Beautifully refinished antique furniture

Above is a corner of my living room, floor lamp belonged to my Grandma Nellie Bruns (right).  
Looks like it could be early twentieth century.  I refinished and rewired her floor lamp, bought a new lampshade and 
voila, Gramma's lamp looks gorgeous again, like her.  Coffee table found and refinished in Kansas about 1994,
rocking chair refinished in Shell Knob, Missouri in 2009.  The side chair was found in a Fargo, ND antique shop and sold to 
me in 2008 for $5 because, according to the shop owner, no one else would buy it.  See how I refinished it step-by-step
below.  It was purchased with the maple dresser, also pictured step-by-step below.

Below: I bought this spring loaded, platform rocker at Granny's Antiques in Cassville, Missouri in April, 2012.  This
poor chair had nails, tacks and screws everywhere, some old, some not so old.  It originally had arms and I would guess
it has been reupholstered at least twice during its lifetime.

By researching the William Volker & Company tag inside the chair.  The KC, Missouri company began in the 1880s by
manufacturing window shades.  Over the years the business expanded and started getting into manufacturing furniture 
in the 1920s which is when I believe this chair was built. 

 You can see where the arms were attached to the chair on the bottom.  I had an excellent woodworker make arms, now all I 
need to do is fix a few more things, stain, varnish and reupholster.  Also, the old stuffing had turned to hard, little beads.  
It also had some quilt batting and excelsior used for stuffing and I'm keeping all that.

THIS IS STILL NOT FINISHED and as of 09-14-13 but I'll be working on it again ...

                ... UPDATE: One year later and I'm back at it, September, 2014.  

I've got the outer upholstery and the cloth used for the skin, 16 yards of jute webbing, loads of poly slabs and fluffy poly filling along with decorative tacks. I'm ready to get this finished.

The stripped, stained and varnished base matched the new stained and varnished arms  perfectly.  I was delighted with all that.  Then two nights ago as I was weaving the new jute across the seat, I repositioned the chair so I could work on the back of the chair, turned my head for a second and BLAMMO!  The chair hit the floor breaking both arms.


I immediately emailed my wood guy but haven't heard from him so I fixed the arms myself.  They don't look as good but it was the best I could do.  Before this happened I was going to leave the arms bare because they are gorgeous but now I've decided to put a small patch of upholstery on the arms to cover the repair AND it'll be soft where the forearms rest.  (Shhhh, no one'll ever know.)




The chair basically sits on a set of springs that attach to the 
base and tonight I glued the refinished base together (left).  






Below the webbing is done and arms are glued and patched, they feel solid too.  
I know the webbing on the back looks wonky but there's a reason I did it that way.  
The chair's first skin was attached, stuffing put in place and a second skin stretched 
over that in the picture on the right.  

Now all I need to do is upholster it, reattached the arms and put the base and the chair back together.




I made so many mistakes with this chair but it's finally done, looks nice and it's even comfy.  It has a 
quiet, little "click" as it rocks but for a chair that's been here a century, I'd be surprised if it didn't.
: Frank initiating the new chair.  He makes the chair look small but it isn't, he's just a big cat.
The arms look uneven in the pic on the left but they're not ... thank God.


New project:  A small platform rocking chair that was made in the 1880s (according to patents on the rocking mechanism) 
and entered our family in the late 1940s after my parents found it in a crawl space under the front porch of the 
home we occupied from 1947 until it sold in 1988.  Little brother Rick has had the chair for the last 20+ years.

On the left is the rocker in our living room back in the late 1950s.  Middle photo is when it arrived at my home in Missouri
44 yrs later thanks to my sister Pat who brought it when she came for a visit from North Dakota.  

Work begins on 09-26-13. Wood filler was used on hundreds of holes on the top and under the seat rim.
This chair must've been refinished at least three times during its life time.  I'll bet webbing was used
at some point and I wouldn't be surprised if springs were in place when it was originally built.

It had a wooden seat under the deteriorated padding and upholstery but wood is rock hard
so I'm going to replace it with a thick leather base
along with padding and upholstery.

