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Archive for the ‘Furniture’ Category

It’s taken me 5 years to get around to restoring this chair. It’s the third of four pieces of furniture I bought in Tarrington, near Hamilton, in June 2011. (The others are a wooden chest , a kitchen chair and a three-legged side table that’s still on my to-do list.)

chair backrest detail finished


Cleaning up the chair

The chair was described by the shop owner as being oak. I could tell it wasn’t but it was solid and I liked the proportions and the carving on the backrest, though not so much the upholstery job.
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On paper this was a basic job: clean up two old blocks of wood, bolt them together and, hey, we’ve got a compact timber side table or stool. In reality, it was an incredibly complicated and time-consuming project that tested our power tool skills and our patience.


side table in action
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The cupboard I bought at Mt Buffalo last month is now restored. It took quite a bit of effort for a piece of furniture that is – honestly – not the most brilliant example of cabinetmaking.


It’s hard to imagine what this cupboard would have looked like when it was originally built. There are tell-tale signs that it wasn’t ever intended to be a fine woodworking piece. The cabinet top has a narrow strip of joined wood running across the back edge, as though someone ran out of the right timber, and the whole top has been nailed straight onto the carcass. There are odd gaps and bad joins around the base of the cabinet and the interior varnish has been applied sloppily.

At some stage at least one of the shelves must have been refitted. And the door looks like it got opened back too far one day and it split – it was repaired with glue and nails. Still, the cupboard is part of the Mt Buffalo Chalet story and that makes me happy.

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Some view! Mt Buffalo early on a cold Sunday morning, clouds filling the Ovens valley and the sun shining brilliantly up on the plateau. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, the Mt Buffalo Chalet clearing auction was about to get underway.


mt buffalo - view across Ovens valley

The first I knew about the clearing auction was from an article in The Age last month. I’ve since done a bit more reading. The chalet has had an interesting history. It dates back to 1910 and was ‘the epitome of luxury’ apparently (though the guests who scored rooms with no heating probably wouldn’t have agreed). It closed in 2007 after it came close to being destroyed by the bushfires that took out large parts of the national park in December 2006-January 2007.

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It’s been a while since my last post (summer, new job …) but today’s a public holiday and it’s beautiful outside. Perfect conditions for cleaning wooden chairs with some home-made furniture cleaner. This is yet another tip I picked up during that French polishing course I mentioned in my post about applying beeswax.


all four chairs dirty

I made these chairs back in the 1990s. The wood is Australian ash and I finished them with Danish oil. I’m pretty sure today is the first time I’ve given them a good clean. They’re not really that dirty – except for all the spots where they get handled a lot, in particular the back rails (as you can see in the photo below).

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OK, so it’s another story about paint stripping. If you can’t be bothered reading it, at least enjoy the slideshow at the end.


red stool in original conditionI seem to have picked the simplest job ever for demonstrating how to strip paint off furniture. This old stool had just 1 coat of red paint. That’s it. Not even an undercoat.

I bought it from Bay Country Antiques in Waipawa, New Zealand (and got it home in my suitcase). The wood is probably rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum), according to the guy in the shop. Don’t ask me, I only know kauri.
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About 20 years ago I did an 8-part French polishing course. The instructor was a real craftsman, and he covered more ground than just ‘Applying Shellac for Dummies’. Most of the techniques I use for stripping and finishing furniture are ones I learned from him. This is what he taught me about applying beeswax. 


Beeswax gives a more sympathetic, though slightly duller finish than French polishing – and it makes the surface a bit more waterproof.

beeswax, turps, steelwool and old towellingIt’s best to make up your own beeswax to ensure its purity. Avoid any commercial products that aren’t pure (for example, ones that have paraffin added to them).

What you need:

  • a lump of beeswax
  • pure turpentine (or mineral turps will do)
  • a container to put the wax in
  • fine steelwool (000 grade)
  • old cotton towelling (not flat-weave cloth) cut up into rags

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