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Softdrink

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As part of the process of restoring my New Astro City, I also wanted to take some time to work on the two stools I've been using for the last few years. Both were in rough but serviceable shape and in need of some cleanup and restoration. So far I've spent about a day on the process and finished one stool almost completely; the other has some deeper issues and needs a bit more effort.

I decided to do a full disassembly, chrome polish, foam replacement, and reupholstery. I'm quite pleased with the results so far!

Before we go into the process, here's a quick before and after for the mostly-finished stool:
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The first step was evaluating the condition of the stools. Both had some significant dirt and rust buildup on the legs. On both the foam is highly compressed and not very supportive. The gray stool has faded and worn cushion fabric, but no major stains or tears. The blue one has less wear on the cushion, but a large gash in the side of the fabric and cushion foam. It has some much worse rust spots; so far I haven't been able to clear them up completely. It also has a mangled 'baseboard' - the wooden board that supports the cushion is cracked and starting to disintegrate around the screw points.

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Initial disassembly is pretty straightforward - four screws on the bottom to remove some retaining pins, and then the entire cushion can be removed.

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To prepare for the cleaning, I grabbed some ultra fine 0000 steel wool, and a chrome polish/rubbing compound. Before getting serious with cleaning, I took a quick pass with the steel wool to check if it would work for rust removal. The answer - yes, it works great! As long as it's real plated metal, steel wool can pull off the rust and clean up the surface very quickly.
 

Softdrink

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Cleaning the Legs

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This took an afternoon. Just went out to the parking garage, put on a mask, pulled out the steel wool and nevr-dull, and went to town. I always started working on hidden areas when in doubt, before moving outwards to the more visible spots. I didn't run into any serious issues during the process, though cleaning out some of the deep crevices between the welded tubes was basically impossible to do by hand. And some of the rust spots were too serious on the blue stool for me to handle with just my hands; I've since bought a wire wheel and I'm excited to try that on these areas soon.


Disassembling the old Cushions

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This step is actually really straightforward - just flip over the cushion and remove all the staples securing the fabric and foam in place. Some stools have a thin layer of fabric on the bottom as a dustcover - this is removed the same way. I didn't have a staple remover, so I just used a small flathead screwdriver. It takes quite a while to get them all out, and when you're done, you're rewarded with gross, smelly old foam.
 

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Softdrink

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Anybody else come to this thread expecting candy cab stools soaking in tubs of Coca Cola?
Honestly it would probably work... my grandfather used to tell me stories about using Coca-Cola to dissolve contaminants from electron microscopes, heh

But my apologies for the unintentionally misleading thread title! ;(
 
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Softdrink

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Upholstery

The first step for the reupholstery process was picking out a fabric. I went to my local fabric and craft store (Joann has a location near me), and looked at what options they had available. Originally I wanted to do a bright color velvet, probably either blue or red. But when I thought about the stool in the context of my living room, I decided that going with something more neutral like the modern black pleather stools would be a more subtle option and would be easier to integrate with changes in decor.

I brought the original cushion into the store with me (still attached to the baseboard at this stage) and used it to evaluate the curvature and how the fabric would look when stretched over a similar form.

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I eventually narrowed the choice down to two specific faux leathers - both of these were in the 'Marine Vinyl' section, for anyone who might be looking to do the same. Ultimately I decided that while the glossier option looks more like an actual Taito / game center stool, it also seems kinda plasticky and less sophisticated than the other option. The softer texture and more matte finish would work better with my space, so I went with that. It ended up being a much more pleasant material overall; I don't regret the choice at all.

I also picked up some high-density upholstery foam; I found a 2-pack of 15x17x2 inch sheets that worked perfectly. And while I was there I grabbed some black upholstery dustcover fabric to neaten up the underside of the seat.

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Once I got everything home, the next step was tracing out the shape of the seat onto the foam and cutting it into shape. I rounded the corners, but I didn't do any beveling of the upper edges (in other words, I only made cuts in two dimensions, following the outline of the baseboard). I chose to extend the foam 1/2" past the edge of the baseboard, to give it a bit more compression and 'lift' once everything was stapled into place. Cutting the foam is a bit tricky; I found that a combination of a sharp hobby knife for fine shaping and a bread knife for quickly cutting down to size was an effective process.

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I unfortunately don't have any photos of the actual process of stretching and stapling the fabric. Suffice to say it's not terribly complicated - you alternate stretching fabric and stapling it in place, working on opposing sides to distribute tension evenly. I knew that with this shape and material it would be almost impossible to avoid wrinkles, so I chose to try to make the corners smooth and spread the wrinkles across the sides of the seat. I tried a few different approaches and in my opinion this was the best looking option. It took a bit of time (around an hour) to do, but for my first attempt at any sort of work like this I am quite pleased with the result.

If you were to follow a pattern more like the modern Taito stools, you could get rid of these wrinkles with a bit of sewing - a sort of 'muffin top' band could be used to make a really clean result.

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I also used the dustcover fabric on the underside to give it a clean and finished appearance. Though as you can see, I misaligned a few of the staples - I intended to hide them behind the framing...

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So, here's some beauty shots of this stool. I've actually added leg tips since taking these pictures, but they aren't quite the right kind of leg tips - I'm still searching for ones that are a better aesthetic match for what is used in arcades.

The other stool has some deeper problems and isn't as far along - as mentioned, it has some thicker rust spots and some serious damage to the baseboard. I think I've come up with solutions for both of those problems now, so I'll hopefully find some time soon to get it up to this quality level as well.
 

KaPH33n

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I have recently found success with cleaning up chrome with aluminum foil. I haven't tried it on stools yet, but it worked on a vending rack I have.
 

Aurich

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These look great! I actually was expecting this thread to be about the cushions, but that's probably because I tackled a project like this myself recently. I think yours came out a bit cleaner than mine, I used a thicker foam, bit more like a Taito stool look, and my corners aren't as clean. I used a blue velvet, thinking maybe it also wasn't as stretchy as what you used, that might have helped too.
 

kikaso

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I have recently found success with cleaning up chrome with aluminum foil. I haven't tried it on stools yet, but it worked on a vending rack I have.
Balled up foil and coke works *really* well on chrome. My brother has a car restoration shop and use that method.
 

Softdrink

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Ah yeah, I've heard of the foil and coke trick!

I wasn't sure if it was safe to use on the stools, but it makes sense that it would work.

I wonder if that will be enough to get through the thick rust spots I have on my other stool? Would be worth a shot at least. Next time I hit the grocery store I'll give it a go!
 

KaPH33n

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When I did it, I just used soap (simple green). I didn't try using coke. I'm not sure if it has a chemical in there that would benefit the process? I know having some kind of liquid there definitely helps the process by loosening up surface grit.

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I could try coke on the other side... I'll give an update when I finally get around to it.
 
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