The chair is extremely sturdy and needs no repair to the bottom platform portion so I do not plan 
on taking it entirely apart, but the top definitely needs repair.

Below: Everything's stripped and sanded.  My wood guy made the two side posts and a spoke to replace the
damaged pieces.  These were originally wedged out of place which means I had to wedge them back into
place without breaking any of this 120+ year old wood ... and I did it.  Now comes a bit more sanding, trying
to match stain on new wood to old stained pieces and making sure everything is looking good before varnish. 

Above left is the chair with new side posts and one new spoke in place.  
On the right, the piece after a nice, dark stain to match the spokes I didn't strip.

Below:  Before and after stain to match what wasn't stripped. I also ran stain over
the other back spokes and under the arm rests to stain spots that were worn through.
Now for the varnish, let it sit for awhile to cure, put on the upholstered 
(that I haven't done yet) and assemble it.  This was done 02-18-14.

I decided to use heavy leather for a seat bottom instead of wood because there's give to leather and 
absolutely none with wood.  Since one of my hobbies is hand tooling leather, I tooled a design on the 
right side
(or underside of the chair) to give it a little pizzazz then wood burned the provenance into the leather.  
I antiqued the finished piece to give it depth and will eventually varnish the printed side to give it more strength 
and durability.  The rough part of the leather (facing up) will be covered by padding and upholstery.

Done on 04-02-2014 and it looks maybe close to what it looked like 100+ years ago when it was brand new.

Below: I should've taken a photo of this little 2-leaf table before taking it apart.  It had three green legs
with a stick wired to what was left of the forth leg.  This little beauty was purchased by Janet, an RN at work.
Her husband has a new lathe and made a beautiful fourth leg.  He's my wood guy here in SW Missouri.   

Trying to get the paint out of the grooves on the legs was nearly impossible but I eventually got the job done with
the help of Frank (below), who, for whatever his reason, found the legs a comfortable place to take a nap.  Unfortunately,  
no matter how I tried, I could not match the three old legs to the new oak leg when staining them so I simply painted them 
all warm brown. Everything else stained up well and now (08-17-13) it's ready to assemble (bottom right).


As of 09-14-13, DONE:

Leaves down                                     Leaves UP                                  One up/one down


Picked up this pine gossip bench in July, 2011 at a home in Cassville where the occupant was selling everything and moving out of town.  

As I was leaving with the bench, I spotted an extremely tiny kitten in the debris on the front porch who was
sustaining life on pretzels (trail mix) and water.  I bought the bench that day for $25 ... the kitten was free.
He weighed 8 oz. when he came home with me but with good nutrition, the kitten gained 4 lbs in 2 months.  
He's now 3+ years old and weighs 12 lbs.   His name is Harley because he has such a loud motor.
Click on Harley to go to his website and see how he's grown.

As for the bench, it had a whisper of varnish so no stripping was necessary, only a thorough sanding.  It also needed 
no big repairs, I got lucky there.  I took it apart and sanded it entirely, then wood burned the name of the recipient, the year, 
stained it then wood burned a bit of decoration on the piece.  I then painted the turquoise part and the decoration. 
After a couple coats of high gloss polyurethane, it's done on June 27, 2012. 



Below: This was spotted in a Monett, Missouri back yard, under a bush and looking decrepit during the summer of 
2011.  After some negotiation, I bought it for $45, brought it home and after a month or so, brought it back to life.  
The replacement door was horrible so they were both thrown away.  A dark oil stain on the lower left was there to stay but it doesn't look bad.
There were originally little wheels on this piece, two of which were gone so I took them all off and replaced them with glides. 

I put an small flower appliqué on each side along with its provenance, location and date.
It's now used as a bookcase/TV stand in my computer room.  I keep DVDs and videos in the drawer.  It's perfect.

Below is a coffee table purchased at the Red Barn Antiques in Shell Knob, Missouri on 08-15-09
for $50.  It's a cute little thing, isn't it?  Too cute to cover w/this obnoxious red paint.  Under this piece
is the date 6-64. Not an antique to me ... but nonetheless, it's at least 45 years old and needed some TLC.

