I bought this neat little Scandinavian lounge chair & ottoman from a contact of mine in Seattle a few weeks ago. He sent me a little picture, quoted me a price, I said "yes", and that was that. I'm not sure if he actually told me that it was teak, or if I just assumed it was, but whatever the case, I thought I was getting a teak chair. When I got the chair, I quickly realized...ehhh...it's not teak. It's birch with a sort of teak-ish stain over it.
Now, one of the great things about teak is that it's one of the more forgiving woods out there, and is very easy to refinish, especially if all that was on there in the first place was an oil finish (which is often the case, especially with older pieces). In fact, a lot of times all you really need to do is scrub the thing down with Howard's Feed n' Wax (discussed in depth in an eatlier post) and it's good as new. However, when you've got lighter wood that's been stained dark, you have a slightly more difficult proposition. The old finish and stain need to be stripped off completely before you can go putting a new finish on - and if you're dealing with lighter woods such as Birch or Maple, you have the additional step of staining the wood whatever color you want it before you can put the finish on (unless you want to leave it blonde, which, personally, I very seldom do). I usually like to take light wood and stain it a nice, dark, rich espresso brown - which sometimes becomes problematic, because a lot of light woods simply don't LIKE to be stained dark. There's always the option of using a sprayed finish, but lacking access to a spray booth makes that a more difficult proposition.
So, here I am confronted with a choice: to refinish or not to refinish? The finish on this chair, all things considered, is actually pretty GOOD - certainly in much better condition than the upholstery (or the foam underneath, which has turned to dust). However, even though it could be worse, it's still a 40 year old finish that's a bit faded and kind of an off color. In my opinion, it doesn't really show off the lovely fluid lines of the chair as well as it could - so even though the finsh is really not in bad condition, I'm probably going to bite the bullet and refinish it. Especially since the chair obviously needs to be reupholstered, I think refinishing it will just give it a more finished, complete look.
Most of the time when I get pieces in, it's pretty much a no-brainer as to whether or not they need to be refinished. However, as with life in general, there are sometimes gray areas where you could easily go either way. However, in this case, over the course of writing this post, I think I've pretty much convinced myself that this one would definitely be worth refinishing.