This is a discussion of my attempt to revive an old, old rocking chair that is quite unique and really beautiful, followed by my failure and how to fix that.


I struggled with this title.  I wanted to name it something like “Getting in over one’s head,” but that just seemed cumbersome.  Here’s the deal.  I decided to refurbish a rocking chair.  It was in the basement and hasn’t been used for a very long time.  There’s some sentimental value to this chair, which caused me to take on the project in the first place. 

The chair is very old, and I’ve posted pictures of it on Facebook that garnered a number of comments.  I’ve never seen a chair quite like this one.  At first I was going to hire it done, but that didn’t quite work out, so I decided I would do it myself.  It has some brass decorations on it, and some of the tiny brass nails that hold the brass in place were missing, so I had to figure out a way to replace them with something currently available.  I also had to refinish the wood part of the chair.

I sanded and then used a clear varnish-like product with a satin finish.  That part turned out pretty well. I moved on to the brass part, and that worked out well too.  I’ll supply some pictures with this article so that you can better understand my project.

The next and final part of the project was to fashion a cushion and then upholster it.  In my mind’s eye, I could clearly see how to approach this.  It turns out my mind’s eye may need spectacles, really strong spectacles.  I went to a hobby shop and got the foam for the cushion and some of those antique looking upholstery tacks.  I also bought a really beautiful piece of upholstery fabric, which should make a lovely cushion.  I bought a staple gun, some trim and even some glue.  I used the glue to help make the wood junctions stronger, but I thought I might be able to use it on the fabric too, if my staples or antique decorative upholstery tacks don’t do the job.

It didn’t take long to realize I was “in over my head,” which is to say, facing failure.  I will try to have this done by someone who has some experience and skill in this area.  That eliminates me, but at least I can pay the bill.  I made some phone calls and discovered a local woman who does this sort of thing. 

Barb Rentschler seems to be able to do just about anything.  A few years ago she applied the wallpaper in my bathroom and did a great job.  I didn’t remember her name from that experience, but she reminded me when I asked her if she needed my address to come by and look at the chair.

I walked her around and showed her a number of projects that are going to eventually need that special touch that is clearly missing from my skill set.  I have some lamp shades that need to be redone, and more chairs that need to be refurbished.  I guess I can take pride in the fact that I didn’t just give up and forget the whole thing.  It’s also important to know when one is in too deep.  I could tell that I have left the project in the right hands.  She had ideas about how to proceed almost immediately.

Additionally, for your information, Barb Rentschler plans to open a shop in downtown Kirksville in April, where she will specialize in providing this kind of service for those who, like myself, discover that a particular task is just out of reach.

I still have hopes that this lovely rocking chair will have a new life.  I’m not sure it will be secure enough to support someone sitting on it, but there’s got to be a museum somewhere for such things.   Actually, I have seated myself on the boards that will support the cushion, and rocked back and forth like one does with a rocking chair.  It’s actually quite comfortable, so maybe it will be an interesting addition to our living room if I feel secure that nobody will cause the chair to collapse. 

Even if this chair ends up in some museum setting and is never used, it will be worth it. It’s a stunning piece of furniture.  I have the notion that this chair may have been handmade.  I find no manufacturing stamps on it, and the wood used indicates to me that it might be the work of an artisan, not the product of an assembly line.

I can take some credit for this project.  I found the chair in the basement and discerned that it is worth saving.  I did reasonable work on the wood and brass.  I also picked out a great upholstery fabric.  Last, and certainly not least, I knew when to quit and call for help.  Surely that requires some intelligence.