening apparently and the next morning I was stepping out to get the paper from the driveway and saw the poor things sitting there like orphans! I felt like "LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" I felt like Nicole Curtis probably did when she found that nice coffee table at the curb of somebody's house.

  • Marti Caldwell
    Marti Caldwell Milton, IN
    on Jan 7, 2014

    Re doing rush seats is not difficult and the materials are readily available at craft stores. I did a couple of them for my daughter years ago and i think I got a video that showed how - it is just a matter of weaving the rush around and around. I bet a web search would get you detailed directions - it was really fun!

  • Patty
    Patty Hodgenville, KY
    on Jan 7, 2014

    Marti is right, that type of rush is easy to do. As far as the finish goes, I would just use the really fine sand paper and just very lightly go over them, then wipe them down real good to get all the dust off and apply a satin finish poly to bring out the beauty of the wood. That way you have restored the chairs and maintained the value of them. Old ladder back chairs are highly saught after and bring premium prices, You really lucked-out. Good luck and whatever you decide they will be gorgeous.

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 7, 2014

    Thank you! Yeah, I knew when I saw them out at her curb I in my mind went WHHHOOOOOOWHOOOOOOO they're mine now! Finders keepers losers weepers! I felt like dancing in the street but had to get them over to my house before she got up! She's a French teacher and young and to know that she's college educated but not too smart in this way just delights the daylights out of me! What else ya got?! Bring it over! Can't do that tho! LOL As far as the satin finish poly, can I do it with a spray type like Minwax Helmsman? BTW - check out my Old Family Rocker.... story page! http://www.hometalk.com/2867380/old-family-ro...

  • If you find someone to repair the seats, it will cost a fortune!!! I had a PARTIAL seat done, it cost $125.00 and that was several years ago!!! Learn to repair seats yourself and GOOD LUCK!!!!

  • Robin @ Redo It Yourself Inspirations
    Robin @ Redo It Yourself Inspirations Saratoga Springs, NY
    on Jan 7, 2014

    I had bad seats in my rush chairs. Yours look like they need a good cleaning, but don't use water. It may be a process. I removed all of the rush on mine and replaced it with recycled belts that I had, and picked up more at the local thrift shops and garage sales. You might want to sand the wood down and consider doing the seats differently. Some like to use neckties or roping technique. You should be able to salvage them nicely whichever way you choose to go. Here are my redo's. (I had to do two chairs, and then decided to do the other two to match up.) Instructions: http://redoityourselfinspirations.blogspot.co...

    Instructions http://redoityourselfinspirations.blogspot.c...

    Instructions http://redoityourselfinspirations.blogspot.c...

  • Anon
    Anon Beverly Hills, CA
    on Jan 7, 2014

    Pinterest has some ladderback chairs that are similar and they were turned into a bench seat. That way you don't have to mess with fixing the rush seats.

  • Better Outdoor Living at Home
    Better Outdoor Living at Home Columbus, OH
    on Jan 7, 2014

    How about a white/light paint color, or a light wood stain for the chairs? Our Mom has a ladderback chair with a rush seat that she has had for decades, and it is one of my favs. The rush needed to be replaced at one time and it was done by a very skilled furniture repair man - he did a beautiful job. ~M

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 7, 2014

    I searched out some links and found this really awesome ARTISAN who kindly did a 3 part Rush Redo. He really explains everything and why. Very detailed and patient. http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=sl...=

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 7, 2014

    Yeah, I'm not gonna even attempt to do it myself. I don't have the wrist strength. I've had carpal tunnel surgeries on both wrists. I do good to pull a midweight bag of trash out of the kitchen trash! LOL - There are a couple of artisans for this around where we are and I'm gonna contact them in the Spring. Cane seats go for about 75.00, don't know about the rushing. Thinking it would be about the same!

  • Melissa
    Melissa Huntsville, AL
    on Jan 8, 2014

    Try Goop to clean the dirt, without damaging any existing finish. Put it on, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it off. Big change...very cheap! Investigate your local Senior Center for people who cane or repair rush.

  • Barbara Turner
    Barbara Turner Chesterfield, VA
    on Jan 8, 2014

    Aha! Good suggestions! I'm taking 'em all! Not gonna do anything "serious" til Spring. Thanks!

  • Diane H
    Diane H New Braunfels, TX
    on Jan 8, 2014

    You def have a wonderful find there, but to heck with all that sanding and finishing! Simply use a Scotch Brite pad (the green scrubby pads) and your favorite lemon oil. You can treat it with tung oil after the lemon oil has dissipated. The seats appear to be in fairly good shape. I have a similar chair the cats have clawed the seat to pieces and plan to wrap it with leather (tied underneath), leaving the rush in place for strength. Good luck choosing your plan!

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