Antique Church Pew Makeover

Today, I am excited to share a quick makeover of an antique church pew that will maintain the beauty of the aged pine. Let’s jump into this makeover!

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strange color

This piece had some kind of strange, orange-toned stain applied to it years ago and was just, well, just plain ugly! I mean look at this thing!

I knew this color would not go over well with my clients so it had to come off. Honestly, with many pieces that we reinvent, I can just sand off the old finish pretty quickly. So I gathered up tools and supplies from my workbench:

  • DeWalt Orbital Sander
  • Craftsman Multi Tool w/ sanding pads
  • 5″ sanding discs in 80 grit, 150 grit, and 220 grit
  • my shop vac
  • dust mask
  • microfiber cloth for dust removal

sanding and sanding

Remember I said I can do this step fairly quickly? Not with this piece! I used 4-5 pieces of 80 grit sanding discs on my orbital sander plus another 4-5 of 150 grit sanding discs! For the final sanding, I used 220 grit sand paper. This give a nice smooth feel to the church pew.

The orange toned, stain (or whatever it was) had a waxy consistency to it. I am not sure what product was used and even after years of re-doing pieces, my hubby and I were stumped as to what the original finish was!

By the way, my Craftsman multi tool is a great tool to have in your workbench arsenal! It has several attachments including this triangular shaped sanding pad. It makes getting into corners a breeze!

PRO TIP: Use leftover, used sanding pads from your orbital sander instead of new triangle shaped pads which are pricey. Just attach the velcro side to the multi-tool and cut to fit the triangular shape!

The sanding ended up taking me about 2 hours! Getting through the strange orangey toned stuff was a real challenge! But with some patience and lots of sanding pads, it was removed completely!

Here is a quick peak at the before and after of the lengthy sanding process. The old pine on this antique church pew is one of my favorite type of wood. Especially when it has as many years of use as this church pew has!

cleaning and enhancing

Next up was a good cleaning. Sanding removes any dirt and grime that was on the antique church pew so a good once over with the shop vac removed most of the sanding dust. I wiped the whole piece down with a very damp micro fiber cloth. These cloths are great for removing dust. They are also great for general cleaning of any piece.

I chose to use Miss Mustard Seed Hemp Oil on this antique church pew. Hemp Oil is a great way to enhance the natural beauty of the wood.

Miss Mustard Seed Hemp Oil is so easy to apply! Pour a small amount in a dish ( I use an Antique Candle Co jar after I have burned the delicious smelling candles!) . Using a small chip brush, I brush on the hemp oil. Usually, I will cover a whole section like the seat of this church pew. Then wipe it off with a disposable lint free shop towel.

The hemp oil soaked in overnight and then I applied a second coat. I allowed to soak in and dry for several days – actually I think it was a full week — before taking these images. Be careful to allow plenty of time for the oil to soak in and dry before placing any fabric items on your piece like this quilt.

many uses

This antique church pew is small in size, measuring 44″ wide, 15″ deep and 36″ tall so it can fit in just about any home. Here are a few uses:

  • at the back entrance for a place to sit and put on shoes – add a couple of large picnic baskets to hold gloves and such
  • in the foyer with a large basket of florals that can be changed out seasonally
  • as an accent piece in a dining room like I have it staged here

talk about character!

I love all of the character that years and years of use can bring to a piece!

And how about this little initial carving? Isn’t that the cutest? The parent of the child might not have thought it was so cute at the time it was carved!

“Now, now little Johnny, we mustn’t carve our initials into the pew while at church!”

Can I just mention the width of the boards! The back of the pew measures 18″ wide! Wow, that was some pine tree!

Look at all of the character of this antique church pew….

…and the gorgeous wood grain of the pine!

Just think about how many people found peace while sitting on this church pew.

How many prayers were prayed?
How many songs were sung?
How many tears of joy were shed?
How many hearts were changed?

