Rusted Relic Restoration

Posted by Nick  | 13 Oct 2014  | 8 comments

As you might have read, our farm came with a plethora of old relics. Some unwanted, but others worth a second glance…

One of the many odds and ends the previous owner left behind was an old iron garden seat which looked like it had seen better days. It instantly became a bright blip on our DIY radar.

The slats of wood were random, perhaps replaced one at a time over the years in a passing “that’ll do”. Most of them looked like old garden stakes. We’d ditch the wood altogether for the project — it needed to be replaced. The real treasure to be restored here was the cast iron frame, which was heavily rusted.

The first task was to strip off the rusted weathered layer. For this we used a set of wire brushes attached to a drill. Worked like a charm.

Parts of the cast were intricate and a little fiddly.

But with persistence the result turned out pretty good.

The bolts that held the wooden slats on once upon a time had rusted so badly that we had to cut them off.

Once all the rust was stripped and bolts removed, we gave the frame a thorough wash and dry.

We wanted to protect the iron and give it a dark finish, so picked up some exterior metal “ebony” spray paint.

A couple coats later and it was looking pretty sexy.

The screws and bolt heads would be visible as part of the final product, so we drenched them as well.

Next up: Sanding. A lot of sanding. Oh man, so much sanding.

Originally we had planned to use some of the cypress we’d had milled, but none of the cuts were thin enough to fit the iron frame. Without a thicknesser we were relegated to sourcing wood the old-fashioned way: From a big-box hardware store.

We were limited by the specific dimensions of the frame slots, so the only treated wood that fit was rough-sawn.

The sun was shining this particular spring day, and with little shade around we both regrettably got quite sunburnt. Mental note to bring sunscreen and hats now that summer is on its way!

A few passes of coarse grit with a random orbital sander stripped most of the rough-sawn ugliness away. Rough-sawn slats on the left compared to a couple sanded ones on the right:

After yet more sanding on finer grits, we had eight sleek-looking slats ready for staining.

We chose a stain colour called “driftwood”. We thought a weathered grey look would go well with a black frame.

After the second coat of stain had dried we battled with positioning the wood slats in the iron frame. It was a bit of a terror because the iron bar connecting the two sides was bent, skewing the structure of the whole seat. We corrected it as best we could, racing to complete the project before we had to head back to Auckland.

As evening began to settle in, we drilled holes for the slats and jammed the bolts through. Bam, done. We stood back and appraised the finished product.

In the end we had turned this:

Into this:

What do you think? Pretty nifty, right? Our first piece of restored furniture for the farm! It’s not perfect, and we’ve definitely learnt some things for next time, but overall we’re stoked with the result. Not only do we now have a sweet garden seat at a fraction of the cost of a new one, it comes with the bonus of having saved something from ruin. It’s something we can smile at and say “shit yeah” – this is what DIY is all about.

From this:

To this:

What’ll pop up next on our DIY radar? Not sure. All we know is that these sorts of projects are addictive…

8 comments Leave a comment

| Reply

Beautiful work guys! So proud! I really think you need to start up a “how to” you tube site!


Thanks, Dad 🙂 Would love to one day. Maybe when we’ve got a bit more experience under our belts!

| Reply

that chair looks bloody awesome mate. I love the minimalism, but there is a real sophistication to it too. Why’d you decide to paint it, rather than keep the silver?


Thanks bud 🙂 If you look at the close-up of the intricate part you can see what it would have looked like if we left it unpainted – a bit unfinished I think. Also the paint serves as protection.

| Reply

AWWW, you guys are so CLEVER! Thrilled you didn’t stain it orange! Or oil the wood as is most people’s wont!! Caroline and I were scrolling with ‘oh no’s’ being uttered — but voila — GORGEOUS and definitely ‘driftwood’ — such a soft patina — and such an absolutely bewt upcycling project!! Ingenious monkeys!


Thanks, Mum! Glad you like it 🙂

George Shears
| Reply

A very impressive restoration, indeed! This offers me some inspiration to resurrect a very similar debilitated bench that we’ve had for many years. I wish I had the youthful energy of you two to match my inspiration. 🙂 I may have to be content with the sympathetic joy that I experience in sharing your wondrous accomplishments.


Haha, thank you, George. It’s a great pleasure walking by our bench and smiling at how it’s been brought back to life – I definitely recommend any such restoration, if not for the improvement of the thing itself, but for the repeating joy it brings. I hope my arthritis doesn’t prematurely sap my own “youthful energy”, so we can continue to share these projects. Let’s hope such activity keeps that angry dog at bay 😉

Leave a comment