A How-To Guide From Bondall in collaboration with Natasha Dickins, DIY Specialist, professional renovator and furniture maker.
Garden chairs like this were an Aussie backyard staple. ‘They’re vintage classics – although the weather takes a toll by rusting the metal, and the timber slats are inclined to rotting,’ says Natasha Dickins, DIY specialist at Little Red Industries.
‘The trick to reviving metal and timber chairs is to treat the rust and reseal the existing timber or replace it completely, treating it with a sealer like Monocel Clear Wood Varnish in Satin and using fasteners designed for exterior use.’
‘This chair will be kept undercover so I’ve replaced the hardwood with easy-to-work pine, but if you intend for it to be outside, use hardwood decking,’ says Natasha.
DIY TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Hand saw or drop saw
- Pliers or multitool
- Wire brush, scraper and safety glasses
- Spray paint for metal that treats and prevents rust
- Drill with 8mm bit
- Sanding block with 80 and 180-grit abrasive paper
- Monocel Clear Wood Varnish in Satin
- Mini roller with tray
- New galvanised nuts and bolts (check the diameter and length to match existing holes in the frames)
- 18mm thick DAR pine 42mm, 64mm, 96mm and 140mm wide
Fitting timber to the frames
‘The metal may have bent out of shape slightly so assume the frames aren’t exactly symmetrical and use them as a template to individually mark up the holes on the slats,’ says Natasha.
‘The original hardwood slats were 40mm wide, but I wanted to use wider pieces where possible for a modern look.’
‘Your frame may have a slightly different design so position the different widths before cutting to length.’
SLATS cut 550mm lengths: two 42mm, one 64mm, one 96mm, three 140mm
ARM RESTS cut 200mm lengths: two 42mm
Buying new fasteners
Before buying new bolts, check they fit through the existing holes in the frames. ‘Mine easily fit 8mm diameter bolts,’ says Natasha. ‘So I also used an 8mm drill bit to make holes in the slats.’
‘Also check the bolts are long enough to go through 18mm timber and metal with extra length to attach the nuts.’
‘I used 50mm-long bolts for most holes and 60mm-long bolts for the backrest where there are two layers of metal.’
‘I found these black fasteners at Tower Fasteners in Marrickville NSW but you can use any type so long as they’re suited to exterior use.’
Step 1: Dismantle the chair
Use pliers to loosen the nuts and bolts and remove the slats, knocking stubborn bolts with a hammer.
Tip: Some of these fasteners were completely rusted closed so I knocked off the deteriorated timber around them so I had room to work on the nuts and bolts.
Step 2: Brush the Frames
Brush off dirt, flaking paint and surface rust with a wire brush, wearing safety glasses as the brush can flick up grit, and using a scraper on stubborn patches of surface rust.
Step 3: Seal the Frames
Lightly spray metal paint on one side, leave to dry for about 15 minutes then turn the frames to spray the other side, working in sections to apply up to three coats.
Tip: Work in an open area with good ventilation, wear a mask and be patient with the drying times to ensure a smooth finish.
NOTE: I found six of these garden chairs, all with slightly different shaped frames. The first one to be revamped simply fell apart before I could photograph it, and I ended up swapping out the original frame for a different one to ensure the steps are clear. The process and look is similar regardless of the frame shape.
Step 4: Position the First Slat
Attach the widest slat at the front first. Turn it upside down, measure 30mm from the edges and position each frame to mark the holes, making a note of front and back, left and right, then drill the holes and attach to the frames.
Step 5: Mark Up the Remaining Slats
Work from the front of the chair to mark up, drill and attach one slat at a time to ensure they fit the holes, then attach the armrests. When all slats are fitted, remove them, marking the order.
Tip: I chose a 42-mm wide pieces for the arms. You could go wider, just keep in mind that pressure on the sides could affect the stability.
Step 6: Smooth the Slats
Keep the slats in order, and round over the top edges and corners using the sanding block with 80-grit abrasive paper. Then sand them all over using 180-grit.
Tip: Rounding over the edges avoids splinters, makes the chair more comfortable and gives a professional finish. Alternately use a small trimmer to round over the edges on the top of the slats, finishing the corners by hand.
Step 7: Seal the Timber
Wipe away the dust then use a mini roller to apply two coats of Monocel Clear Wood Varnish in Satin, applying it to the back first, leaving to dry then finishing the sides and top.
Tip: Leave the first coat to dry thoroughly before lightly sanding with 180-grit and repeating.
Step 8: Reassemble the Chair
Attach the slats and armrests to the frames with new nuts and bolts, tapping in the bolts and tightening the nuts with a spanner.
The reveal is finally here! Check out the results –
Are you regretting throwing out your old garden chairs now? There is always next time!
Bondall has been leading the building industry for over 50 years. With products that are eco-friendly and user-friendly we’re focused on extending the life of your finished projects and building materials.