Restoration of Captain’s Chair

How to restore a vintage captain's chair

This captain’s chair was sitting outside in the rain at my chiropractor’s office waiting to go into the skip. During my treatment, I mentioned the chair to him and asked if I could have the chair to practice on.  I had never restored a Captain’s chair before and thought it would be good practice for me. If l failed I had lost nothing but my time and the chair could continue its journey to the tip.

How to restore a vintage captain's chair

Because I am self-taught, I like to find projects like this that help me to learn new skills.  In my opinion, you are willing to try new techniques when there is no risk of losing money. The knowledge you pick up from taking them apart and figuring out how they go back together will help you with other projects.  This project turned out so good I was able to sell for a very good profit.

It is also time for our next blog hop for  ‘Do It Over’ Designers. We are a group of bloggers who come together to share our latest recycle/upcycle/DIY project. Be sure to visit the other talented bloggers who are participating this month in the links at the end of this post.

How to restore a Captain’s Chair

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I earn a small commission on links used at no extra cost to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.**

Because this was a practice project, I did not take step by step pictures.  But I can share with you what I learned along the way and maybe it can help you with your next project.  This was the captain’s chair when I brought it home, I don’t think there was any section of the chair that was not damaged.

How to restore a vintage captain's chair

Taking the captain’s chair apart

I started by removing the chair seat from the lift mechanism with the legs attached. They are usually held together with a few screws or bolts. Most chairs I have taken apart have had some fabric underneath to make the bottom look tidy and hide all the screws and bolts. You may need to remove this fabric to get access to them. 

Once you removed the lift mechanism you will have access to the screws that hold the wooden spindle section to the seat.  You can remove these to screws so the wooden section can be removed.

Next, I removed the old copper studs which held the leather for the backrest in place.  This then gave me access to the screws holding the backrest to the wooden section. The chair came apart in 4 pieces, the base, the seat, the spindles and the headrest.  

Restoring the wood

I personally, would never recommend sanding all these spindles by hand because it is too time-consuming.  I did them all by hand with a soft sanding block which took me forever. If you choose to use an electric sander there is a good chance you will damage the shape of the spindles.

Before

How to restore a vintage captain's chair

In hindsight, I should have used a paint stripper such as Citri-strip. To use Citri-strip, you put the stripper on the spindles, wrap some saran wrap around it, and leave it to sit for about 12 hours.  Once all the varnish has softened you can use a paint scraper to scrape the old varnish off. To remove the leftover residue I use warm soapy water and a scrubbing brush and then leave to wood to dry outside in the sun.

To hydrate the wood you can add some furniture oil to the surface using a soft cloth rubbing in a circular motion. I did reapply the oil and left the wood to sit for a few days to dry. Next, I stained the wood using a dark mahogany stain which I sealed with two coats of oil-based polyurethane. 

After

How to restore a leather swivel office chair

Repairing the wheels in the captain’s chair

The wheels were cast iron but there were rusted and would not roll. I soaked them in some Coke a Cola for a few hours. Next, you can use some tin foil scrunched up into a ball to rub off the rust. I resprayed the wheels with chrome spray paint to make them look new again.

The chairlift mechanism was also rusted tight and did not work. I used some WD-40 and some fine steel wool to get it moving again and added some grease to stop the squeaking. 

How to restore a vintage captain's chair

Recovering the backrest

The foam of the back support was still in good shape apart from the one corner. I started by removing all the buttons and removing the studs that held the fabric in place. The fabric can then be removed and used as a rough guide for the new leather. I cut a new piece of leather at least 15cm bigger l so I had some excess.

Restoration of a Vintage Captains Chair

I bought some blank buttons that you can cover, covering them with leather was not the easiest job but got there in the end. To smooth out the damaged corner I used a thin piece of wadding which I attached with spray adhesive

Restoration of a Vintage Captains Chair

I started in the middle and worked my way out making sure I folded the excess leather into a fold. The fold will help the leather sit tidily around the buttons.  To secure the buttons I used a long upholstery needle to pull the thread through the holes and stapled them at the back. The arms screwed off from below so they were very easy to cover too. 

