I have fond memories of my husband’s grandparents. They lived on a farm in southeast Kansas. That farm was set back from the main road almost a quarter of a mile and, because it was located on a hill, the front porch was a high tower vantage point. From the front porch you could see any visitors as they approached the house, you could look over the fields and speculate crop yield, you could see the barn and the corral, the grain storage bins, and the garden.
One of the permanent fixtures for seating was an old green glider. You may have similar memories of sitting and just barely rocking back and forth, gliding your way through a summer evening or a cup of coffee in the morning. I can still see family members there chatting about everything and nothing.
Not long ago I started looking for a glider for the front porch of our farm. There are a number of options for obtaining a glider. There are reproductions that are new for a reasonable price. There are restored old gliders available for a price generally two to three times the cost of a reproduction, and there are older gliders that need to be restored. After looking for about a year at websites, auction sites and some antique dealers, I decided to restore an old glider.
If you are fortunate to know someone who “knows” antiques, or have a contact that you trust, it is a good place to start. I am fortunate to have a sister and brother-in-law who are very well versed in antiques and used items. My sister located a glider from a reputable antique dealer in her area. Road trip!
If you decide to restore an old glider, start by looking at the overall condition of the piece. Are there any dents? Does the glider mechanism function properly? Look for rusted out places on the glider on all the sides that show and underneath. Review your options for restoration. A dealer might sand-blast, powder coat and repaint. Are you willing to pay for a professional to restore your piece or do you have the time, tools, and willingness to do the restoration?
I chose to do the restoration with the help of my sister. It was a great project that we could do in my short visit, and we had time for visiting in between the steps of the process. We got some help and loaded the glider in my truck and hauled it to her house. We found a perfect place in the side yard and laid down a tarp to minimize dust and paint on the lawn.
The first step was to clean, sand, and prepare the glider for paint. For me, this meant a wire brush and steel wool. I spent the better part of five hours brushing and sanding. I worked my way systematically over the piece. I used the wire brush first, then sanded for a while, then checked the smoothness of the finish, and repeated the process. I would recommend wearing a mask during this process because it is possible that these old paints could be lead based and it is not wise to inhale the dust. Working by hand, it was impossible to remove all the old paint. The glider had been tractor green, sky blue, canary yellow, and most recently a faded dull red. It was surprising to me that there wasn’t a full coat of any color on the underneath side. When I was satisfied with the sanding I dusted off the piece by hand, but if you have an air gun it would be easy to dust off the glider with air pressure.
We set the glider in the garage overnight. I did not want it to accumulate any moisture from the next morning’s dew. It was a beautiful fall Saturday and so while we waited for the dew to dry we took a side trip to the farmers' market and the hardware store. We did an estimate of the paint needed and only had to make one trip back for more paint. I had some difficulty deciding what color to paint the glider – our farm is Green’s Organic Farm and Apiary so naturally I did consider “tractor green,” but I like red and that color eventually won! We chose a “barn red” and used a tan to offset the design in the center of each seat on the glider. I have to thank my sister’s creativeness for the tan offset idea. It entailed a bit more work in taping and painting, but the result is striking!
The paint process was straightforward. We set the glider upside down on the plastic to paint the underside first.
One person sprayed the paint and one person held up another plastic tarp to prevent overspray on the lawn or the driveway. The wind that day was a bit blustery. We allowed each coat of paint to dry thoroughly before adding another coat. After painting the underneath side we flipped the glider over and painted the top side with two coats. You can see from the pictures that the tape and cardboard work on the center took some effort but allowed us to paint the tan portion without disturbing the red coat that was painted first. The reveal was great fun. We had to be gentle as we pulled away the paper and tape to see the finished product.
I loaded the glider in my truck and it made the 5 hour trip from Missouri to Kansas just fine and that restored glider is now at home on my front porch.
It is already one of my favorite seats on the porch and will be a part of the backdrop of future gatherings with views of the apple orchard, the barn, the West pasture, and the Zinnias that Dad plants each year.