Tips To Restore an Antique Rocking Chair

3 Materials
2 Days

This chair was one of my purchases of Facebook marketplace, which looked pretty good in the picture but when I had a good look it was really grubby looking. So I tried to restore the chair back to its former glory.

Tips To Restore an Antique Rocking Chair

The fabric was so dirty and the wood was damaged in a few places. Overall it was just a grubby old chair. The structure of the chair was not in bad condition it just needed to be sanded down and redone. But the problem I had was that the chair was riveted together, so I was unable to take the chair apart. What was supposed to be a quick makeover took a lot longer in the end. I have done restorations in the past and lucky for me they have always turned out ok. Check out this dresser that was on it was to the tip.

Tips To Restore an Antique Rocking Chair

I started by stripping off the old fabric. I find pliers work great for this. I was able to remove the fabric and pull most of the old staples out at the same time. I then used a  Staple Remover to pull out all the staples. I prefer to remove all the old staples so when I add the fabric I don't have to worry about hitting the old ones. And once varnish is applied it will fill in the holes repairing the wood.

Tips To Restore an Antique Rocking Chair

The base of the chair was broken, and it was stapled and glued to a lip in the chair. I had to try to remove the old base which I did in the end by just using a rubber mallet and hitting it from the underneath. 

Tips To Restore an Antique Rocking Chair

I used an orbital sander to sand most of the wood and did the rest by hand.

Tips To Restore an Antique Rocking Chair

To clean up the carved design I used Citri-Strip to remove all the old varnish and stain. I have never had much luck sanding them without causing damage.  stained the chair using Dark Mahogany stain and gave the chair two coats of Oil-Based gloss Polyurethane.

Tips To Restore an Antique Rocking Chair

To add the fabric, if you are using a design with large patterns try to find a panel and centre it in the chair. I will look a bit strange to have a large pattern that is off-centre. I used a staple gun and started by stapling the centred fabric at the top and bottom and both sides then staple the rest. I had to do mine twice because the first piece I did, I trimmed the excess fabric but I could see straight away that the fabric would pull away in no time. My second attempt I folded a 1cm hem under and stapled it down.

Tips To Restore an Antique Rocking Chair

To hide the staples I used some Old Gold Gimp Braid and a hot glue gun.  Make sure you add enough glue to seal both edges and make sure to start at the bottom so the join is not so obvious.  

Tips To Restore an Antique Rocking Chair

Back view of the chair.

Before and after Antique rocking chair restored. I have also restored a captains chair which turned out awesome , so be sure to check it out you wont be disappointed. The cost of this restore was not high for me because I used materials left over from a previous project.

Suggested materials:
  • Fabric   (Ebay)
  • Braid   (China)
  • Stain and varnish   (Hardware store)
Unique Creations By Anita
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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3 of 4 questions
  • Sandy Sandy on Jun 23, 2019

    Is this a folding rocking chair? I had the same chair, with a matching bench. Both had the same original fabric and designs. They were a Christmas gift from my father after I graduated from college. I remember going to a discount furniture warehouse in Troy, NY to pick them out. If it is the same, it's not much more than 30 years old. That's not to detract from the lovely job you did; it brought back a very nice memory.

  • Leigh Leigh on Jun 26, 2020

    I have this same chair and just started redoing it. The problem I have is the bottom of the chair has been removed. It only had fabrics covering it. How can I fix the bottom of the chair?

  • Tena hinds Tena hinds on Jan 23, 2022

    I have this same chair and am attempting to clean the fabric. It is still in pretty good condition. Top and bottom, front and back. Any cleaning solution tips?

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4 of 18 comments
  • Kathleen mcallister Kathleen mcallister on Aug 18, 2019

    Magnificent! Honest sidenote, this is the very first blog out of all of the hometalk blogs that I’ve ever wanted to explore other projects from the artist. And yes you are a true artist.

  • Holly Gay Holly Gay on Mar 05, 2023

    I purchased two old chairs many years ago that are in need of refurbishing and they are still in the same poor condition today. Also, purchased new upholstery material and gimp braid a number of years ago. I just didn’t know how to restore them; therefore, hesitant to approach project. Your clear instructions & pics gave me the confidence to tackle this project. Thank you so much!