Stubborn Old Rocking Chair Redo

Dena’s back again with another amazing makeover…psst…visit her Facebook page to see another amazing makeover.

I was asked if I could refinish this old rocking chair.

rocking chair redo    

I said “Sure!” without any hesitation.  I have been refinishing furniture for a few years now, and while I am no pro, I was confident that I could make it beautiful again.  The chair is very special to the client because she nursed both her babies in this chair, and took yearly pictures of her daughters as they grew.  It had obviously seen better days, and I was thrilled she was giving me the opportunity to bring new life to something so treasured by her family.

I got it home and immediately started stripping [..the chair] and sanding.  And I stripped.  And I sanded.  Days and weeks went by.  I bought new sandpaper every other day hoping I would find a magic sheet.  I busted out the Dremel tool, bought sanding attachments for it, and used them for the all the nooks and crannies in this chair.  The spindles were slowly killing me.  I soaked them in stripping solution, and scrubbed ferociously with toothbrushes, sanding blocks, rope, rubber tubing wrapped in sandpaper…

…anything I thought would get the old stain OUT.  I even tried a little bleach.  But after what seemed like hundreds of hours and many tears later, the chair looked only half done.

I found a sanding pad attachment that I could use on my drill, which gave me a lot more control than I had with my orbital sander or Dremel.

And with it being flatter than my sander, I was able to get into tighter spaces.  This helped some, but I finally realized that nothing I had in my arsenal was going to get that old stain out (what would have been nice to have is a mini sander, but whatever…).  So I decided to embrace it.

Maybe a really dark stain would hide the old dark stains.  First, I put on a coat of wood conditioner before applying a coat of Minwax Jacobean stain.  Fortunately, I only did part of the chair because it looked horrible!  Not only were there dark stains in the spindle crevices, there were suddenly dark, blotchy stains everywhere.  The conditioner was supposed to help with that, but obviously it wasn’t in the mood to help that day…

Do you know what I did?  I stripped […the chair] and sanded AGAIN.  Adding to my frustration was what is referred to as “bleed through,” where pockets of old stain rise to the surface as thin layers of wood are removed through sanding.  All over the chair.

A stiff bristled brush and mineral spirits usually takes of that.

Anyway, there was no way I was going to give this chair back to her looking like that.  So, many hours and days later (again), I was finally back to the place I had started, pre-stain.  Ugh.

After doing a lot of research on wood stains, I found a new product by Rust-Oleum called Ultimate Wood Stain in Kona that contains nano-sized pigment.  It was a project saver, indeed.  It goes on smoothly, not at all sticky and almost chalk-like, is very forgiving, and dries in minutes.  And one coat is all you need!  I was amazed at how much better the chair looked.

After the stain, I waited 24 hours, applied several coats of spray poly, waited another 24 hours, and applied a nice thin coat of Howard’s Feed-N-Wax, buffed it out (which is pretty easy with this wax), and voila!  The old rocking chair was ready to go home!


I am very happy to say that the client was thrilled with the results, and was able to continue the family’s tradition of yearly photographs in the chair with her sweet granddaughter.

  Happiness all around…


Happy.  Home.  Austin.


  1. Beautiful do-over. I have a chair like this and it’s called “A Blanket Rocker”. Mine came with the blanket. It was used when mother’s needed extra covering when caring for baby. Enjoyed your blog.

  2. Great work. I think I told you that I refinished “one” rocking chair in my lifetime. Do you think you will do it again now that your know what works best?

    • Happy Home Austin says:

      Linda, it depends. This was a time (and energy) sucker. I do know what works best now, but I also know that to do it right, you have to spend a lot of time working on it. Painting it would have been a lot easier, but it probably wouldn’t have turned out as well.

  3. McKenna Kuhr says:

    I am so impressed! For this level of project, I would never have had the patience, if nothing else…for the sake of my nails. This is amazing! Well done!!!!


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