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Restoring Antique Thonet Bentwood Chairs

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Restoring Antique Thonet Bentwood Chairs

Hi! I have some very, very basic experience with restoring furniture but am overall a bit of a novice, so am hoping someone might be able to give me some advice! I found an antique Thonet 255 chair on Gumtree almost for free, and I am hoping to restore it. I've attached some pics. 

My questions are:
1. How should I strip it? The chair's frame seems to be sturdy wood, but I think the back is moulded plywood, as is the seat which also has unusual snakeskin pattern on it (see pics). I'm worried that usual stripper might damage the plywood and especially the seat. 


2. I've taken the seat off, as it was coming away at the edges (see pics) and removed the back piece and the circle between the chair legs (all the technical lingo here), but I can't seem to take the chair apart any furhter as there are nails holding the arms to the legs. Is that sufficient before stripping and refinishing? It's very sturdy so I don't have any structural concerns. 

3. The circle between the legs has a significant split in it, which has been wired together by the previous owner, plus part of the split wood has broken off. Do I glue this back together using usual wood glue (can I use the wire again to hold it while it glues, as I don't have clamps?) What about the broken off bit? Do I just sand that smooth and accept that its not going to be perfect? 


4. When I reattach the seat I guess I just use woodglue and clamp it down somehow (perhaps it's time to invest in some clamps...)?

Sorry for my very basic questions - I hope someone might have some answers!


Thank you, Jess

Thank you very much, PXL_20201114_131158297.jpgPXL_20201114_131204128.jpgPXL_20201114_131208055.jpgPXL_20201114_131215522.jpgPXL_20201114_131228783.jpgPXL_20201114_131233640.jpgPXL_20201114_141920162.jpgPXL_20201114_141949891.jpgPXL_20201114_142011849.jpgPXL_20201114_142017728.jpgPXL_20201114_142030726.jpg

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Bunnings Team Member

Re: Restoring Antique Thonet Bentwood Chairs

Welcome to the Bunnings Workshop community @jessftwyatt. It's terrific to have you join us and many thanks for your questions.


I can't see any reason why you would need to disassemble the chair any further.


I would advise sanding the chair with 240grit sandpaper instead of using a stripper. Stripper is messy work and usually requires sanding afterwards anyway. With either process, I don't think you are going to be able to preserve the snakeskin imprint on the plywood seat.


I'd recommend using Sikabond 125g Techgrip Multi-Purpose Polyurethane Adhesive instead of standard PVA on the split hoop and seat. You'll want to use a toothpick or similar to push the glue as far as possible into the split. You should clamp the join together whilst it is drying. I don't believe the wire will be sufficient. Once the glue is dry you can fill the missing piece with Timbermate wood filler and sand into shape. The Sikabond product would be great to glue the seat back as well and clamps will once again be needed.


You might be interested in having a look at these previous discussions: Restoring a couple of bentwood chairs by @Newqlder and Bentwood Chair restoration project by @Hay.


Please let me know if you need further assistance or had questions.




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