Thursday, May 31, 2012

Well everyone I had no idea these were going to be as big of a hit as they turned out to be. I am happy to say my chairs continue to provide at least me with a sense of accomplishment. My wife not so so much. I just finished my boat after 2-3 years and a major back surgery inbetween. Now that I am all healed up I will think up some new restoration projects. I am also thinking about building a dinning table. I am considering doing an Eames inpired walnut or redwood thick slab burl table. To go with it I would chase down molded plastic Eames chairs. There are some ways to liven up the plastic on those.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

That's a RAP!

November 22, 2009

That’s a rap but a new project is on its way…

Well I did end up with the winning bid on yet another lounge chair. This is a vintage 1950's "Mr Chair" with matching ottoman designed by George Mulhauser for Plycraft. Its coming in from Chicago and I should have it in a few days. Its due for the full treatment as I did with these chairs. I over bought material for these two chairs so I should have enough leather left to restore this new chair.

So today I rapped up the second chair, finished upholstery work and reassembled it.

All things considered both chairs came out really nice. A couple notes on what I would do differently next time. I would definitely make my own welting next time, it was a pain in the ass using the small stuff. I would also consider putting fabric on the backs of the inner shell for a more refined upholstery job. But I restored to spec of what was there. Both chairs look a million times better than when I found them.

As for a breakdown of time here it goes;

Disassembly = 1 hour

Stripping/Sanding = 4 hours

Refinishing Ply = 8 hours (4 coats on each)

Waxjob = 1 hour

Upholstery = 6 hours

Reassembly = 1 hour

So roughly 20 hours of work and $200 each chair brought this back to life…

Friday, November 20, 2009


November 20, 2009

I spent the past couple evening working on upholstery. Its pretty straightforward with these Plycraft chairs. The outer fabric/leather is simply stapled to the internal shell. As for the patterns you use the old fabric you removed from the chair you are restoring. Place this over the hide of fabric you are using and it will give you a basic pattern in which can be added to the internal shell. As for the buttons, there are two types of attachments on these chairs. The ottoman and bottom cushion both have buttons that themselves are clasped. I took the old ones and broke the head off, then removed the metal grommets which I reattached through the button holes of my new buttons. Quick effective and very easy to reinstall. The other button type is nylon string treaded through the cushion and stapled to the back of the internal shell.

Button placement with these chairs is super easy. After cutting out your patterns find the exact center. There is a long side and short side to each pattern. Buttons are always centered in the middle of the long sides. Button placement was always 10” on center. Made my life easy. After you mark you button location use an awl or leather punch to make a hole large enough to accept the back button loop. Then install the buttons and slide either the nylon or clasp through the foam. Make sure you zig zag the nylon a couple times on the back of the internal frame and staple the hell out of it. If you leave it loose you will be sorry down the road, but to fix popped button is pretty straight forward.

Working from the ottoman first I worked up each new cushion with my leather hide, using a staple gun to tack around as I went. Tack each of the 4 sides with one staple in each, then work your way around to the corners. It takes some practice and be sure to use staples that are strong and long enough. After I put the outer leather skin on the internal frame (careful not to make the fabric/leather too taught), I cut any high ridges on the curves off with my scissors. You will have ridges on the back especially on the curves, you must cut these down or the cushion will not sit nice and flat in the ply shell. After you tack the skin to the internal shell you just need to neatly staple the welting in place. The welting I bought on Ebay was a bit miserable to use, its tag end was a little small and hard to get the correct staple placement. Once I learned how to position the staple gun it was quick work.

I will post detailed picks of this whole process shortly. I got carried away and basically finished the first chair, less the arm rests. You will need to go to an upholstery shop if you use leather. If you attempt to do them by hand I am sure you wont be happy with the results. I took my 4 arm rests to a local guy in town and he hit me up for $80 to do the whole job. Probably a fair rate considering overhead and that the guy was going to make custom welting for the armrest because he did not like how small the welting was I got on ebay either.

Monday, November 16, 2009

rest day

buttons arrived today. they are pretty nice, i got a couple dozen for $20, real leather. I polished out the ply on the first chair today. steelwool then waxed and buffed. they came out like mirrors. also found another project today on ebay... its bad ass but we will see if my bid wins. if it does its a whole new blog....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

more stripping sanding and deconstruction...

