Refurbishment of cast iron garden bench

How to restore a cast iron bench

How to restore a cast Iron Bench

It can be cheaper(although there is a lot of physical work) than you think. The benefit with cast iron is both its weight and durability.  Bench ends and even complete chair/bench and tables sets are easy to find in both reclamation yards and on auction sites such as eBay.

Stop Press: Update 7th January 2017

I bought the wrong paint. I don’t know how as it stated it was for metal finish but just after a few days rust is showing through! So I am going to get some made up at our local B&Q DIY store. They mix paint with a system to match your colour using Valspar paint.  Its somewhere I can then go to if it doesn’t work!  Of course I now need to work on both ends again. At least it won’t be so hard…..will it?

I have added some photos of the rust at the bottom of this article and additional details.

How to restore a cast iron bench

Remember the difference between a chair and a bench is………the length of the timber slats 🙂

The wood tends to be the weakness in old cast iron garden furniture. Since the wood for each seat or bench is the same length they are easy to make.  If you don’t have the time or equipment to make your own you can even buy kits of parts starting as little as £90.

So if you can use a spanner, screwdriver and a sander, and can varnish wood, you can get a set of garden furniture that can be bought for less than some of the cheap throw away sets sold in DIY and Home superstores.

How to restore a cast iron bench

Indeed I have seen on eBay brand new cast iron benches for over £450! So you may even be able to turn it into a way to generate additional income!  If you do have some woodworking equipment then timber can be purchased from local reclamation yards and reused, costing you even less.

Gallery of stages the refurbishment went through.

These pictures should help to see what stages the refurbishment went through.  At the time of writing the slats need sanding and varnishing at least another two or three coats.  The underside of the slats need as good a job as the top if it is to remain durable for several years.

 

Lessons from the restoration methodology 

For this particular bench there were a couple of layers of paint. The top layer was a black that had been poorly applied. The under colour was the original green. I decided that I would strip the paint off until I got back to bare metal. I did consider trying to sandblast the ends. Its still a possible method but I need good weather to take the dirty job ‘outside.

Using the paint remover was hard work. It took 3 applications of the liquid and a lot of wire brushing, both manual and electrical but we got there in the end. Its a nasty chemical, and you have to be very careful when using it.



I should have fitted the slats then numbered them before any varnishing really. Because I put a 25%white spirit and 75% yacht varnish mixture on as recommended but then removed some to get the slats to fit. Wasting one drying session.

The slats need to be fitted in order. You slide them in the channel but only from the top down. So when I trimmed the ends of each slat I marked each one so they go back in the right order.

The first slat had sharp upper edges, which could have been uncomfortable, so I decided to use a router to have small rounded edges. I tried out the right size of edge on a spare slat (bought on eBay as a parcel of 16) before using it on a real one.

Conclusion.

It is not a difficult, or even a skilled task to carry out a good refurbishment. You then end up with a high quality piece of garden furniture for less than the price of a cheap bench from a DIY superstore/garden centre. A little hard work and some patience and you get something that not only looks nice but will last for years.

Whether a yacht varnish finish compared to say a stain treatment proves the more durable I don’t know. I suspect the yacht varnish could last for the 8 years or so the manufacturers quote. Against repeated treatments of stain which I don’t think is as attractive as the wood when varnished. All in the eye of the beholder I suppose.

What do you think? Post a comment or email me and let me know……mikesmodels.freeman@gmail.com

I will update this article when completed around Monday or Tuesday next week.

 

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5 thoughts on “How to restore a cast iron bench

  1. Well done Mike, most impressive.

    I made a mistake by showing Karen the pictures and she was really taken with the colours and design. You can guess what was said next!! I can either put her off or study your build in person in preparation for having a go myself one day.

    Regards

    Steve

  2. I would go for the later. Have a go yourself 🙂 there are plenty of cast iron sets out there in eBay land. Thanks for the interest as well. If you get stuck …….Iv’e moved 🙂

  3. Nice job,
    I have the same bench, did a restoration in 2006 but used m6 round head bolts and used the original self tappers for the straps, this time will be using m8 bolts and m5 for middle strap and sickens paint that is a satin/primer/top coat paint on 1200mm l x 20mm t x 44mm wide soft wood slates ,using a black metal paint, only issue I have to repair part of the bench we’re the slate is held with flat galv plate and counter sunk bolted.

  4. Hi
    Im looking to restore a garden bench.
    I need the metal bits for the underneath plus the long metal rod .
    I have the wood is there anywhere i can just buy the metal work.? Thank you

    1. Hello Rose (hope this is the right address?)

      You can buy stainless steel rod, joiner and metal strapping from Screwfix. You just need to buy some threaded rod and cut to length with a hacksaw. The metal strapping can also be bent to shape using a vice and cut with a hacksaw. Try the following links and I hope that will help you. Kindest regards,

      Mike.

      Threaded rod
      Strapping for underneath

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