Saturday, April 30, 2016

 Vintage Church Pew Redo

I found this wonderful church pew with at least five coats of paint at the Lake County Fairgrounds Antique Fair in Spring of 2015. The seven-foot length would be perfect extra seating on the backyard deck. I just loved the funky layers, two shades of brown-tan, the varnished oak, a cream, a turquoise and the country blue.

I confess this was an old post I have tweaked from June 2015, but no one saw it then as it was only my second blog post.


Let's get started on the redo. This OLD REDO, is DIY Ladies, this will be totally doable on your own, except for moving the pew, this oak monster weighs a ton. 

The pew was sound, but I reinforced the legs by pre-drilling holes and inserting deck screws and wood glue from the inside out to keep the wood from splitting at the seams. I drilled a series of holes for drainage in the rear of the seat.

It's wise to use a mask and gloves when working on old finishes, many before the seventies contained lead and other harmful substances. Chipping paint, while a romantic 'shabby chic'
look, is a true hazard to a curious toddler and the environment. Think GREEN!

After a vigorous scrubbing with Murphy's wood soap and hot water, I scraped and then I orbital sanded with 60 grit to remove all the loose paint layers and evened out the finish. The  shop vac and a damp cloth removed all traces of dust and debris. The surface is  finally ready.

Saftey Tip: remember to wear a mask and gloves when emptying your vac and change the filter before using it again.

I applied two sparse coats of Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane-clear semi-gloss (indoor/outdoor) varnish. We intend to use this on the back deck for extra seating--so much nicer than tripping over folding chair legs.

Ready for sealing.

Church pew seat and Helmsman Varnish with sponge brush

The Helmsman varnish was very runny, and needs to be applied quickly in thin coats. I used sponge brushes (not recommended on the label) to avoid carrying too much varnish on the tilted surfaces. Sponge brushes helped to soak up excesses instead of pushing it around. I had no significant deterioration of the sponges, other than normal wear from the irregular surfaces. I used two sponge brushes for the two coats. They don't last long, but I save the handles to use as dowels for other projects. 

Some drips occurred, but this can be brushed out in the next coat. I only waited two hours between coats, as it was a very warm and low humidity. After curing the two coats for a week, the finish is very tight and very shiny. 


Waterproofing the legs
Tip: I weather-proofed the legs by submerging the wood into large oil drain pans filled with  Cabot's Wood Toned Deck and Siding Stain, 19200 Natural. This soaked up the feet nicely and used almost a full quart of stain/sealer. This project will be on a raised deck, but this step is absolutely necessary for furniture in contact with dirt, grass, or damp surfaces.

My husband and I have had a difference of opinion on the 'look' of vintage furniture. While I'm thrilled with the existing patina, he would like to see this pew solid country red to match the doors on the shed and house. Temporary compromise; the existing finish had to be stabilized, so he has agreed to give it a chance. The pew can always be painted in the future.

This is just one battle in the history of marriage challenges between a pocket-protector
husband and an artist wife, LOL.


PS: After a month the finish has mellowed and the shine has gone way down. If you want it even less shiney, a polish of steel wool, will bring down the shine.
I  use it every day, come join me for a cup of your favorite!


 Here is the pew about a month later in June 2015.  I haven't found the perfect table yet, but I'm looking. I still love the color, my husband still hates it.


Here's the bench in September, 2015. I really love the color and finish, my husband definitely hates it, so we will see. Thanks for stopping by, I love all your comments and questions and will try and answer them all.

All the opinions and photographs in this blog are my own, I have not been paid or reimbursed in anyway for my opinions or posts. Please do not use photos without linking back to this blog without my permission. Thank you for your cooperation, Sandi Magle




  1. Sandi, that church pew is just wonderful! Love it!

    1. much nicer than stumbling over four extra lawn chairs when we have lots of people! Thanks for stopping by, Sandi


Thank you for any and all comments. I will reply to any questions!
And great to meet you, Sandi