August 13, 2013

rocking chair diaries: part 2

Before my palm sander could touch this rocking chair, an important and painful step had to be completed first: the initial stripping. Since this (as well as a certain side table - I'm big on multi-tasking) is my first adventure in refinishing any piece of furniture (beyond slapping on a coat of paint), I went over a few tutorials and how-to blog posts to get a basic grip on how to begin. [ This blog was by far the most helpful/detailed. Thanks Janine! ]

Stripping the current paint/varnish/seal is not for the weak. This step calls for a true DIY warrior, a gal who is willing to spend a few hours (honestly, hours) scraping away the past in hopes that the end result will be amazing. I  knew this step wouldn't be done in just one afternoon so I am taking this one baby step at a time. It is considerably time consuming but at the same time is a decent way to spend a sunny day: hang out on the deck, put some music on, scrape away to my heart's content.

The Essentials:

1) Gloves. I just used an old pair of gardening gloves (the remover can really burn - so protect your hands and arms). A long sleeve shirt is also recommended. Safety first, right?!

2) Paint & Varnish Remover. I used Circa 1850 Heavy Body Paint & Varnish Remover (can be found a t Home Hardware, Rona, etc.). I purchased it at the local Home Hardware for less than $12, and after using it to completely strip a side table plus start stripping this rocking chair, I still have about half the container left. It goes a surprisingly long way. Also - this version of the product is gel-like, and I found it helpful for stripping the vertical parts of the chair (i.e., the back and arm rests) as it didn't drip much.

3) Paint scraper. I know that there are fancier, better quality, heavy duty paint scrapers out there, but I bought this one from Dollarama and it is my new best friend. Maybe I don't know what I'm missing, because I haven't spent the money on a higher quality paint scraper - but this cheapo one has done a great job this far along.

4) An old bed sheet (not pictured). Because I don't have a garage or workshop to call my own, I use our deck/backyard as my work space. Before getting started on any project (spray painting, stripping furniture, sanding, etc.) I throw an old bed sheet on the deck as protection. This time around the bed sheet caught all the scraps of varnish and paint that I had scraped - this was a messy step so an old sheet (or garbage bags, newspaper, tarp, etc.) is highly recommended for easier clean up.


Strip Tips:

  •  Pace yourself. Depending on the size of the project, it will take a few hours to completely strip the chair/table/etc. Do small chunks at a time (i.e. for this rocking chair, I did the headrest first, then the arms, then the seat... It also helps to get a larger section (i.e. seat) out of the way first to feel more accomplished. Don't try to rush through this part because it will show later on!
  • Don't use foam brushes to apply the paint & varnish remover. Rookie mistake! The foam brush didn't spread the remover around very well, and just got chunky and messy really fast. I bought a few 2 inch paint brushes and things went on a lot smoother after that.
  •  Be generous with the paint & varnish remover! The more you apply, the easier it is to scrape away. I used different amounts and when I skimped on applying the remover, it wasn't as easy.



  1. Hi Jen,

    I found you on YHL forums and wanted to say hi!

    I'm from Ottawa and I love thrift stores too. I'll be checking in again for sure!

    Can't wait to see part 2!
    Annie XO

    1. thanks Annie :)

      I just finished reading your story - and can't wait to poke around your blog. So jealous of your river view :)