Tuesday, April 26, 2016

FDR Chair: Finishing and finished

I have written that I unexpectedly got substantial color variation on the back of my FDR chair, something I hoped would be corrected by stain.   Salespeople at specialty stores assured me that gel stain was the way to go and, although I was skeptical, I decided to try it.  For the most part, it worked out:

I almost didn't use this color because General Finishes calls it brown mahogany, I have no idea why.  They had a sample on oak in the store and it looked like what I was after, so I went with it and I'm glad I did, as this is the shade I was looking for.  I applied three coats of Arm-R-Seal over the top of the stain.

Once again Margeson's law held:  "No matter how hard you try, there will always be a stray scratch, dent, spot of glue and/or tool mark that becomes visible when you apply finish."  Grrrrrrrr.  I know you're supposed to wipe down your project with mineral spirits to avoid this, but that's not happening in my shop.  I may try alcohol next time.  I had one blemish that really bothered me, so I carefully sanded and reapplied stain and, to my surprise, it blended in fine.

As for advice about using gel stain, it dried to the right consistency to rub off quite quickly, so just do a small section at a time.  Because gel stain doesn't wick like regular stain, pay special attention to make sure you get it wiped off thoroughly around nooks and crannies.  Finally, they say coat in 12-24 hours, but I found 24 hours is best or you risk rubbing off the stain in spots. Gel stain sits on the surface rather than soaking in.

So, now for the acid test.  Here is the photo of the original chair from 1937:

The finish is different, obviously, but, other than that, how'd I do?


  1. Remarkable, Andy. The chair looks great. Will you be doing your own seat cushion?

    1. Matt,

      I thought about it but have decided to see if I can get a professional to do it. I watched a video of Paul Sellers doing it but he cuts off the corners at a 45 degree angle to make it easier and I don't like the way it looks. I'd like the cushions to be notched around the legs.

  2. I don't think FDR would have been able to tell which one was his. Impressive job for working from photos only.

  3. Your chair is a twin to the FDR chair! Different color but I do like your color, definitely not brown mahogany. Looking forward to seeing your chair completely finished.

  4. Andy,

    Very nice, I hope more are in the future.