I used one piece of leather I just added a fold in the fabric. This gave the chair a nicer look with added buttons to hold the leather in place. Next, I stapled the leather to the base and cut away the excess fabric. I will add the studs later to hide the staples.

Restoration of a Vintage Captains Chair

Replacing the foam on the seat

The foam on the captain’s chair was totally destroyed so I cut a new piece from an old camping mattress. To cover the seat you will need a piece of leather big enough to cover the seat surface with enough overhang to staple it below. The front of my chair was wood but it was also in very poor condition.  I added two coats of varnish even though I was covering the wood.  I do this because it fills in all the old holes from the staples that were removed.  This will give you a better surface for the new staples to attach to. 

Restoration of a Vintage Captains Chair

I cut a section of leather to the correct size and shape and used some brass studs to keep it in place. I did change the design of the front because the wood was so damaged. 

Restoring a captains chair

Adding new studs

The old studs were beyond saving.  So I splashed out on new studs which took my chair from drab to fab in minutes. They were so easy to use and because they bend, shaping them around the chair was easy. The studs will also hide all the staples giving a beautiful finish.

Putting the chair back together

First, I screwed the headrest into the wooden section from below. You will need a small screwdriver to get access from below. You will need a long piece of leather for the section between the seat and the legs.  Staple the leather around the base top before you screw on the wood spindle section. Next, pull down the leather and staple the other side to the underneath of the seat. Lastly, I added the front section, which will hide the staples used to attach the leather to the seat base.

How to restore a vintage captain's chair

I took this picture outside because the light inside did not do the colour of the captain’s chair justice.

Restoration of a Vintage Captains Chair

Here are some before and after comparisons of the restored vintage captain’s chair.

restored captains chair

How to restore a vintage captain's chair

How to restore a vintage captain's chair

Pinterest pin

It’s time for more ideas and my friends have lots of them for you.  Be sure to visit them and see what they’ve been upcycling/recycling/DIYing.  Here are the links:

Southern Sunflowers

Unique Creations by Anita

My Hubbard Home

Sum of Their Stories

The Apple Street Cottage

Birdz of a Feather

Exquisitely Unremarkable

Little Vintage Cottage

Modern on Monticello

Pandora’s Box

Purple Hues & Me

Tea and Forget-Me-Nots

If you are looking for any of the items used in this project, please consider using our links. By clicking on the links we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Which helps us come up with new and exciting ideas to share with you. Please feel free to share or leave a comment we would love to hear your thoughts.

Please feel free to leave a comment and share this post. If you are in need of any of the products in this post please can you use my links to buy them at no extra cost to yourself?  The small commission I earn helps with the costs to run this site.If you are looking for any of the items used in this project, please consider using our links. By clicking on the links we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Which helps us come up with new and exciting ideas to share with you. Please feel free to share or leave a comment we would love to hear your thoughts.Please feel free to leave a comment and share this post. If you are in need of any of the products in this post please can you use my links to buy them at no extra cost to yourself?  The small commission I earn helps with the costs to run this site.
Please feel free to leave a comment and share this post. If you are in need of any of the products in this post please can you use my links to buy them at no extra cost to yourself?  The small commission I earn helps with the costs to run this site.Please feel free to leave a comment and share this post. If you are in need of any of the products in this post please can you use my links to buy them at no extra cost to yourself?  The small commission I earn helps with the costs to run this site.Please feel free to leave a comment and share this post. If you are in need of any of the products in this post please can you use my links to buy them at no extra cost to yourself?  The small commission I earn helps with the costs to run this site.Please feel free to leave a comment and share this post. If you are in need of any of the products in this post please can you use my links to buy them at no extra cost to yourself?  The small commission I earn helps with the costs to run this site.Restoration of a Captains Chair
Furniture Restoration
Furniture Restoration
Furniture Restoration

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32 Comments

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    Kim
    May 28, 2022 at 9:38 pm

    Amazing transformation, Anita! I’m so impressed with your skills!

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks so much Kim.

