Monday, February 25, 2013

A Morris Chair of My Very Own! Part 1

The Long Awaited Morris Chair
For the last few years of college I lived with two wonderful girls, who are still my closest friends today. My one roommate "J. Marie" had this old wonderful Morris chair that was from her grandmother. It was a rather fragile chair so it lived in her room instead of our living room. But I developed a fondness for it through the years. You see I would "sneak" into her room, as it was the furthest down the hall away from the living rooms noise and distraction. There I would sit myself in that glorious Morris chair and do my reading or work on an article for the school news paper. It was a quiet comfy retreat where I could really focus and brain storm ideas. (let me tell you a lot of great writing came about in that chair!) That chair was so comfortable and so relaxing that I vowed to one day own one!

Two years later we graduated and I had to say goodbye to my "thinking" chair...So my search began! Almost every day, for well over a year, I looked on Craigslist and eBay for a Morris chair that was just right. The problem was they were all very expensive. However, I knew that if I kept searching I would find one for under 100 dollars... and one glorious spring day it happened!

As you can see the chair was in ROUGH shape but it had good bones and that was all that mattered! Plus for 50 bucks who could say no! I drove to my sisters (which was 4 hours away) and picked this baby up at a little thrift store about 30 minutes from her house. It had nasty cushions that I regret not taking pictures of. They were this hilariously horrible tan 1970s fake velvet, with big blue flowers all over them LOL! The cushions were so dirty and gross I measured the length, width and height and immediately threw them in the trash. I also removed the original canvas seat as it was moldy. So what you see above were the bones I was left to work with. And trust me when I say work.
The Stripping Process....
Once the nasty cushions were gone and the moldy seat had been removed it was time to start the stripping process. As you can tell (especially in the photo below) it looked like someone had tried to stain it before but it appeared that they never stripped off the original stain. It also looked like they just plopped it on and never even wiped it down. It had created these weird almost sticky paint looking smears all over the chair. Needless to say I had a lot of work ahead of me.

So lucky for me I had my Pop close by and he already had a paint thinner available. This stuff is really harsh so please make sure you wear glasses, a mask, gloves and fully covered clothes because you do not want this stuff in your eyes or on your skin (and if your pregnant please always check with your Doctor before using any paint supplies!) Also make sure you are outside for this part of the project cause it will stink up the house and can make you light headed. I'm not joking when I say its nasty!
Once you have your paint thinner your going to want a small little container to put it in, rags and possibly some steel wool if your have thick areas like I did.

You start with a small area and just just dip your cloth in the thinner, then rub it onto the furniture firmly. I would rub it on and let it sit for about 10-15 seconds before I started wiping it off. In some areas where the sticky thick stain was I would gently rug the thinner on with the steel wool. This really works the thinner into the old stain but you want to be careful not to push too hard and scratch your wood all up. I used steel wool over much of this project, as most of it was really thick but on simple one layer projects you probably will not need it.

Stripping a project can be a long and tedious job! It requires many breaks and sometimes days to finish it all. I started with the arms as they were a flat surface to learn on and after some good scrubbing I was pleasantly surprised!

The photo on the right is of the stripped arm and it looks so much better! Look at all the beautiful wood grain that you can now see!

So my journey of removing stain continued. It took me about 6 hours (spread out over a few days) to get the whole chair stripped and even then there were areas that just would not come completely clean. But it's an old chair so I decided to let it slide and see how it came out in the end. (I believe in rolling with it sometimes, especially when I think it will show the pieces age)

This carvings were the areas I could not get to come completely clean of the old stain. But I think having the darker stain in the carvings looks nice and gives it some depth.
Staining... (again you'll want gloves this can get very messy and take a looong time to come of your skin!)
So once it was all stripped down I began staining. Stain is an amazing product! It can go on light or dark and it comes in so many different colors!!! and not just wood tones. You can actually get color tinted stain! Next time your in Lowe's or Home Depot take a walk down their stain isle, you'll be amazed at your options.
Staining is kind of like brushing your's basic and only requires 2-3 things but everyone does it but everyone does it a little differently. I like to use a sponge brush and an old rag, for staining that is not for brushing my teeth lol. If you have never stained before check out Tips and Hint page on staining and finishing for my personal techniques I use and some basic tips.

I chose to go with red mahogany. It's one of my all time favorite stain colors. It's warm and rich without being too dark (the photo above shows the foot all finished off with red mahogany stain and semi-gloss)
Once I chose my stain I chose my tools.... like I said I use a sponge brush and a rag...I then went to work going over every section. Making sure to spread out the stain evenly. I then waited for it to dry (it took 3 days because it was raining and the moister in the shed where it was being stored made it hard to allow the chair to dry) Once it was dry I applied another coat.....I waited another 24 hours and then it was finally ready for the polyurethane!

NOTE: Make sure your stain is nice and dry to the touch before you put on your next layer or any protective coating. Also depending on the project you may need to sand before staining. In that case make sure to vacuum off your piece and wipe it down to make sure all the sand dust is gone before you lay down any stain.

Finishing It Off...
Once it was dry, which seemed like forever! I slapped on a coat of semi-gloss polyurethane and waited another 2 days for that to be fully dry. (again you can see how to put on polyurethane in my post on tips on finishing) I gave it a light sanding with some 200 grit sand paper. Then applied my final coat of semi-gloss and after two more days of drying time...the chair was done! Well sort of...

Check out Part 2 to see the process of making the seat and cutting the cushions. I hope so far your learning and getting inspired. Until next time...

Creatively Yours,
Christina Marie


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