Rain again. And I was in the home stretch of furniture painting, too. Well, in lieu of enjoying photos of a deck full of lovely coordinated and cushioned seating groups, we’ll have a tutorial on how to date vintage wooden patio furniture.
As you know, one of my little interests is rescuing abandoned wooden patio pieces. My collection currently includes specimens from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Here’s how to tell what’s what. Please note that my collection is of a certain type. It does not include fancy teak “Matisse” benches or rough Appalachian-style tree trunk and twig stuff.
Heft. The cedar or –heaven forfend! redwood – used in older furniture is much lighter than the pine or wotnot used in later years.If you pick up a piece and its heavier than you expected, it’s newer.
Back support. The back slats tell the story. The 60s piece here has thick, flat slats, about 2 1/2″ x 3/8″. The Jack ‘n Jill is from the 70s and has 1″ rounded dowels that fit into a 1″ opening . The 90s chairs have 3 /4″ square dowels but narrow down to a 3/8″ circle that fits into a drilled hole in the upright post and are then nailgunned from the side.
Construction. The bolts are sunken on the 70s piece as opposed to protruding from a drilled guide hole on the 80s chair. Probably more to do with the manufacturer and the quality of the furniture than the age. In general, the wood is thicker (but lighter in weight) on older pieces.
Style. Observe the chair arms: on the 80s chair, just cut off 2x4s. On the 70s J’nJ, the arms are more broad and have rounded edges. The front is wider than the rear. On the 60s chair, routing adds interest to broad arms. There’s even a hint of angled shaping on the legs. The cross piece on the front of the 60s chair has a decorative shape; again with the cut 2×4 on the 80s chair.
But when it’s all finished in the same color, holding up cushions and surrounded by flowers, no one is going to scrutinize it or notice any difference. The thing that will leave the impression is your enormous good taste and eye for style.
So right now ’tis the season now for finding these treasures out on trash heaps. If you are so inclined, know that they have seen better days – people are throwing them out for a reason – often need repair or reinforcing or downright replacement parts. Whenever Sami takes anything apart, he reinforces the bolts with washers and he’s braced some stubbornly wobbly arms and legs with metal brackets.
These are benches that Sami made out of regular #2 pine. It’s typical Sami style – more function than form and reinforced to within an inch of it’s life. He would have been good building prisons or bank vaults because he believes that design means structural strength and that’s the end of it. These legs have given it up after many years of standing in rain and snow and had to be replaced outright.
But you know, we’re dealing with wood that has been outside for decades. Sometimes the patient just can’t be saved. When that happens, you have to acknowledge the service it gave, harvest any usable parts, and then kiss it goodbye. And then start making the rounds on garbage day looking for more.
all furniture finished in Behr Semi-Solid Deck Stain in “Evergreen” tint