Jul 26, 2014

Disaster & Recovery

Pekka's parents have a stunningly beautiful Eames lounge chair by Vitra for Herman and Miller International. The chair dates back to late sixties / early seventies and was found by Pekka through eBay a few years ago. Since its discovery the chair has gone through extensive restoration. First, the brazilian rosewood panels were stripped from ugly, old lacquer layer. Then they were treaded with pure Tung oil. Last, some parts of the leather upholstery were replaced due to wear and tear. The end result: a perfectly functional piece. Well, almost.

Something wrong here?

When originally assessing the restoration needs, a decision was made not to change the shock mounts as their condition seemed ok. Considering the construction of these chairs, it is indeed the shock mounts or more precisely the adhesive joints that attach the shock mount to the plywood are the most delicate parts of the entire assembly.

Torn plywood

Only a few months after Pekka's parents started using their chair a disaster struck totally out of thin air. Without any warning an adhesive joint of one of the shock mounts gave in while someone was sitting in the chair. When this happens the whole backrest assembly remains supported only from one side, resulting in the backrest swinging sideways. One can only pray and hope that the resulting damage will be fixable as the worst case scenario is that the load of the backrest will break the beautiful rosewood panel.

Fortunately, the situation was not as bad as it could have been. Yes, the panel was torn, but only from inside and from a depth of four out of ten millimeters of plywood. The rosewood of the outside panel was nearly completely saved with only a minor crack.

 Two shock mounts: one with an adhesive joint that gave up and the other with broken plywood

Aware of the situation, Pekka packed his tools and materials when we took off to a family summer trip to visit his parents. It is of course very unfortunate that something like this happens, but the silver lining is that this indeed is a dream project for Pekka for the summer vacation!

Enjoying the vacation

All four shock mounts were changed in the process, but let's focus on the one with the ripped panel. First thing to do is to get rid of all the ripped layers of plywood. This is important in order to achieve a solid foundation to build on.

Getting rid of the bad parts 

In these kind of operations, one has to master the adequate skills and knowledge, but this is not enough. Also the materials for rebuilding have to be of premium quality. Luckily, we happen to be fortunate to have good connections. Therefore, we would like to thank Janne from HVL, who during his vacation made himself available to provide all the veneer that was needed for the project. Remember to contact him if ever in need of premium quality veneer!

Veneer including brazilian rosewood also know as the Rio Palisander

After preparing the panel and cutting the veneer pieces everything was molded together. As Pekka didn't have the possibility to construct a mold he improvised with several vises. After a few beers needed to avoid dehydration, not bad at all.

Improvised plywood mold

After opening the "mold" and cutting and sanding the sides of the veneer Pekka could finally evaluate the outcome of his work. The results at this stage seemed promising as the structure was solid. Yes, there is a visible difference in the texture between the old and new veneer, but this would not be a concern as it would be covered by the cushions.

Old and new: inside view

View from the bottom

Next Pekka needed to create the base for a shock mount. The important thing is the geometric purity of the base. As working with a chisel requires some serious skills, so please be honest with yourself and when in any doubt contact a professional. Otherwise you may very well sacrifice the whole structure.

Working with a chisel 

Again the end result for this phase looked good. The surface seemed flat enough so Pekka could proceed to the next stage.

Flat base

Last but definitely not least the new shock mount was glued to the plywood. The shock mounts we use are genuine OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts and received together with the glue from Graham Mancha from UK. He is definitely one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to Eames chairs and deserves our sincerest gratitude. It is indeed due to his kind guidance that Pekka has managed gain most of his knowledge regarding these chairs. So please, do not hesitate to contact Graham if you have any questions or needs regarding vintage Eames chairs.

Glued shock mount

The end result is more than we ever dared to expect. At the time of these pictures the glue had not been settled enough to assemble everything together, but everyone, including Pekka's parents are more than happy to show the result with in these few pictures to follow. 

