Restoration of a Pair of Polychrome Side Chairs

This pair of chairs were originally painted the green color you see in the images.  I received the chairs in approximately the condition of the photographs, I have since removed some of the red and other over paint.  Unfortunately the one chair had been stripped of its original finish, thereby removing much of the value of the set of chairs.  I have restored dozens of early pioneer Utah chairs and this painting is by far the most unique painted finish I have ever seen.  The exposed green paint is original and the striping is in white.  Green paint was very rare in the nineteenth century, usually made of a copper base that tended to be fugitive.  These spindle chairs are a common type in the Pioneer West, the original paint however makes them an important pair.

Front View of Side ChairsSide View of Side Chairs

The chair seats are 14 inches wide and 14 inches deep and 1 inches thick, the chair height to the seat is 17 inches and the overall height to the cresting rail is 32 inches.  The chair is constructed using round mortice and tenon construction and the two side uprights are dovetailed into the cresting rail and penetrate the seat and are wedged on the bottom.  The two uprights have square pegs in the back of the dovetail to secure it to the cresting rail.  The seat bottoms are two piece with an apparent butt joint.  The only damage besides the finish that was repaired is a small Dutchman placed in the cresting rail of the chair that had been stripped.

Stripe detailClick on picture to the left to view detail of the white striping that has been done to decorate the chair.  Then use your Browser Back Button to return to this page.

Layers of Over Paint


This image shows the six (1 original & 5 layers of over paint) layers of paint, the original green, a reddish brown, a white, another thin layer of green, a tan and the final bright red.  Had the pieces not been stripped the over paint can be removed exposing the original finish.  The second layer of matching green paint made it particularly difficult to get to the original green color.  As much of the original finish that was remaining was preserved.


Second chair after carefully stripping twice.This is the second chair after it has been carefully stripped two times using chemical stripper.  It will be spot stripped one more time to remove any remaining surface over paint.  The final spot stripping was done mechanically rather than a chemical stripper.  The raw wood will be treated with shellac prior to the base paint.  A filler was made of linseed oil and whiting (calcium carbonate) to fill an original repair on the front edge of the seat and on some small cracks that developed in the top.  The original repair is to fill an open knot and contained remnants of the original green paint on the bottom.  The surface will be lightly sanded before the base coat is applied


Side Chair with base coat of paintAfter the repair to the cresting rail, the chair was lightly sanded and coated with shellac.  The base coat of paint was then applied to all exposed surfaces, the bottom of the seat is not painted.  After drying it will be lightly sanded again followed by a second coat of paint.  The stripes will be added when both chairs are complete.






Finished chairs prior to distressing and varnishingBoth chairs painted and striped, I will slightly distress the chairs and finish with a satin spar varnish.

Polychrome Side Chairs - Completed

And this is the final image, after a slight distressing and a couple of thin coats of satin marine spar varnish.

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