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    Gail @Purple Hues and Me
    May 28, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    Wow, Anita! This is a spectacular transformation! You are definitely not a novice when it comes to this fabulous captain’s chair restoration! Great job!

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks Gail, I do projects like this to learn new skills.

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    Sara
    May 28, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    Anita, this is unbelievable! If this is ‘practice’ imagine what the next one will be? So impressed with your mad skills!

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks Sara, It was a challenge but so worth the effort.

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    Ann
    May 28, 2022 at 10:27 pm

    It looks like a brand new chair, Anita and how sweet to get it for free! Upholstery is on my list of things to try – I’m inspired!

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks Ann, It was so much easier than I thought it would be. I think we all need to jump in and have a go. We might surprise ourselves.

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    Tania
    May 28, 2022 at 10:54 pm

    Wow, I’m so impressed! I’m not sure I would have tackled that but it looks so good now, just like new!

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:13 pm

      Thank you so much Tania.

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    Rachelle
    May 29, 2022 at 12:02 am

    Anita, great tip on using Citri Strip. I will remember that for future projects. This chair turned out beautiful and I am not surprised that you were able to sell it. You really do have the most amazing creative skills!
    Rachelle

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks Rachelle, I seem to have lost my fear when trying new projects. lol

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    Michelle
    May 29, 2022 at 12:10 am

    Oh wow! The chair looks brand new. What an amazing save.

    Michelle
    https://mybijoulifeonline.com

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:14 pm

      Thanks so much michelle.

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    Rachel - Tea and Forget-me-nots
    May 29, 2022 at 4:49 am

    What a labour of love, I’m glad it worked out so well for you. I enjoyed our hop!

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks so much, I was thrilled with the results. See you next time.

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    Allyson @ Southern Sunflowers
    May 29, 2022 at 9:13 am

    What a challenge! You did a spectacular job and I can see how you were easily able to sell it. It looks grand!

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:16 pm

      Thanks Allyson, It sold within minutes of posting it. So I was pleased.

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    Marie-Interior Frugalista
    May 31, 2022 at 3:35 am

    Wow, Anita, you are a brave woman to take on this chair, even despite it being a freebie. Did you ever show it whose boss with such a gorgeous restoration! I love a good curbside redemption story and congrats on selling it for a nice profit. Yikes, so if coca-cola does the trick for removing grime and unsticking old castors, you gotta wonder WTH it’s doing to our guts! LOL Pinned 🙂

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:18 pm

      Thanks Marie. After I had already sold it, I did show him, and he said he would have paid me more than I asked. As for the coke, I use it to remove rust that I get on my cutlery from my dishwasher from time to time. It works wonders, so I would also be interested to know what it does to our insides.

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    Susan M.
    May 31, 2022 at 8:59 am

    I had no idea that you could buy the studs/tacks that are all joined! I thought you had to nail them in one by one. Thanks for the useful tip!

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      Anita Holland
      May 31, 2022 at 4:19 pm

      I did too susan, For my vintage couch, I did them one by one. These are amazing.

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    maria
    May 31, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    Great job! Wow that a great idea about the tacks. I had to add tacks to my sofa the movers ruined, this would have helped me so much.

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      Anita Holland
      June 5, 2022 at 11:23 am

      Thanks Maria, they are so good and easy to use.

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    Donna @ Modern on Monticello
    June 4, 2022 at 12:32 am

    Wow! Amazing transformation. This project would have totally overwhelmed me and I wouldn’t even attempt it. Congrats on getting it done so beautifully!

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      Anita Holland
      June 5, 2022 at 11:26 am

      Thanks, Donna,You have to just jump in and attempt it you might surprise yourself.

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    Shirley
    June 12, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    Beautiful tucks, nice detail work and absolutely a gorgeous job!

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      Anita Holland
      June 13, 2022 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks Shirley, I was over the mon how well this one turned out.

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    Michelle Leslie
    June 14, 2022 at 11:01 pm

    I love your attitude towards leaning new things and your work always amazes me, Anita. I’ve probably said this so many times before, but I’m blown away with how beautiful she (he) turned out. There’s no ways I would have sold her. Not ever.


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