Project: Dining Chairs

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

Remember that chair I mentioned last time? The one I got for the back balcony that ended up destroying hours and hours of my life because I foolishly refused to give up on it?

It looks like chairs are my kryptonite.

Back when I had an alert set up for "dining chairs" on Craigslist, I got an email with an ad for four of these, for FREE. Right price? Check. And there's something about the style that I think is just so cool. I have no idea what that style is, but I like it. (As far as I can tell, "that" style does not exist.)

The seats are going to get recovered so I can finally try my hand at upholstering, and at first, the plan was to leave it at that. I was going to just clean up the wood a bit and focus my efforts on the seats. But then they sat around in my dining room for a week, and the darker wood didn't look right with any of the patterns and colors I was leaning toward. And even after I wiped them down with some Murphy's, there was still this gross waxy film that I didn't want to think too hard about. And I wasn't loving how the finish of the chairs went with the wood floor and the wood paneling on the walls.

And then I wondered: what if I sanded down the current finish and redid it? They're always doing it on HGTV shows and Apartment Therapy and all over the interwebs, so why couldn't I? So I sanded a small part on the underside of one of the chairs, just to see what it would look like.

I loved it. I loved it just as it was, lighter and more casual and soft to the touch. It reminded me of driftwood, and would look amazing with a colorful tribal pattern or something a little more boho.

Before I knew what I was doing, I had started sanding the top side of the chair, merrily going along my way. Sanding. And sanding. And sanding. Twenty minutes passed, and I remembered something: I HATE sanding. The sound is grating and gives me goosebumps and it's slow and it makes a big mess and it's SLOW.

I broke out the power sander, sure that it would be my savior. But after only another twenty minutes or so, I had to stop because I couldn't feel my hands anymore.

These four chairs have been sitting in the dining room for MONTHS now. Every time I try to get a little more work done, I don't last more than an hour before I have to give up again, and I'm left covered in sawdust, ears ringing, hands still vibrating.

I don't know what to do. I still really like the chairs. And a recent compliment from Andy's aunt confirmed that they are, actually, really nice. But I can't keep letting this project drag. The dining room — which, in my defense, barely got used to begin with — is now a wreck of sandpaper, rags, power tools, and unusable space. It's the only common room in the apartment left that I haven't fixed up yet, and I was really hoping to get the ball rolling with these chairs.

But, guys. The SANDING. It's killing me.

What do I do? Give in and junk them? Stick with it? Anyone know some tricks to make sanding less painful? I'm thinking of trying a chemical stripper, but they sound kind of scary. Help!