War office chairs

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Mrs C

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I am repairing a hoop back dining type chair, elm seat and beech legs with a war office stamp underneath. I am not sure what to finish it with, any sign of an original finish has long gone.

Can anyone suggest how it would have originally been finished and what I should use?
 
Attached is how I found it, so decided I couldn’t make it much worse! Think it has been sat in a shed for a very long time and looks like someone had several goes at repairing it in the past.


0B584011-720C-419F-BBF3-DF427001EF1C.jpegAF6A1FE9-D37F-47CD-8079-77F4044D9182.jpegD578CC2D-2032-4A9B-93A3-2E00E854D0BA.jpeg
 
If it was mine I'd reglue it, carefully scrape the blue paint off if that what it is, rub down with medium wire wool and meths apply a coat of b l o allow to fully dry and apply a coat of shellac and wax applied with 0000 wire wool
 
Those appear to be early or mid-century English Windsor type chairs.......... the parts were often mass-produced by chair-bodgers in the woods as the trees were cut and and made up and often sold by the dozen or gross.

It's hard to say what finish is most appropriate as they were often sold, as I mentioned, by the dozen or gross and often sold as is - unfinished so that the purchaser took them home and painted them to suit.
Linseed oil's been mentioned..... in those days it was up to the user to decide. most were painted or sometimes left unfinished, which could well be the case if they were sold to the War Office.

I would expect the seat to be Elm and the legs either Ash or, most likely, Beech.

There is one interesting point that may (or may not) be relevant in the third picture showing the leg/stretcher. The disassembled stretcher seems to have a groove just inside the joint. It may be a one-off on that joint, but it would be interesting to see if the other stretchers had a similar groove just inside the joint.

This may be a one off...... or the original bodger would have turned the legs with the wood wet- straight from the tree - then turned the groove in the stretcher, hammered it all together and as the legs dried, the shrinkage tightened the joint. You may also notice if the section of the leg is slightly oval.

Are there any old glue remnants present in the joints or were they assembled dry?
 
I have War Dept marked windsor "captains" chair, i.e. with arms too. Was originally thickly coated in varnish on brown stain There were a lot of them about - just standard office furniture up to WW2
I stripped mine and oiled instead. Still brown but looks nicer without the varnish.
I think yours may have been caustic soda dipped, judging by the paleness and decrepitude.
 
I believe I read somewhere that the chairmaker 'Jack Goodchild' used to dip his completed chairs in a tank of dye, can't remember the exact next stages but possibly some shellac to seal ,followed by wax
 
We are still sleeping in an ex-WD double bed, bought from Bedford salerooms some 40 years ago, and marked with a GviR stamp plus the broad arrow. Quite a pleasant light oak colour, with very thin coat of clear varnish as far as I can tell.
 
Out of interest, why would you dip wood in caustic? I can't imagine it does anything good to it.
Dipping is destructive but a quick wash down could be OK. Sugar soap is good and a lot less destructive.
 
Dipping is destructive but a quick wash down could be OK. Sugar soap is good and a lot less destructive.
So it's just for stripping finish or cleaning up the wood? Makes sense I suppose, but like you say there's much better methods. I only asked because I have access to massive tanks of the stuff and wondered it if was something that might come in handy. I'll keep to using work's materials for their intended purpose. (y).

Cheers for the info.
 
So it's just for stripping finish or cleaning up the wood? Makes sense I suppose, but like you say there's much better methods. I only asked because I have access to massive tanks of the stuff and wondered it if was something that might come in handy. I'll keep to using work's materials for their intended purpose. (y).

Cheers for the info.
I've seen a lot of stuff totally wrecked by caustic soda dipping. It's a last resort and then only to be done very quickly and washed off as fast as possible.
OK on metal work though - over the years have saved lots of ironmongery and brass by leaving it in a bucket of caustic soda.
 
Hi
Those appear to be early or mid-century English Windsor type chairs.......... the parts were often mass-produced by chair-bodgers in the woods as the trees were cut and and made up and often sold by the dozen or gross.

It's hard to say what finish is most appropriate as they were often sold, as I mentioned, by the dozen or gross and often sold as is - unfinished so that the purchaser took them home and painted them to suit.
Linseed oil's been mentioned..... in those days it was up to the user to decide. most were painted or sometimes left unfinished, which could well be the case if they were sold to the War Office.

I would expect the seat to be Elm and the legs either Ash or, most likely, Beech.

There is one interesting point that may (or may not) be relevant in the third picture showing the leg/stretcher. The disassembled stretcher seems to have a groove just inside the joint. It may be a one-off on that joint, but it would be interesting to see if the other stretchers had a similar groove just inside the joint.

This may be a one off...... or the original bodger would have turned the legs with the wood wet- straight from the tree - then turned the groove in the stretcher, hammered it all together and as the legs dried, the shrinkage tightened the joint. You may also notice if the section of the leg is slightly oval.

Are there any old glue remnants present in the joints or were they assembled dry?
Lots of glue where the legs join the seat, but this could have been from a repair job previously. Unfortunately I have now glued the base back together so can’t check the grooves in the joint.
 
As a restorer repaired and re-finished loads of windsor chairs. Absolutely agree about the negative effect of dipping with caustic soda tanks, I wouldn't even entertain it for any reason. The chair just needs a sand down, stain if wanted, brush (even better a polisher's mop) apply shellac sanding sealer followed by a light rub down, (scotch brite type pads are best for this), wax and buff.
 
I'm fairly sure that those chairs, several of which I've owned, were finished with nitro-cellulose laquer, as some of the firms making them were also making airframes and airframe parts under WO contracts.
 

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