Apr 18, 2013

Project: "Back to life"

This is a period in our family during which a lot of things seem to be happening simultaneously. Minna is now back at work after her maternity leave, and Pekka is staying at home and taking care of Sofi and Urho. Despite of this switch, the renovation of our home continues, being an equally infinite task as is the hunt for antiques.

For Pekka's delight, the good thing in staying at home and taking care of a child is the fact that when the baby is taking a nap, there are fragmented moments throughout the day during which one can allow their focus to drift to something else, like for example restoring vintage furniture in the Man Cave.

Having said that, we are proud to present one of our latest findings, a true vintage beauty from the mid century modern era - an early production series Cherner chair by Plycraft. In Pekka's opinion, there is no question this chair is one of the most beautiful objects ever made out of wood.

Norman Cherner for Plycraft 1958

If you have read our first posting regarding the Cherner chair, you might remember the interesting story behind this particular item. First, there were problems with structural rigidity, then a launch with a fake name leading to a court battle, and finally a justified attribution to the chair's correct designer, Norman Cherner.

For a while now, we have been looking for two pieces of the armrest version to complete the dining set. Finally, after three months of intensive hunting followed by a few weeks of rigorous restoration, she is now ready for use with the rest of the Cherners in the dining room.

The four chairs without armrests are from 1963, as stated by the sticker underneath each chair. However, the newest armrest arrival is older, possibly from the first two years of production. The old style label underneath the seat indicates the chair was designed by "Bernardo", which is a definite and helpful clue in determining the age of the chair.

"Designed by Bernardo" label - an indication of early production series (before 1961)

Once again, this chair was found from Florida and yes, again through the internet. Based on the pictures we saw, the general condition clearly seemed less than perfect making it a very difficult choice. Should we, or should we not purchase it given the questionable condition and only being able to make an assessment via pictures. The lacquer of both the seat and backrest had seen better days, and the lamination of the armrest had a split. So even given only these issues, we were looking for many, many hours in the Man Cave.

Additionally, the history of the chair and the structural rigidity challenges the design team had had early in the production also raised some questions. More importantly that the looks of the chair, knowing that this was an early production series piece, it was a valid concern that there might be some problems also with the chair's structural rigidity. Naturally, there was no way to know this before it would arrive in Finland.

Destroyed clear coat

Split lamination of the armrest

But now, enough of talking. The ToDo list was quite long, and it was time to get one's hands dirty:

  1. Clean off the years of an old chair
  2. Remove the clear coat from the seat
  3. Re-laminate the split armrest
  4. Apply a bit bit of epoxy here and there
  5. Install new foot pads (still to be finished)
  6. Apply good quality teak oil to give the chair a final finishing touch

The right tools for the job

One of the greatest things about our new home is the fact that there is now room to conduct these kinds of activities. In our previous apartment, all this was done on the dining table in between meals. And as you might have guessed, this was not always the most appealing approach from the viewpoint of the rest of the family!

Stripping off the old clear coat

Adding teak oil to the thirsty wood

As with so many other things in life, the true reward for a given job comes at the very end. In this case, the final result was so much better than we could have ever imagined for. The Cherner chair is stunningly beautiful, rare and yes, luckily rigid enough for one to sit on and thus suitable to be combined to a dining set with the rest of the Cherners we have found earlier. Now, five down, one more to go...

Curved armrests

Stunning lines and wood work

A true mid-century beauty

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