Interview: Antique Furniture Refinisher, “The Chair Guy”

Interview: Antique Furniture Refinisher, “The Chair Guy”

I had the pleasure of chatting with Rick Hage of Goshen, Indiana. He is a talented craftsman, great Father and wonderful Husband (to me). He enjoys working with his hands. Though he works in the commercial printing business (day job), he has always taken the time to explore a variety of side jobs and hobbies. Past interests he enjoyed are mountain climbing, camping and hiking. He also dabbles in Blacksmithing and has given demonstrations at Pioneer Day Festivals locally. One of his earlier hobbies is refinishing Antique furniture. This has become a “paying hobby” or small cottage industry. I want to add; Rick picked this Blue color for the text today :)

R Blacksmith

Rick and his 100 lb anvil, giving Blacksmith demonstrations at a Festival.

Me: How did you get started in this craft and how long have you been doing it ?

Rick: My girlfriend (future wife) and future father-in-law got me interested in Antique furniture and refinishing Antiques. It started with a Singer Treadle Sewing Machine shortly after high school (about 39 years ago).
**Details: http://www.blog.oodlesofpincushions.com/?p=38

Me: Is this your hobby, side job, main source of income or wanna-be?

Rick: Hobby side job; not main source of income but I’d like it to be.

Me: Give us an example of a project, start to finish; what are the steps and how long does it take ?

Rick: For a chair, the average is 4-5 hours of work. Plus drying times for glue, stain and finish. I often need to take a section of the chair apart to repair, tighten loose rungs then re-glue and let dry. The next step is to scrub down the chair to take off any old dirt and grime, paint or stain. Three coats of fresh finish are applied. Also a new seat cover or cushion added as needed.

What’s your favorite part of this business and how do you juggle this with your home/family ?

My favorite part is probably the hunt. Family comes first. Fortunately my wife also likes auctions and yard sales so she enjoys the hunt as much as I do. That’s the part the kids don’t like as they have often been drafted into the tote and carry part of the process, helping move larger items from the vehicles to the house, garage and basement. But they have always been good sports about it :)

Tell us where you get your furniture…

My wife and I attend farm auctions, usually in the middle of nowhere. We stop at yard sales, second-hand stores and flea markets. We stop along the side of the road to pick up chairs put out for trash pick-up. Over the years, neighbors and locals have come to know me as “The Chair Guy”. They often bring me their cast-offs or tell me where they’ve seen an abandoned piece that looks promising. There’s always plenty of furniture waiting in the wings.

Can you share what kind of profit margin you see ? What do you have to pay for furniture that’s in need of repair ?

On average we pay between $5 and 10 per chair, sometimes less. We can usually sell the finished chair for $20 -35. Here’s a recent example… I paid $30 for a set of six antique cane bottom chairs. Some did need repair and glue. After cleaning them and putting on a finish, they sold for a total of $300. Some items had no overhead; I rescued a Vintage desk from the trash and cleaned it off. It sold immediately off the lawn for $30. I brought home a beautiful (huge) handcrafted  Cherry fireplace from auction. I couldn’t resist the price ($5.00). It needed no work except to haul it home. It sold for $250.00.

Readers love the story of an experienced, talented, creative person; but can you share an example or incident that shows us you’re human ?

Well, there’s the enjoyment our favorite auctioneers get when my wife and I get separated at an auction and are caught bidding against each other.  Also, in the warm Summer days, the stain and finish dry so much faster which is good~ unless a cloud of gnats fly through and get stuck on the wood. I have to scrape them off and put a new finish there..it happens.

Ricko1

Rick in our “back forty” with a couple project chairs.

Do you have a favorite chair story ?

I found a pressed back Victorian children’s rocking chair in an Antique shop while on vacation 2000 miles from home. It was in poor condition. All joints were loose, the leather seat was blown out and one rocker was missing. We bought it for $5.00. It has beautiful carvings on it as well as cool spindles. We took it back to the vacation house, broke it down into individual pieces and packed it in a backpack for our flight home. At the airport terminal, we were stopped by the TSA wanting to inspect the backpack (it must have looked like a weapon of sorts). They ran the pack through the x-ray machine then opened it. They never asked, we never explained. It was returned to us and (with a sigh of relief) we were on our way. A Victorian Rocker like that (after repairs will have a final value of $100.00. So yes, it was worth it.

How do you get found, how do your items get sold ?

We advertise on Craigslist, we have an Etsy shop and we sell at our yearly yard sales. Our yard sale signs are very distinctive so that customers recognize the signs and return year after year.

Any tips, or advice for someone wanting to sell vintage furniture like this ?

Do your research. Know your product. Check online for info and also visit the library to determine age, style, etc. Research repair and finishing techniques, pricing, trends and recognizing sell-able items. Be willing to get dirty. Having a place to store it all is good, too.

One final question..readers are curious to know what is your Breakfast of Choice ?

My favorite is scrambled eggs, sourdough toast and hash browns with a nice cup of Darjeeling Tea.

~ Thanks, Rick. We appreciate your inside and advice !

If you wish to get in touch with Rick, you can contact him at: HageManor@gmail.com  

He is always on the lookout for abandoned or needy furniture items and usually has a variety of pieces ready or almost ready to sell.

 

If you would like to be interviewed, please contact me. Cheri@OodlesofPincushions.com

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *