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.
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 (7th Jan 2017).
Slats for bench refurbishment (example below) can also be found on Amazon (UK 2021). I have not used these myself but If you buy through my link, I would receive a small commission (which goes towards the running costs of the website and at no cost to yourselves). Of course you could go there direct which is fine. Good luck with your project.
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.
Indeed I have seen on eBay brand new cast iron benches for over £450! (7th Jan 2017) 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 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.
There are various paint strippers and below there is a selection available on Amazon UK(remember if you do buy through the link I receive a very small commission). Or you can go direct without the link.
Using the paint remover was hard work. It took 3 applications of my liquid and a lot of wire brushing due to the thickness and layers of paint. Bear in mind the safety instructions for any such products.
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.
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……firstname.lastname@example.org