Furniture,  Indoors

Rocker Restoration

Child rocker restoration.
Child rocker restoration.

This rocker was in need of repair. A friend of mine asked if I could fix it so that she could give it to her grandchild from Christmas. I received the rocker two weeks prior to the festive holiday. So this is what a 48 year old rocker looks like. Surprisingly, its in very good shape except for the obvious cracked blade and a few loose tenons.

 

 

The blade on this rocker has the most damage. Upon inspection it appears to be a clean break. So an attempt will be made to simple glue it back together with Lee Valley’s 202GF glue.

Cracked rocker blade.
Cracked rocker blade.

Here is another location that needed repairing. It wasn’t split all the way to the back. I didn’t want to break it away so I opened it as much as I could and fit in some of Lee Valley’s 202GF using a splinter of wood to get it to fit into the crevice. Once done, it was clamped to sit overnight.

Child rocker seat cracked.
Child rocker seat cracked.

Here’s a so-so picture of the decal. This one is an oldie and I doubt very much if I could find another just like it. The owner didn’t want it removed because the rocker just would not have been the same if another was put in its place.

Saving the vintage decal.
Saving the vintage decal.

And finally here’s a back shot of the rocker before starting. The carpenter who built this secured the back in place to the seat with spiral threaded dowels, 2 per side, and then secured to the armrests with #10 x 2 inch wood screws. The leg and armrest spindles and are all secured in place with split tenons and a wedge, while the stringers are simple round tenons. Now come the task of stripping the old paint.

Back side of vintage child rocker.
Back side of vintage child rocker.

I decided to glue the rocker blade while its still in its original location. Once again I used Lee Valley 202GF glue to seal the two parts. I clamped it and let it set overnight.

You can never have enough clamps.
You can never have enough clamps.

I disassembled all the pieces and marked them accordingly. This came in handy later, especially when putting the legs in their respective places. As you can see the rocker blade is still clamped up. Unfortunately, the glue up was unsuccessful. They say that mistakes are the greatest teacher. And I learned my lesson here. After talking to a local woodworker, Larry Menchion, he quickly pointed out that the glue up didn’t work because I was working with endgrain. He said regular glue just won’t do the job in this case. He recommended an epoxy which you will see in upcoming photos.

Child rocker disassembled.
Child rocker disassembled.

Now the fun begins. “Circa 1850 Furniture Stripper” is a product I’ve never used before. After speaking to Randy “The All-Knowing Paint Dude” at the local paint store, “The Paint Shop”, I took his advice about keeping protected. So here you see disposable paint brushes for applying the chemicals and removing the paint residue. There’s a set of disposable chemical resistant rubber gloves. A small container to pour the stripper into. A breathing apparatus to avoid inhaling the fumes, even though the container says the fumes are not harmful. I also used safety glasses, but you don’t see them because I was wearing them when I took the shot. To the left you see a screen to rest the wooden pieces on while waiting for the paint to blister and peel. Also, a plastic rectangular container to dispose of the paint residue that is peeled away.

Paint stripper materials.
Paint stripper materials.

So, now I’m ready. I get myself geared up and start applying the furniture stripper. I quickly learn that this is powerful stuff!! The paint peels off no problem!  A couple of applications makes quick work of the 4 layers of paint I discovered. To give as an example, I stripped a leg from the rocker down to the bare wood in less than 10 minutes.

Tips learned along the way include:

  1. Keep the surface wet with the chemical and let the brush do the work. Don’t be scared to apply too much, applying too little will only increase the amount of work for you. Let the chemical do the work.
  2. For large flat surfaces, a straight edge piece of hard plastic can quickly remove the blistering paint.
  3. A wire brush can be used to remove stubborn spots.
  4. Use gloves that fit well. Very important. Gloves that are too tight will cut off your circulation in a very short period of time.
  5. If by the unlikely chance you do get some on your skin, wash it off immediately, this stuff burns.

Now, about those tight fitting gloves. I started applying the chemical holding the wooden part in my left hand and applying the chemical with a brush with my right hand. Within 5 minutes my index finger tip started to get really cold. I thought that maybe I was allergic to the gloves but my right hand was ok. I then assumed that maybe a pin hole was in the gloves so I told myself if it gets any worse I’ll have to stop and get another set of gloves. Well, the cold quickly turned to hot and started to travel up my finger. I promptly took off my left hand glove to inspect my hand for signs of skin irritation. I found nothing. I proceeded to work but I continued to get the hot and cold sensations. I checked again a few minutes later but still no signs. So, I just grinned and beared it. I got about half way through stripping and finished up what I could for the day.

An interesting result to the wood from using this stripper was that it left no residue to have to wipe off before applying a sealer and paint. But it did leave the wood very cold to the touch. I wonder why?

I decided to start on the stripping. So here we are, starting to strip the pieces down to the bare wood. A very easy process. Simple tools like a plastic scraper along with your applicating brush and a bit of steel wool or small wire brush for stubborn stains

Stripping the rocker parts.
Stripping the rocker parts.
Stripping the rocker arm.
Stripping the rocker arm.
Rocker re-assembled.
Rocker partially re-assembled.

The strength of the Lee Valley 202GF glue did not hold up for this application. No fault of the glue, the joint is an end grain application so regular glue just won’t do. A bit of slight pressure downwards broke open the joint again. You can see that the break occured in the weakest spot. Apparantly, the square recess was routed out to fit a small music box that played a tune when the chair was rocked. It may have been a nice feature at the time but it make the rocker blade very weak and that’s why it cracked in that location.

Rocker blade still cracked.
Rocker blade still cracked.

So now its time to haul out the serious stickin’ stuff! As I said the strength of the 202GF glue did not hold up because it was an end (open) grain type joint. So I took out and mixed together a two part epoxy called “J B Weld”. Now to let it set over night … and say a little prayer because Christmas is fast approaching.

Epoxy to the rescue.
Epoxy to the rescue.

Well, let’s just say I held my breath when I put pressure on this one! But it worked great. Now its assembly time. A bit of glue, a bit of finish sanding and we’re ready to paint!

Cracked blade sealed.
Cracked blade sealed.

All done!

Child rocker restored.
Child rocker restored.

A Newfoundland born Canadian with a life long interest in woodworking, baking and anything else that peaks my curiosity.

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