It was finished on 11-09. Above right is in the antique shop, middle is completely
disassembled (or is it unassembled?) and on the right, FINISHED. Gorgeous.

Below is a beautiful oak rocker that's at least 100 years old.
I bought it at a consignment shop north of Shell Knob, Missouri on August 3, 2009, for $85.

It had this horrible plastic tacked over the original and VERY worn burgundy brocade seat.
Below left is before I started.  Middle and right pics are the finished product.  Took me 20 days.



One of my favorite pieces is the little chair below.

Above left is my little oak spindle chair, purchased for $12 from a Tea, SD antique shop in June, 2008 and refinished in July.  The poor thing had a very warped plywood seat and the veneer on the front part of the backrest was gone although I can't imagine how that could possibly happen because the veneer on the back was fine.  The chair was wobbly, worn and weathered to where the wood actually had a yellow/greenish hue and the poor thing had no varnish whatsoever.  After sanding down two of the legs only slightly, it was level, good as new and all joints were solid.  

Of course I threw the plywood seat away and replaced it with a hand-tooled leather seat.  I haven't done that in more than 25 years but kept my tools which worked out well.  Above left is the chair down to its bare bones.  Middle is the leather seat after tooling the design and before staining.  Notice that within the design I tooled "JK" on the left and the " '08" on the right. 
(Gotta make my mark.)  Surprisingly enough, the chair is much more comfortable then it was when I tested it in the antique shop because leather has "give" and of course plywood doesn't.  

After tooling, staining and finishing the leather I cut it to the approximate size, glued it to the chair using every clamp I owned then trimmed off the small amount of excess leather with a finishing sander.  My niece Christy said I had some major "clamp action" going on.  The oak veneer on the front of the backrest came from VanDykes Restorers in Mitchell, SD and was easy to apply.  Fortunately the veneer on the back side was in perfect shape so that was one less thing to do.  

The dresser and chair pictured below were purchased at Broadway Antiques in Fargo, ND in November, 2007 
and completely refinished on June 18, 2008 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where I lived from 2004 to 2009. 

I wasn't sure when I bought this dresser but the tiger oak finish was actually painted to look like oak - on top of solid  MAPLE.  
Below left is the dresser before I started working on it and on the right is completely stripped.
Below left shows a beautiful maple dresser finished.  I added wheels, repaired the harp which was completely split on the left.  It has all new drawer bottoms and handles.  I also wood burned then painted a little decoration on the harp shown on the right, the ONLY part that wasn't maple, it was pine for some odd reason.

When I saw the chair (below) was amongst the non-sellable items in the basement at Broadway Antiques in Fargo, ND.
The chair looked incredibly sad sitting there and was exactly what I'd been looking for so I grabbed it, 
brought it to the register and paid for both the chair ($5) and the maple dresser above ($100).


On the left, the chair when I first saw it and beginning the process by taking off the upholstery and checking for repair 
work.  Middle picture is what was used under the chair.  Nice work, huh?  Looks like it must've been stored in a barn
because there was bird poop on the underside of this poor chair.  On the right is the old skin and yes, the picture is 
upside down because it's laying on my bench.

On the left below, a split in the wood needs to be glued, middle is after the stripping and subsequent coats of polyurethane are applied.
On the right is the new skin placed initially over springs and back before putting padding and upholstery on the chair.

The little appliqué on the left armrest is from 1 of 6 introduction cards my Gramma Nellie had treasured from the 20s or 30s.
The flowered piece is barely glued on the left side and when lifted shows the name of the card's owner underneath.  These little cards
were so cute and I've been saving them for years wondering what to do with them.  Before applying the polyurethane I 
thought of these cards and to my surprise, the decorative top of one fit perfectly on the arm rest so now it's got a second home.
I added a foot stool just to make it look a little more elegant and the doily is a nice touch as an antimacassar.

Left is before anything is done, middle is stripped and sanded.  On the right I put color on the flower and laid the seat in place.
The seat isn't attached yet of course, the piece needs to be stained and finished first.  The second shelf for the phone book hasn't been attached yet either.

