Restore Your Old Porch Glider

The porch glider is experiencing an unexpected revival as people search for outdoor furniture that is as practical and comfortable as the pieces they have indoors. New porch gliders are not particularly easy to find, so any you find at a yard sale are sure to be in less-than-perfect condition. Here are some tips on how to restore your old porch glider.

Identify the Kind of Glider You Have

Most old porch gliders were made of some weather-resistant wood, like cedar or mahogany. The Amish perfected the wooden glider in the late 19th century to fit on the narrow front porches of their simple square houses.  Some older wood gliders were made of ultra-light balsa wood.

Gliders made before 1950 are likely to be made of metal, either sheet steel or wrought iron. The first metal gliders were a product of the Arts and Crafts movement that peaked in the mid-1920s.

Virtually all vintage gliders were the same size as a double porch swing, seating two adults with some room to spare. The advantage of a porch glider was that it needed much less room to move than porch swing chairs. For many people they are easier to sit down and to stand up in.

Since they did not hang from a beam but were freestanding, gliders could be situated anywhere on the porch or out in the front or back yard. 

Is it shabby but functional?

Refinish wood gliders by sanding or stripping them to remove old paint and stain, then refinish in the weather-resistant paint, stain, or colored varnish of your choice. Spray a lightweight lubricant such as WD-40 into the pivot hinges and your glider is ready to relax on.

Refinish metal gliders by sanding lightly. Do not remove old paint as it may be helping hold the glider together.  Repair any holes less than 2 inches in diameter by smoothing the perimeter with a metal sander, and solder on a thin metal patch.

Does it need major repair to be used safely?

You can easily rebuild the main elements of a wood glider. Cut new slats for the seat, arms and back, replace cracked or damaged legs, and strengthen the gliding joints with new pivot guides and dowels.  Try to match the wood type, then the whole glider can be sanded and re-stained, or painted a new color.

Rebuild metal gliders only if the frame, legs and glider base are sound. You can solder or weld a new seat or backrest onto an existing base.