The Pew

By | January 10, 2014

For the seating on one side of the table, we are using an old church pew, but we had a long way to go before we were ready to use it. Like most salvaged items, we had to go through several long steps to refinish it.

One of the first things we did was to apply wood putty to all the really damaged areas. Since we’re painting this, it was easy to make the 130+ year old pew look a lot less chewed up this way.

Side of Pew Before 2

We talked about it and some preparation steps here.

We also had some repairs to do. One side had a broken piece of trim on the top.

Broken Top of Church Pew Arm Rest

We had to trim the pieces a bit to make them fit better and then we just glued and clamped it until it was secure. A little wood putty helped smooth it out, after sanding it of course.

Wood putty on pew arm

The next steps were to make the arm replacement for the armrest on the other side of the pew. The decorative scroll was broken and missing.

Missing Bottom of Church Pew Arm Rest 2

I started with a 4″ x 4″ square block that was a scrap from the legs.  I cut it slightly wider than the arm rail, to leave room for sanding. Next I traced out my design on the block. This would have been much more difficult without having the other side as a template.  I used a Jigsaw to cut out the rough shape, then finished with the finer details, like the slight inward taper on the bottom. After a lot of sanding by hand, I used chisels to create a groove on the bottom side of the armrest. This was to match the original.

Then we were ready to attach the armrest. I set it in place and pre-drilled the hole for the screw. I applied glue to both surfaces and then screwed it in place.

Attached Arm Patch

We used wood putty to create a smooth transition from old to new. At first, it looked pretty rough:


Instead of doing a thick coat, you’ll want to do several thinner ones, letting them dry fully in between sandings.

Wood Putty on Pew Arm

Finally, it was nice and smooth.

Final Fxed Pew Arm

After sanding and re-applying several times to get it nice and smooth, we were ready to paint.

We started by priming it with our Zinsser, bottom right of this photo.


Here’s the difference between coats one and two of primer:

Primer coats on pew

There was one more piece of the pew that we wanted to change structurally, the base.

Trim of Church Pew 2

The three legs did not have matching trim on them, so we pulled it off and discovered a lot of wood rot on the outsides.

REmoving Trim of Church Pew 5

So, I came up with a plan to cut it off and add new trim. First, I needed to cut off the old, rotting wood with my new circular saw.

Cutting Pew Base

After cutting the bottoms off, I was ready to add the new spacers and trim. I cut down some new spacers to the same specifications of the pieces that were cut off. Then I used MDF to create the trim.

Pew Leg Bases

I put them together and attached them to the pew with screws.  Afterwards, I filled the holes and cracks with wood putty, sanded and primed them.

Then, we used our new paint sprayer to apply a few quick coats. (We’ll be back with a review of that later.)

Graco Paint Sprayer

Then, we wanted to make sure the finish would last, so we sprayed several coats of spray lacquer. I started to apply the same polyurethane that was used for the tabletop, but it had a very slight yellow tint to it, which Melissa didn’t want. I quickly wiped it off before it dried. So don’t make this mistake.

Clear Coat on Pew

All that was left was carrying it into the kitchen, Melissa was pretty excited.

Finished Pew

She got busy adding the cushion that Melissa made with her Grandma Lois, and adding pillows.

Finished Pew With Pillows

She got these from Gordman’s several months ago and has been saving them for the kitchen:

Kitchen Tea Pillows

She made this one with her grandma to match the cushion. I’m not a fan of the ruffles, but she likes it.

Kitchen Pew Pillow

As a finishing touch, Melissa added our own carving to fit in with the other random carvings covering the back of the pew, which we left unpainted to preserve the character:

Pew Back 2

Here’s what she added:

Pew Back 3

Eventually, she wants to add some storage underneath the pew. We’ll be on the lookout for some baskets because while she tired the crates:

Possible Pew Storage 2

and our storage ottomans:

Possible Pew Storage

But we do need to get some baskets eventually, because these options weren’t that great.

Finally, a shot of the pew with the table:

Finished Table Front

And another angle:

Finished Table Top 4

So there’s the pew, part two of the table project completed. Now just to finish the chairs! We’d love to hear what you’ve been working on recently. Feel free to share your projects below!


8 thoughts on “The Pew

  1. Lois Struck

    Melissa and Wyatt: I am so very proud of you both – for restoring (better than ever) the old church pew. With the table, it is perfect in your beautiful kitchen. It thrills me to see the yellow cushion looking so pretty with darling pillows – resting so cozy at last, where it was intended to be. Thank you for giving me the honor of helping to make the cushion and one of the pillows . I am looking forward to the day when I will be sitting at your kitchen table, enjoying a wonderful dinner with you. – grandma Lois

    1. Melissa

      Thank you, thank you for your kind words! I’m so happy we were able to make the cushion together and I’ll treasure it forever! We’ll plan a celebratory dinner soon, and you’ll be invited, of course!

  2. Shelli B.

    This turned out great! I really love how you left the back in its original state too. Great idea! I’ve been wanting bench seating for one side of our table. Now, when can I place my order? 😉

    1. Melissa

      Thanks! (Orders only accepted if you have the pew already…it’s hard to find old church pews in good condition, especially on a budget!) Ha!


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