2/08/2012

Restoring Vintage Rattan

I've slowly been making progress on my rattan project, a vintage sectional I rescued from a neighbor's dumpster next to my family's lake cottage. I had dubbed the sectional Ratso because it was is such a pest of a project. But I'm determined to get this monkey rat off my back once and for all.

The sectional after sanding but before finishing.
Click to enlarge.

These are two of three pieces. The middle armless section I had refinished awhile ago and have been using as a chair in my living room. I finally got around to staining and lacquering the other two last fall. It had been such a long time since I'd done the first piece I wasn't even sure I remembered the stain color correctly but - PHEW! - it came out looking the same. 

I gave the chairs a good sanding before applying the stain and then came two coats of lacquer. When finishing rattan or wicker it's always best to use lacquer as opposed to varnish or polyurethane because lacquer is flexible. The other finishes will crack over time given the way these furnishings flex and move. The other good thing about lacquer is that it's a non-toxic product, which is great if you have children or pets. 

It dries to the touch in about 30 minutes and is water resistant. The label says it's also fruit juice and alcohol resistant, just in case you're, you know, having a little cocktail party and things get a little crazy. Use a good quality natural bristle brush. No sanding needed between coats. The lacquer will be self leveling without visible brush strokes, and it leaves you with a nice smooth durable finish. I used Deft Clear Wood Finish in semi-gloss. It was very easy to work with. Use lacquer thinner to clean your brush. 


You can see the smooth finish and sheen in this picture.
Stained and lacquered.

I'm really happy with the restoration considering how weathered these were after sitting on a deck exposed to the elements for years. The natural variation in color of the rattan plus staining helps disguise the areas that I wasn't able to completely clean up by sanding. 

The cushions for the sectional were left in the dumpster, for obvious reasons. I purchased new foam and in my next post I'll take you through the process of making cushions and getting them ready for the final zippered covers. 


4 comments:

  1. WHAT STAIN DID YOU USE? MOST OF MY RATTAN IS HONEY COLORED NOT THE BLOND BLOND PIECES I KEEP SEEING IF I STRIP THE VARNISH CAN I STAIN THE PIECES A SHADE DARKER? IVE ALSO SEEN DARK BROWN RATTAN CAN THESE BE MADE LIGHTER BY STRIPING AND SANDING?

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    1. My pieces were pretty weathered to start with so I only needed to do some sanding and didn't use any chemical strippers. Staining made mine just marginally darker. I think I used colonial oak. I think the lacquer finish did more to bring out the natural richness of the rattan which is what I was going for. I'd recommend trying a test patch in an inconspicuous area or start with a small test project that you can live without if it's a fail. Good luck!

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  2. Thanks for the nifty posting. I'm in the process of stripping paint from my rattan club chair. Any suggestions on sanding. I assume I should use very fine sand paper. Thanks, Claudia

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    Replies
    1. When sanding I started with a medium grit sandpaper and then went to fine. If you are doing more than one finish coat I would recommend using a fine steel wool between coats and always be sure to wipe away any dust with some tack cloth. Good luck with your chair!

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