Above left is the usual information I wood burn somewhere on everything I refinish.  Middle is a close-up of the flowered back and right is finished piece.    
The above seat is a Gossip Bench and was used as the only place in the home for the phone when there was only one phone.
My sister bought the bench at an auction about 15 years ago for $25.  It sat in her back porch until last year when I finally talked her out of it.


Above is the little cabinet I bought on Ebay, it only stands about 24" high and was a metal-lined humidor.
The metal interior was battered, now it's gone.

This little secretary above was not much more than kindling wood when I first saw it in the antique shop.  The back had warped 
away from the piece and had to be tossed, the sides were so dry they had split apart as you can see in the center photo, 
the bottom doors were gone, shelves missing, no mirror.  It was totally trashed and perfect for my little hobby.  
This secretary was the
MOST fun project to complete and took several months.  The back was replaced, sides glued,
all knobs and pulls are replaced with brass, new wood around the pull-down door and added appliqués on the back and side.



A 42" dining room table was given to me by my brothers. Modern was using it to cut plexiglass and was going to throw it away but Ricky said, 
"Wait! Let's give it to Jan and see what she wants to do with it and if she doesn't want it, she can throw it away."  
The most fun was seeing the look on their faces when they saw the finished product.  
I already had four chairs that matched the table perfectly.


The highboy dresser is a man's and the woman's dresser is the lower wider one. The above left photo shows both dressers before I did anything.  Above right photo shows only the highboy with the hardware removed and stripped.  Both dressers were without their mirrors.   All knobs were removed and replaced by wooden pulls except for the top drawers.  The oak escutcheons (the pieces that go around the keyholes) were also oak and purchased in Fargo.  Everything matched perfectly.  The highboy had glue or perhaps clear nail polish spilled on the top. Stripper didn't budge it so it had to be scraped off with a putty knife then eventually sanded down.


Me with my gorgeous dressers that turned out even better then I'd imagined.  
When I left South Dakota for Missouri, I gave these to my little brother.  He found them for me
in the first place so my plan was to give them to him and Carlotta for their new Glyndon home.


I found a old and extremely dry stanchion (harp) for a highboy dresser in a Moorhead, MN
antique shop and bought it for $20. I already had an old mirror so I cut it to fit and used it. 

Below: Refinished stanchion w/mirror on the dresser, the two look like they'd been together since its beginning.


The dresser below on the left was found in my x-husband's father's garage without the mirror & frame which I found later in another part of the house.  Back in the 1950s Charley's sister had removed the mirror, painted it blue and hung it in her bedroom where it stayed for years.  The little cabinet (below right) was purchased in Las Cruces, New Mexico about 1994 and refinished in Kansas, where I lived at the time before moving to Las Cruces in 1995.  And the kitty in this photo is Frank, a black/white shorthair.

The little cabinet below left was purchased in a Wichita antique shop and refinished in Kansas, the TV stand on the right was purchased and refinished in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I had a friend saw 7" the legs to make it the height of a TV stand.  You can't see it but there was contact paper pasted in the front panels.  It looked like it may have been in a baby's room which would explain why it was white.
(The cat  lower right is Boo kitty) 

Below left is a rocker I found in my ex-husband's dad's garage, it was completely trashed.  I refinished it, repositioned the back spindles because three were missing, inlaid hand-tooled leather in the top back and added a new stool to give the chair company.  

The bookcase (center) was from a kitchen assembly and took me the entire 1993 summer to refinish.  It was loaded with problems.  I crocheted the curtains that say JCK on the left and 1993 on the right.  

Below right is what I believe to be the trunk carried from Norway to the USA by my father's mother's mother in 1885 when she immigrated with her two sisters.  Wooden pegs were used, no nails.  The hardware is definitely nineteenth century and the inside pull to the lid compartment is leather.  When I stripped off the greenish burgundy paint that was on the trunk when I first got it, I could see there was lettering on the bare wood.  Wish I could've saved or even just read it but stripper takes it all.  The trunk weighs about 10 pounds.


This was my woodshop/garage when I lived on Klondike Trail in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (2004-2009).

Designed over the years by me, Jan Koski

to the ladies of the Old West