Before & After: The $0.25 Chair

Go ahead and read that title again. That’s right: a $0.25 chair at a garage sale. As we were carting it off to Tammy’s van I heard the seller tell her father, “Dad! Someone actually bought that chair for a quarter! I can’t believe it!” They thought this chair was so far gone I could have simply walked off with it and no one would have protested.

Chair Before

You can tell I was so excited to refinish the chair I taped the arms before I took a before picture. Other than the arms needing refinishing and a spot on the upholstery, this chair was in surprisingly great condition. It’s from the 1970s and would be perfect in our bedroom to pile my Vera Neumann scarves…or pajamas…on top of before putting away.

Chair Arm

The main reason I bought the chair was because of this armrest. See the woodgrain? How amazing.


The supplies for refinishing the arms are quite simple and the result is perfection.

1. Sandpaper in varying grits. I started with 120 to remove all of the previous finish, moved up to 150, then 200 and finished at 320.
2. Lint-free rags for applying the stain and polyurethane.
3. Watco Danish Oil in Black Walnut. This product is amazing and mimics the original finish.
4. General Finishes Gel Topcoat Wipe On Urethane. I really liked using a wipe on urethane because of the rounded armrests. Nothing dripped or oozed over the sides.

1. Tape off any parts you don’t want to sand with painters tape. You can see from my first picture I taped right around the arm rests.
2. Protect the seat fabric with a heavy towel. You don’t want any stain to fall on your upholstery!
3. Sand the arms. Start with a fairly rough grit and sand with the grain being sure not to make any deep gouges. Once completed, use the next higher grit and sand again with the grain. Continue moving up in grits until you reach 200.
4. Remove the dust from sanding with a shop vacuum and a brush attachment.
5. Stain with Watco’s Danish Oil following the directions. This product needs a fair amount of drying time so plan accordingly. I did two coats and achieved almost the exact original stain color.
6. Apply the wipe on urethane with a rag following the directions. At first I applied too heavy of a coat and things weren’t lying smoothly. The key here is to apply a light even coat in the direction of the grain. I applied three coats of the urethane and there hasn’t been a scratch even though the chair is frequently used as my son’s timeout chair and a fair amount of thrashing goes on.


Here’s a shot of the chair after. The finish is amazing and well worth the quarter invested in the chair.


The back of the chair sports a nice nailhead trim detail that classes it up just enough.


And here’s a look at the woodgrain on that arm. Just beautiful!

Chair Arm Before & After

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  1. sigari
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    That’s beautiful! Thank you for the detailed refinishing tips. I collect chairs myself–limiting the purchase price to $25. Unbelievable that you got that for (gasp) a quarter. If you don’t mind: where are you located, please? Just generally speaking, that is. Here in Louisville, KY a piece like that would be snagged by an early bird dealer and marked up (as is) to $50. Thanks for the posting and blogging.

    • Angela
      Posted February 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      That’s what I usually limit myself to as well, and I was trying to figure out if the chair was $25 or $0.25, and willing to pay both. We’re in Iowa. We were early birds at the sale, and it was in a super small town so I think that worked in our favor, because I couldn’t believe it was still there. Thanks sigari!

  2. Susie
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for the refinish tips. I purchased some watco Danish oil, (tip from Austin 🙂 for my saga broyhill hutch for some touch ups. Worked great! Although, wish I had waited to see the steps on the proper way to touch up…but now I do! Thanks! .25 cents, wow!

    • Angela
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Hi Susie! Thank you for your sweet comments 🙂 Well, this wasn’t really touching up but a more in-depth refinishing. For touchups just rub the oil on and completely buff off with a clean rag. This product is amazing, you’ll be happy you invested. Let us know how your saga hutch turns out!

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