November 15, 2009

Today was way more mellow, I headed over to Lowes to pick up a few products I needed to finish my wood restoration. The first product is called Naptha it’s a solvent that you can cut varnish down with. When varnishing less is more, I promise, take your time and let coat fully dry before sanding and adding additional coats. Complete instruction on the best ways to restore wood can be found here…

I went with finish # 1 and I have to say the end product is a mirror…and beautiful…very pleased indeed. It does take time and I have been putting coat after coat on for a couple days now. Between each coat I have taken knock down with 000 steel wool.

I also went and picked up upholstery supplies I was missing, this rang up another $100. I bought an electric stapler, stables, new scissors, welting cord, needles, tread, the varnish items above etc.

Cushion disassembly

I also started taking apart the first chairs cushions, it goes really fast, a standard office staple puller will work but I added the power of needle nose pliers. As I stripped each cushion I was care to mark and bag them. Don’t throw these out they are your templates for your new cushions!!! I was also pretty surprised at the layers of nasty dirt etc that was under the welting, all I can say is YUK. The foam however was in amazingly good condition. No spills, cat piss etc. I am considering reusing them because honestly why not. If they had smell or been messed up by spills I would have definitely changed them out.

Everything disassembled by the numbers see pics for details. My only issue now is the arm cushions. I don’t feel like buying a leather sowing machine so I think these are destined for the Upholstery shop here in town. They seem simple enough in terms of construction but you need the machine for sure….

That’s it for today…

Saturday, November 14, 2009

the ply stripping, stainng, sanding

November 14, 2009

Aw geez today was a lot of work, I am a little more then high from all the chemicals I inhaled today. That was with a respirator on by the way. I can taste winwax stain in my mouth and every breath reminds me of how bad this stuff is for you..Make sure you work outside or in a well ventilated area when stripping, staining and resorting the ply…

Today I disassembled the second chair; this was the original chair I had found cast out into a trash pile on the side of the road (road treasure!). I had left the chair after I found it in my parent’s wine cellar for a later date pickup. My folks like me enjoy furniture restoration. I guess the temptation to mess with it in an effort to get it out of their wine cellar was too great so they hopped in and repaired the back. The original owner of the chair had clearly dropped the chair on it back snapping the top screw. Then in an effort to ream out the broken portion of the screw drilled from the front of the mount, but didn’t succeed!!!NO, NO, NO, that is a bad idea to boar out from the front of a mount. My folks cleaver as they are reamed out the screw via the back as should have been done in the first place. Thanks M&D. They also cleaned up the two top ply pieces and stained them according to the real Eames Chairs they own…Nice indeed and appreciated but that presented me with an issue on this dual restoration project. Plycarft chairs are a little rosier in color than real Eames Lounge Chairs.

So my big issue was color matching this chair to the new chair. Just as I had done with the first chair I carefully disassembled the second chair and cataloged all the pieces for later reference.

I also got the idea to roll over to Joann Fabric store and invited the wife. This was met by her advising me an invitation to a fabric store was the least manly thing I had ever asked her to do…And I agree..But furniture restoration, especially an Eames Lounge Chair is a very manly prospect indeed. There is no other chair to sit and watch a football game in my book. I digress. So we roll to joanns to get foam. That store is a joke they only had high density foam which I would not use in these chairs. It would make them less than comfortable. So all in all the Joanns Fabric experience pissed me off completely when my inquiry into whether or not they could order low density foam was met with “no”. So fuck joanns fabric and the shitty little horse she rolled in on..That place is a total waste of time, and their customer service sucks sweaty balls.

On to refinishing…To remove the old finish I used 80 grit sand paper on this chair but lighter pressure and it work pretty quick with the orbital sander. I then followed up with 120 and then 220 grit sand paper. This chair has several areas on the ottoman where the veneer had been chipped off. So boat builder that I am I whipped up some epoxy with a little sanding dust and filled these areas. I have a mountain of epoxy from my boat building project in the garage. You can mimic what I did with 5 minute epoxy. Mix epoxy parts as directed via the product you are using then add sanding dust to achieve a peanut butter like consistency, apply this fudge to any areas you wish to repair. It works far better than wood putty and is strong and your use of sanding dust will automatically color match. Let it dry completely and then sand as you would wood. So after I did this to the ottoman you could not tell it had been damage at all. Once all the ply pieces were stripped and sanded to my liking I prestained them then followed up with a coat of Cherry Minwax. The color was way off from the first chair so I experiment with other stains I had in the shop and found that a quick top coat stain of Jacob Bean darkened this chair to exactly match the first. I only let this dark stain set for a few minutes then wiped the ply completely down. They are now drying in the shop overnight.

