A sur­pris­ing but sim­ple ap­proach to restora­tion un­cov­ered great color and patina on a pair of old metal chairs.

Old House Journal - - Contents - By Wendy San­tan­to­nio

An easy way to re­new a rusty fin­ish on metal gar­den chairs.

When our neigh­bors of­fered us two vin­tage metal gar­den chairs, which, it turned out, they couldn’t use or re­turn to the seller, my hus­band and I jumped at the chance to add them to fur­nish­ings we’d col­lected for our coun­try home.

The chairs had a beau­ti­ful patina; I loved the many shades of green and turquoise shin­ing through the fin­ish. The chairs were pretty rusty, how­ever, so I needed to clean them up, though I hoped to pre­serve most of the orig­i­nal paint. The goal was to seal them to pro­tect them from out­door weather with­out los­ing patina. At the same time, we wanted to make sure no one would come away with green streaks on their pants af­ter sit­ting on the chairs.

I tack­led this project with my friend Sarah. Not only did it go much faster with a sec­ond set of hands, but the project was a lot more fun, too. We set up the chairs and sup­plies out­side in the sun­shine and got to work.

The first step was giv­ing each chair a good hand-sand­ing with steel wool to knock off any rust. We used both 0 and 00 steel wool, de­pend­ing on which was most ef­fec­tive in any given area. Although progress seemed slow, the trans­for­ma­tion was in­cred­i­ble. We fig­ured the more we rubbed, the more paint we risked re­mov­ing. In­stead, as the top layer of rough rust came off, most of the orig­i­nal paint be­came more vis­i­ble and more vi­brant.

Rather than the color be­ing largely brown with a lit­tle aqua and turquoise, now we had mostly green and turquoise with just a few brown ar­eas. We were thrilled with the re­sults. We scrubbed un­til we were sat­is­fied with the color,

There is no new paint on these mid-cen­tury chairs; the glossy yet patina-rich fin­ish came back with just el­bow grease and a paint ad­di­tive used as a rustin­hibitive coat­ing.

hav­ing re­moved the bulk of the rust. Then we wiped each chair thor­oughly with a clean rag, get­ting ready for the next step.

We had de­cided to seal each of the chairs with Pen­etrol, a paint ad­di­tive for­mu­lated for use with oil-based paints; it im­proves ad­he­sion, re­duces brush marks, and re­stores lus­ter while in­hibit­ing rust. Be sure to use Pen­etrol and not Flotrol (both are from the same maker), as Flotrol is wa­ter-based and would quickly en­cour­age rust on any bare fer­rous metal ex­posed to mois­ture.

We ap­plied the Pen­etrol with foam brushes. The work was quick and easy, but Pen­etrol pro­duces strong fumes, so I would rec­om­mend work­ing out­side or in a well-ven­ti­lated area. The dif­fer­ence

in color af­ter ap­ply­ing a coat of Pen­etrol was amaz­ing. The color of the orig­i­nal paint was fur­ther in­ten­si­fied, re­sult­ing in a rich, sat­u­rated color and fin­ish.

At this point in our work, a storm started to roll in, so we moved the chairs in­doors out of the weather. They were prob­a­bly fully dry af­ter about 24 to 36 hours, but we left them in­side for a cou­ple of weeks, as we’d gone back to the city.

On our next trip to the house, the chairs were ready for use. They now oc­cupy a place of honor on the front porch, where the re­stored color picks up some of the light aqua from our front door and echoes the mot­tled, dark-green hues of the roof­ing.

You’d never know the vin­tage chairs grac­ing the porch of a coastal Foursquare had not re­cently been painted.

Here the home­owner and her friend ap­ply the first coat of Pen­etrol, a paint ad­di­tive that adds a soft, sealed fin­ish to metal.

Hand-sand­ing with 0 and 00 grades of steel wool re­moved a sur­pris­ing amount of rust, re­veal­ing the un­der­ly­ing paint col­ors.

The chairs came with great patina, but rusty brown patches had be­gun to dom­i­nate the fin­ish.

The chairs were propped up in­doors to dry thor­oughly.

The fin­ished chair looks great af­ter sand­ing and seal­ing.

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