A look at the restoration process in our Norfolk depot
Back in May we struck gold in the old west – discovering a batch of La Fayette folding chairs that had seen better days. After shipping these faded beauties over from Chicago, we set about getting them ready to join our hire stock. At Rustic Hire, we’re not about rebuilding but restoring – using traditional techniques to take our reclaimed items through a series of steps and, with a little bit of love, returning them to their former majesty.
Firstly we identify the finish – while paint is easy to determine, some varnishes and lacquers need to be tested. We use our own blends of alcohols and thinners to determine whether furniture has been treated with oil, wax, varnish, or other penetrating sealers. Knowing what finish has been previously applied allows us, not only to carefully remove it, but to replicate it.
The next step is to clean each piece. We have our own varying strength cleaning mixtures for this, to cut through the layers of surface wax and dirt, before applying a solution of warm water and detergent. Where possible we try to use natural chemical solutions, applying with a cloth while taking care not to soak the wood.
Now it’s time to strip everything back. Working from top to bottom, we apply a semi-paste then begin scraping back the surface. This requires great patience, sometimes it can take a number of applications before the original finish is sufficiently removed. A liquid solution is used for a final rinse, with steel wool used to get into the corners.
Before refinishing we complete any structural repairs, using period timber and fittings where possible, with donor chairs or deadstock parts.
Finally comes the fun part! Bringing the old chair back to life. We sand the whole chair and then apply the new stain. This is left to absorb before being wiped down and sealed. After leaving overnight we sand again, with a higher-grit paper, before finishing. Each chair then is treated with a final protective coat to guard the wood and the colour, whilst providing that lovely new sparkle.
It can be a painstaking process but there’s nothing like seeing the results when our newly restored chairs sit under our custom built tables at your events! It’s not just about spreading varnish, it’s about spreading the love.