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Hi all,

I signed up hoping for some expert advice. I have a beloved foot stool which my Dad made in school a rather long time ago. It's seen better days and I would love to get it back into good condition. I'm imagining I start by sanding it and then applying a new finish, but no idea what type would be best. The underside of the legs also looks a bit worrying.

TIA

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What do you mean about the underside of the legs? Condition of the finish, or something with the structure?

The refinish process depends on what results you desire. If you want it to look new, then sanding to bare wood is the place to start. But if you want to keep the patina of age, I would first clean it with Murphy's Oil soap and evaluate. Might need little else. If it needs more, light sanding with 220 or greater grit can slowly remove the outer layers, so you can choose how far to go.

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Looks like there's supposed to be a third dowel/stretcher between the legs.  Replacing that would probably require taking the stool apart.  In the first picture, it looks as though the top is attached to the legs with screws, so it may be relatively easy to get the top off.  Are the two remaining stretchers loose, or are they attached tightly to the legs at both ends?  You'll need to get them free of the legs at one end or the other so that you can get a replacement stretcher in.  You'll need to drill or chisel out the ends of the broken stretcher that are still stuck in the legs and then glue/re-glue all three stretchers, then replace the top.

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Hi, thanks for the replies.

I took another photo of the damage to the legs. Not sure if it's insect damage or just age and mistreatment.  The wood is not soft so I'm guessing it's not fungal.

Yes, it lost a stretcher (toddler damage). I'd not really thought of replacing it, as I'm not 100% on what type of wood it is. I'd imagine the construction is pretty basic so not sure it would come apart without further damage.

I'll start by cleaning it up as recommended, then report back.

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I use a product called WoodEpox from Abatron to repair things like this.  It is easy to use, sands and finishes well.  There are other products on the market but this is one I use.  Here is a youtube from their web site.  Abatron.

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The stretchers look like dowel rod. I would think if you could get the broken pieces out of the holes a dowel could be steamed and bent to get into the holes without disassembling the foot stool. It would probably need to be cut shorter than the old dowel just enough to get it in and be mainly cosmetic as it wouldn't add that much strength to it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi everyone, 

Well I gave it a clean with oil soap as recommended, and it's looking much brighter. I'm not sure now whether to keep it authentic or go for the strip and refinish.

If I did use a wood epox to fill the legs how easy would it be to stain to match? Or would I then have to redo the whole thing? It wouldn't be very visible of course. 

The legs still feel quite solid, and the broken stretcher actually came out cleanly as they are not glued in, so the holes are empty.

I'm intrigued by dowl steaming. How is that done? Do you need specialist kit?

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time.

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After watching the Abatron video, I suspect that the 'stain' they say can be applied over the product is an opaque variety, like exterior siding stain. I think any attempt at using a translucent finish will reveal the filled areas as definitely "not wood". If you prefer to avoid painting, perhaps the filler repair is not the best choice.

Personally, I would be inclined to leave it as-is, for sentimental reasons, but really, there is nothing wrong with painting it.

Regarding the missing dowel, steaming (or possibly boiling) the wood can make it malleable enough to bend as you fit it into place. It will become rigid again as it cools and dries, and you must work quickly. Dowels purchased from a store will be kiln dried, and do not respond to steaming or boiling as readily as green wood, but it can be done. If you try it, have a couple extra on hand, in case one breaks.

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