As for the first chair I gave it multiple coats of minwax polyurethane, in between coats I sanded with 220 grit. Today I gave the first set of ply a quick 220grit wet sand and a last stain coat over the polyurethane to richen it all up. Everything is now drying in the shop overnight.

While the epoxy dried I took apart each base, polished the chrome, and oiled the ball bearings and spray painted the areas that required a new coat of flat black paint. After all that they looked brand-new…

Tomorrow I will finish coat the first set of ply…and put a couple coats of poly on the second chair ply pieces..

Welting came today that I bought on ebay. It nice stuff a little smaller than I had thought but nice stuff fingers crossed the color will match the hides which are on their way…I am off now to search the web for the correct foam I need….

Thursday, November 12, 2009


November 12, 2009

Ply Refinishing

I have spent the better part of two afternoons (thank god I work east coast hours or I would not have the time to do this kind of stuff) now stripping old varnish off all the ply sections. Using my orbital sander and 100 grit I carefully stripped away the old varnish. I did manage to mess up a small spot under the ottoman on the ply (be careful when using an orbital sander). After the 100 grit I went down to 220 and gave each section a carefully loving once over. Then I steelwooled each section and then prep’ed them for stain. It is important to use a prestain treatment or sanding sealer before applying stain. Read and follow all directions on the products you use. Use proper ventilation and gloves when applying chemicals to the wood. Be careful to properly dispose of all materials used to apply stain and pretreatment. It can combust and burn your house down, plus its pretty nasty stuff in general. I applied one coat of minwax prestain and two coats of cherry minwax stain.

After allowing all section s to dry completely I then applied an interior/exterior minwax polyurethane in satin not gloss. I am only my second coat, in between each coat I knock down with 00 steelwool. This takes out any imperfections between coats. Use a foam applicator and make sure you double, thripple, quadruple check for drips by doing a secondary dry brushing over your coats well before they tack up.

Base and Stand Restoration

On this latest chair all the hardware is in good shape, a big $$$ saver. If your chair has hardware/base issues you can go here and buy new ones.

But it will cost you…dearly. Keep that in mind when buying one of these chairs used. If the hardware is gaffed pass on the chair and wait to find one in proper working order.

For this chair I only needed to touch up the paint and clean the chrome and aluminum. For the paint I used a flat black spray paint. For chrome cleaning I used find steelwool and a good quality metal cleaner. Careful with the metal cleaners, some can etch rather than clean chrome…less is more here, less is more.


I just realized I have neglected to speak to costs on this restoration.

Chairs and Ottomans 2X2

1st Plycraft Eames Chair and Ottoman. = Free tossed out on the side of the road. Road Treasure.

2nd Plycraft Eames Chair and Ottoman = $99.75 (found a quarter in the cushion when disassembling which knocked the $100 price I paid down a bit)

Subtotal $99.75

Wood refinishing

Orbital Sander (I already had one they are $75 at home depot)

100 grit disks $6

220 grit disks $6

Minwax Cheery Stain $5

Minwax prestain $12

Subtotal $29 + $99.75 = $128.75

Upholstery Supplies

(2) 60 SF Black Cow Hides off of Ebay from reputable dealer I checked out before I bid $214 (including shipping.

15 yards premanufacture welting, ebay $22

2 dozen leather buttons , ebay $29

Electric Staple Gun $22 at homedepot

Foam is TBD. It all depends on how the foam looks when I strip the cushions. If there is no cat piss or other smells and the foam looks in good shape I will reuse.

Total to date $415.75…and I don’t even have a finished chair to sit in yet….

However I have repeatedly seen restored Plycraft Chairs and ottomans fetch as much as $1800 on ebay.

So I have two 2X $1800 =$3600 not a bad investment…They no longer make these chairs ….