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Restore wooden bar stools – a long project

Listed under Adam Bermingham, Blog, cosmetic-repair, hand-painted furniture, preparation Posted Jan 17 2014

In this post about how to restore wooden bar stools, Ireland’s Traditional Painter, Adam Bermingham of My Hand Painted Furniture revisits Castlerea & Mick & Peggy at The Cosy Bar.

wooden bar stools

A furniture painter and no paint?

You may remember Fireplace Refurbishment in Co. Roscommon a blog post from last year, well now I’m back for a much larger furniture contract, with no paint in sight…

The Cosy Bar

bar stools to restoreMy Dad is a big Manchester United fan, he can’t help it, we all have our own problems.

The Cosy Bar in Castlerea lives & breathes that team. The owner, Mick spent most of his life in Manchester & is the only man I know who is a bigger fan than my Dad.

A lot of games are played over the Christmas period & I went with my Dad one day for a jar, & of course a Man U game. That’s when I got talking to Mick & Peggy about their broken stools, 5 of them literally in bits…

Can you do anything with these bar stools or do you think we should just get new ones?”

Music to my ears. As often as possible I try to make the answer to that question YES, let’s make them as good as new (or even better!)

One blessing (or curse depending) of many years in the trade, is the ability to visualise what is possible. This is what I had in mind when talking about what could be achieved with the stools.

bar stools before and after restoration

I talked over a few options with them & we decided that a full refurbishment of all 20 stools was needed. Although some of them were in better condition than others, the finish on all of them had seen many better days & doing half a job is not something I like doing…

bar stools to restore
…let’s get to work.

Wooden Bar Stools

Because the bar would need to keep some of the stools to use day-to-day, we agreed that I would do them in batches.

wooden bar stools I took the damaged ones first & this is what they looked like in the workshop…

The first 5 stools needed some pretty major repairs. Although a relatively simple process, as with everything, it required due care & attention… and time. And here’s how.

– First, liberally apply wood glue to all the exposed edges & clamp back into place.

– Screw up through the frame (drill pilot holes first, if necessary) to permanently reattach the seat.

About this cordless drill!

As I used it here for drilling and screwing, let me take this opportunity to talk a little about the new cordless drill I got a while back…

MAKITA 8391DWPETK 18V 13mm Combi Cordless Drill

wooden bar stools

Everyone, whatever trade they might be in, including the keen D.I.Y’er needs a good quality cordless drill. I was due for a new one so I went shopping online.

Makita make great power tools & at €138.20 from Caulfields this a bargain. It includes 2 batteries, a charger & a 100 piece accessory set, that alone must be worth between €50 and €80.

Back to the bar stools

wooden bat stools

– Once the glue was fully dry, there was a small gap between the 2 repaired sections. That required filling. So, before moving on to the rest of the stools, I fully sanded the seat with 120 grit paper & then filled the gap (as seen above).

When it is dry & sanded back with 240 grit, this repair will be all but invisible, as we will (not) see later.

bar stools to restore


With all the repairs complete, it was time to sand the entire stool. I used 80 grit paper all over, to remove almost all of the previous coating. This was done with electric sanders, my Bosch GEX 125-150 AVE Professional & GDA 280E Professional.

wooden bar stool

The final finishing sand was done by hand, using 120 & 240 grit paper (as seen above). Now fully sanded, they are ready for coatings…

Sadolin Extra Durable Wood-stain

I almost always use Sadolin Extra Durable Wood-stain. It’s an exterior product but I find that this produces & more durable finish & stands up better to sanding between coats, and seems to be perfect for wooden bar stools. In this case I used a shade called Jacobean Walnut.

To apply this coating I use Hamilton Perfection Brushes. I only have these pure bristle brushes in the kit these days because of the Sadolin. They work very well together.

I have, whenever possible, been trying to move over to water based alternatives to my standard oil-based products (I have spoken about this in previous blog posts). So far I have not been able to replace the quality of this product, the finish for me is second to none.

wooden bar stools

Seen above is a shot of one stool sanded & one with the stain applied.

Getting a colour just right

When you begin you might not always know how many coats will be required. In this case one coat produced exactly the shade I wanted so that’s where I left it.

If a darker shade is needed, apply another coat. If you are unsure of the shade before you start, make up a test board or carry out a test on a well hidden section of the piece.

Protective Coating

After a light sand, the surface of the wooden bar stools was ultra smooth & ready for a protective coat. I would love to have waxed these stools, but in a local pub, I think that would be insufficient.

wooden bar stools

I chose, as I often do, another oil based coating for this application Ronseal Ultra Tough Mattcoat (seen above). Great coverage, workability, durability & finish. I will say, it is not invisible, that is, it has a light yellow shade. In this situation, not a problem at all but bear the yellowness in mind for your own particular project.

As with every paint company, don’t presume that because one of their products is great that their whole range will be as good, nobody can be outstanding at everything. For example, Ronseal Quick Drying Satin Varnish, a water based coating is just about as bad as it’s possible to be. So when choosing a product, do a bit of research first. The Traditional Painter Forum is a great place to start.

To apply the varnish, I used my go-to brush for stain & varnish, the * Wooster Alpha. In the past I would have always used a pure bristle for clear coatings, never again, what a brush!!

wooden bar stools

As you can see above, the Ronseal is really doing its job, protecting these stools from the day-to-day wear & tear of public use. And, as promised, a completely invisible repair, I was very pleased with these results.

Furniture Restoration at Traditional Painter

I love our new silver name plaques at Traditional Painter (seen in close up at the top of the post) & no better time to give them their first presence in Ireland, one for each piece, I didn’t want to go over the top.

wooden bar stools

The last batch of these Wooden Bar Stools will be delivered in the next few day & I’m sure the clients will glad to see them all back home.

wooden bar stools wooden bar stools

Over time, the decision to have furniture like this repaired & refurbished pays massive financial dividends to a business & keeps the whole place looking on top of its game for longer.

The After

wooden bar stools

Happy Painting.

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