I’m such a sentimental old fart! Makes me want to tear up just thinking about the memories this church pew has experienced!

This antique church pew is such a simple piece of furniture yet has so much beauty to it! It’s the simple things in life that ground us.

antique church pew makeover

Thanks so much for stopping by for this easy antique church pew makeover! Be sure and pin this image on Pinterest for future reference!

We love re-loving vintage pieces around here! You can follow along our reinventing journey on Instagram and Facebook. Join our mailing list for all the latest blog posts! Joining is easy – sign up in the sidebar. We promise not to sell your email! And we also don’t want you to miss a project!

Let me know in the comments where you would use this church pew in your home! I would love to know your ideas!

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  1. Simple, rustic chic. I love the grain and aged character of the pine. Nice that you enhanced it with just hemp oil. Another inspiring project. Thanks Cindy!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks my friend! I just could not cover that grain!☺️

  2. Glenda Brown says:

    I love this. Such a beautiful piece. I think they might have used orange shellac on the pew. My father used to use it when he built things, like the bookcase he built.

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks for the info about the orange shellac. This church pew was covered in the finish! It was a bear to remove!? Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hi Cindy!
    Your church pew is so pretty! I recently acquired one from a local shop. It has had many coats of paint over the years. I have no clue what kind of wood it is, but I hope to find out. I plan on stripping it and restoring it back to a wood finish. It’s a heavy piece, so I’m curious as to what kind of wood I’ll find.

    >>> Kim

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      That sounds like a diamond in the rough!! I would love to see it when you get it finished?

  4. Ashley Farmer says:

    Where did you get the beautiful magnolia wreath?

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Isnt’ it so pretty? I wish I could direct you to a place to purchase but one of my daughters made this wreath from her own magnolia tree! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I may or may not have been a “little Johnny” in church. But one thing for sure is that I am totally in LOVE with this tiny wooden pew and the gorgeous update on the wood. I’ve been searching for years and all I find are the big long daddies. Where are you, tiny church pew?!!! Thanks again for a great tutorial, Cindy. It brought such good memories. Pinned xo, Do

    1. This church pew is one of those pieces I regret selling! It was such a good size at only about four feet long! Your new home could probably handle a big church pew 🥰 Thanks for pinning!

  6. Hi Cindy- we loved this post and it will be featured in our next Home Imagined link party!

    1. Thanks for featuring the post Anna!

  7. You did a fantastic job restoring the pew! And I did think about the tears shed, the songs sung, etc. But as cute as it is, I actually feel sorry for the people who had to sit on that decades ago. that’s probably what poor Johnny was thinking too! Yikes! That makes my bum and back hurt. Probably kept them awake though! 😉 Love the way you styled it too. Thank you for sharing it with us on Farmhouse Friday. I’m featuring it this week. pinned!

    1. I agree with you Cindy! This syle of pew doesn’t look too comfy! Thanks for featuring the post in Farmhouse Friday! 😊

  8. You. are a sentimental old fart! Maybe that why I. adore you so much — and your work. Absolutely beautiful Cindy. Thanks so much for sharing you knowledge so freely with us all , and especially at Fabulous Friday. I’m also featuring this in my announcement. email.

    1. You are so sweet Diane! Thanks for featuring this post in your email! 😊

  9. Cindy, Your church pew came out so good!! We will be featuring it at our home imagined link party #2 (Tuesday 9am-Thursday 5pm Eastern standard time) Hope to see you there! congrats!

    1. Thanks for the feature, Meagan! Hope you have a great week 😊

  10. Jen Hallum says:

    Hi! Thanks for your inspiration! I am just getting started on refinishing an old deacons bench (it still has gum stuck underneath from the alter boys!) Just a tip…invest in a carbide scraper! It removes the finish so easily. No need to go through so many sanding pads. And for me, it is a really satisfying process!

    1. I’ve been hearing about those scrapers! I’m adding one to my cart now! Thanks so much!