HOW TO RESTORE VINTAGE METAL LAWN/PORCH CHAIRS

Many want to know how to do this, and my husband is helping me to put this information out.  He is the commander of fixing all metal things.  This job is not easy, and it took the best part of a work day.  And my husband is a sculptor who uses metal as a medium.  He has more tools for working with metal than most.

This chair, looking a little different than the normal vintage lawn chair, is one of the rarer ones we own.  It has a Native American flavor in the pressed metal patterned decoration.

Recently, when sitting around the fire,  Glenn slumped gracefully to the ground as the hollow tubing on the chair gave way at the important stress points.  This is the Achilles Heel of these chairs.

A closer look:

Of course the fact that they are outside chairs, made of metal, this kind of thing is going to happen.  I am looking into putting a clear coat for outside and for metal on all our chairs.  Turns out this is not easy to find.  Did some research and have sent an email to a possible vendor.  More later.

Glenn cut the tubing at the rusty stress points and is checking here the proper alignment needed for the fix.  When the chair broke, some tubing was also smashed out of position.  Further, when he started with the oxy-acetylene torch, he found much more rust crumbling away aside from the actual point of breakage.  If these chairs did not have holes in the seat to help drain standing water, people used to tip them up when not in use.  This let the water  settle in the area in the picture above where the breakage occurred. The rust starts on the inside.  So in trying to deal with standing water on a metal chair, the user actually issued the water to the area where it could do the most damage.

Glenn starts with the torch and removes all the rusty crumbly metal.  With the torch, he found many more rusted places other than what was first visible.

He used a metal cutting band saw  and cut a galvanized tube in half to use as replacement metal in the broken areas.  He used this galvanized tube because he had it.  He would have preferred steel.  He was able to weld outside and does not recommend this for inside work.  He said that some may assume that he used galvanized to deal with future rust; the heat application with the welder ruins galvanized pipe for that quality.

Glenn cut out of the half cylinder length of metal the amount needed to replace all the damaged area.  Below the galvanized metal length is being welded to strengthen the bad part of the rusted tube.

Below is one newly minted chair base.

The final picture shows the total replaced base.  With this chair, he had to replace all the base area.  Other chairs needed less.  The new base is very strong and solid, but it in no way looks identical to the original smooth tubing.  This base now needs to be painted with something like Rust-oleum.

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21 thoughts on “HOW TO RESTORE VINTAGE METAL LAWN/PORCH CHAIRS

  1. Do you know what kind of tubing it takes to replace the whole support on the chair? I am guessing it is 18 ga steel.
    It would seem better to replace the parts rather than make a repair like you have chosen to do. I would appreciate any help. I have 6 chairs that I would dearly love to be able to use.

    1. hey, mary jane: here is something to think about re my husband. to bend tube or rebar, etc., you need a special bending machine. if you do, the next hurdle is to get the bends in your tube stock in EXACTLY the same place on each side so the chair sits perfectly. difficult to do. i asked him how factories do it, and he said that they have fixtures. something designed so that the bend occurs in the same place on the same length of stock that is used. makes sense. i told him that you had six chairs, and would the making of a fixture be worth it for that number? he said they were difficult to make.

      totally understand your love of these chairs. mine are most valuable to me! good luck, ask any more questions, and i will relay them to my husband. lee

  2. i am looking for plastic “stops” for front of rounded leg to keep chairs from leaning forward. Some of mine are missing. Can these be bought new?
    They screw on through the pipe.

    1. Hi Miss Lee, We saved a couple of old lawn chairs from the crusher but they are in terrible shape and I’m not sure if I can save them. Do you know what size pipe your husband used to fix the legs ?

      1. Jimmy, this is what my husband said: He thinks it was 1/2 inch conduit, something he had around here, and he split it as the picture shows above. You have to work it onto the old tube, shape it to fit with a hammer and channel lock pliers. This is not a replacement material, it is a “fix”. You need the original tube too. After the conduit is in place then you start the welding process. Good luck! Ask any more questions you need to. And be careful of the fumes from the conduit. They are noxious. Use a fan to blow the smoke away. Sounds fun, eh?

  3. I have restored some of these chairs and found that extra strength easy-off oven left overnight will remove paint and rust. Just wash off with a hose and your ready to paint. Use the easy-off generously. Zero effort.

  4. Hi Lee, thanks so much for posting the information on repairing old metal lawn furniture. It is very helpful. My wife and recently purchased five lawn chairs, two rockers and three sitters. I am looking for the arms ‘cushion’ or arm rests that typical accompany these chairs four of the chairs have the, one does not. Any thoughts.

    1. I am curious if you ever found the arm rest(s) for your chair? I have just begun a search myself and came across your post.

  5. But what kind of tubing is used for the legs. It has to be springy. Most pipe I find is too soft and will not “rock”.

  6. Galvanize and steel are not the same thing. Steel is a metal, like aluminum and copper. Galvanization is the process of coating a metal with a material to protect ti.

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