June 4, 2013

Bentwood Rocker Comes Back to Life

Have you heard of a Bentwood Rocker? Yeah, me either. At least until a few months ago.

Now? I'm fully intimate with the design, construction and overall level of pain-in-the-assery of said rocking chair.

We already had a rocking chair. In fact, it also swivels and glides. So why do we need another? Because, as some of you might already know...Courtney is preggo again, and we aren't quite ready to take Campbell's away. Bonus overshare...we just found out that, said baby is going to be a boy!

Anyway, as far as looks are concerned, it's basically like someone took a bunch of strips of layered wood (think: plywood, but nicer) and bent them like Beckham. I agree...a picture probably would've been better. But how often do you get to throw a Bend it Like Beckham reference into everyday conversation?

Yeah. My immediate first thought was, that needs some work. Why? Oh, a thousand apologies your majesty, allow me to elaborate. Here's three reasons, right off the top of my head...

Somebody's dog (not mine...this time) went all rabies on this chair, turning it into a big chew toy. Uh oh, that means this thing has to be completely sanded down, which also means that it needs to be disassembled. Thanks, anonymous Cujo.

Something else that made it necessary to strip this thing down was that the previous owner was an inside smoker and the chair smelled like it took a dip in a pool of Eau d'Ashtray perfume.

When disassembling an old piece of furniture, take lots of pictures during the process. I didn't do this, of course, but it's pretty well-documented that I'm completely incapable of making things easier on myself, or learning from my mistakes, for that matter. Just trust me and do as I say, not as I do.

Also, Knowledge Bomb #298: To make it easier to reassemble something correctly, use masking tape and a Sharpie to label parts, so you can use them as a road map to put it back together correctly. As you can see in the pic above, I did that ("top," "left," "right"). I also grouped the screws together in ziplock bags by the "left" and "right" side of the chair, just in case they didn't work universally for both sides. You're welcome.

Once I used my orbital palm sander (60-grit paper, then 120-grit paper) to get the finish off of each piece, which you should absolutely, positively do outside, I reassembled it. Here's what it looked like then:

Remember how bad the legs looked before?

Most of it sanded out, but the tips were so shot that I just had to saw about an inch off of each one. You wouldn't know by looking at it though.

OK, so now that I've got it back to ground zero, what to do with it?

I'll admit, I struggled with that question. Should I paint it or stain it? Combination of both? So, I took to Google and saw that most examples of refinished Bentwoods were restored naturally, without paint. In fact, more than a few people said they painted it but regret it.

That being said, here is an example of one that was painted and turned out beautifully.

I didn't want to risk it, mostly because there was no flippin' way I was going to start over if it didn't come out like I wanted it to.

Stain it was. But not dark stain, because I wanted it to at least be a little different. You know, showing some age, but not dated? There's a big difference.

I ended up going with Minwax Golden Oak. Or maybe it was Ipswitch Pine. I don't know which - probably because I am easily distracted.

So, after two coats of stain and two coats of clear water-based polyurethane, here is the final product:

Got photobombed on this one

Much, much cuter photobomb this time


  1. You did a great job. My problem when I number with masking tape and marker, the masking tape comes off when you start to sand. Ugh! How long did this take, I hope not just one afternoon.

  2. How did I not see your comment on my bentwood rocker post?? (I mean it's not like I'm just getting looooads of comments) Anyway your rocker turned out awesome! I am such a fan of refinishing wood and I paint things only because I am way waaaay too lazy to powersand through the layers and layers of poly that everything is covered in these days. Also a guy at home depot impressed upon me the importance of sanding it ALL the way down or it will be forever sticky when I reseal it (I think I'm borderline scarred). I am also super impressed with the banquette! Keep up the good work

  3. Hi beautiful job! I'm about to refinish mine. One question I have is why is there some reason it is better to put it back together again before staining it (rather than staining all the parts separately and then reassembling them)? Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Thanks for the comment Johanna. I honestly think that, with stain, you could go either way. If I were painting the rocker, I would absolutely paint before reassembling. Stain is a little easier. I don't know it I'd say its better to do it the way I did, but I do think it was faster. When disassembled, you have to consider drying times before you can flip the pieces over and do the other side. As one assembled piece sitting on my sawhorses, I was able to do one coat of stain, wipe off any excess, then almost immediately begin applying my poly topcoat.

  5. Beautiful. Do you think that this rocker would be appropriate for rocking a baby? Would it be easy to get out of while holding an infant? I do not want to have to jettison myself out of it while holding the little Bundle!!

  6. @connie, I know for a fact it is! We've used it for both babies.

  7. i have a very similar chair (same colour and everything, hoever theres seems to be parts where it is veneered and parts where is wasnt veneerd. was yours the same? if so was there any difference in sanding? looking to update the one i have too

  8. Beautiful! I'm working on mine right now. How much stain did you end up using? And polyurethane? Thanks!


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  11. I’m curious about sanding vs using a chemical to strip the old varnish? Pros or cons of each method?