Panel interior

Panel exterior

We have been discussing about shock mounts before, but because of their importance let's do it one more time. Please understand that it is not IF, but rather WHEN that one of the shock mounts will give in. If you have an Eames Lounge chair and don't want to break your it please consider these simple instructions:

  1. While using the chair listen carefully if the chair makes any suspicious noises while leaning back
  2. Periodically check the condition of the adhesive joints of the shock mounts
  3. While standing behind the chair try to lift it up by the back rest to see if it is loose
  4. If something happens and you don't know how to fix it, please contact someone who does
  5. If you decide to fix the problem yourself make sure to have the required skills
  6. Use only premium quality materials, glues and original OEM parts
  7. DON'T BUY CHEAP SHOCK MOUNTS FROM EBAY as it is a guaranteed way to make the situation worse.

Chilling out

And Urho? Well, during the last few days we have been lucky to enjoy  great summer weather in Finland. The high temperature makes Urho even slower than he normally is and due to this he is forced to take a cold shower every day. Even if we know it is good for him, he just simply hates it.

Jul 16, 2014

Slate slaves

The work downstairs continues. Now when Pekka has finally managed to start his summer vacation the pace has increased dramatically. One of the most visual changes is the sanding and painting the visible steel structure and the window frame.

Signs of progress

Even if the paint gives the space a somewhat finalized look the most arduous project during the last few days (and nights) has been washing and seaming the slate floor. This task has really taken us both by surprise simply due to the crazy amount of working hours required to finalize everything.

View from the window

As mentioned earlier, we divided the work between two of us. Pekka was responsible for seaming the slate, which is not overly difficult and it gets easier as one learns by doing. One of the key learnings was that the filler has to have a very precise amount of water in it. Neither too much nor too little. Otherwise it is impossible to work with the seaming tool.

Partly seamed, partly washed

Minna, on the other hand, has focused her energy on the look & feel of the floor. This job includes both washing the slate and making sure the seams are cleaned soon after seaming. This is crucial in order to achieve both visually and haptically precise seam.

Look & feel

And the flip side of the coin? First, the physical experience of spending several days down on your knees is far from pleasant. Our backs, legs and arms are aching. And of course we are also tired. Often the last stint of the day starts at 9 pm after Sofi goes to bed. Eager to get things done, we tend to continue quite late into the night. And when she wakes up early and full of energy, eight hours of sleep is a distant dream.

Blistered thumb

One of the most rueful downsides is the current condition of the bathroom. As the picture below shows it is simply a disaster. Floor covered with sand and dirt. Old towels ripped in rags needed for seaming (luckily due to a blog collaboration we will get some new towels from Luhta Home - more of this to follow soon). Sad, but fortunately a temporary sight.

Fancy a shower?

Jul 12, 2014

Plan B for Friday night

On a regular, non-renovation Friday night a plan A for Pekka's first night of summer vacation would have perhaps been something different. An unseamed slate floor, however, urged us to choose a different option. With a bottle of Plan B and couple of wine glasses off to downstairs we headed!

Plan B for the night

We started the work from the most difficult (and least visible) part of the floor, under the stairs. Pekka took care of the seaming, and Minna followed by cleaning the excessive concrete off the slate edges. Never done slate floor seaming before, the progress was painfully slow.

Detailed cleaning

Based on the earlier experiments, we chose to use 1.6% titanium oxide to tone the seaming concrete (4 dl in 25 kg of concrete). It takes quite a long time to dry and adopt the final colour, so the seam in the photo below is still slightly darker than it will be in the end. Also, the contrast will be strengthened further by a layer of protective toner applied on top.

Some seamed slate

So, we started around 10 pm, finished at 2.30 am and completed about 4-5 square meters of floor. In the wee hours of the night, a thought of the total time required to finish up the rest (25 m2) might have raised some fleeting moments of despair, but fortunately the company, wine and the ultimate vision will compensate the lengthy road ahead!

Floor around the staircase - completed!