Nov 7, 2014

Early Edition 670 & 671, Part II

This post actually belongs to a series of updates dealing with a restoration of an early series 670 & 671, or better know as the Eames Lounge chair. The "series" might sound a bit of an overstatement as as the last related story was released almost one year ago...yes, point taken - we really need to shape up a bit! Anyhow, if you want to revisit the earlier parts you can find them here: 1 & 2.

So, back to the key character of the story - The Chair. After the initial assembly and first inspection (the chair had been disassembled for transportation) it was evident it needed to be disassembled again and work on the separate components should begin.

The frame

The first thing to do was to remove the cushions. It was easy to just unclip and slide them off the panels. Then off came the armrests, which are fixed in place with three screws in this early model. Later models have only two screws attaching the armrests to the metal brackets.

Early armrests with three screws

Next, the metal brackets on both sides of the chair fixing the backrest to the rest of the assembly were separated by removing four screws. When loosening the screws one should be very careful as the weight of the backrest starts quickly forcing the backrest down and if not supported properly, the wooden parts can easily break. Subsequently, the two backrest panels were separated from each other.

Armrest metal bracket

After the rosewood seat and backrest panels were taken apart from each other the die casted aluminum base was detached from the seat and ottoman panels. This was done by loosening four screws. 

Ottoman base

Once the chair was fully disassembled to individual components its dirtiness was even more evident. The entire structure was covered with years of dirt combined with a suspicious mix of old surface treatments. Additionally, the wood panels were very dry and desperately screaming for some oil.

Rosewood seat panel

Before the wood could be retreated with oil it was important to wash the panels throughly. A good approach is to use steel wool together with some sort of cleansing liquid. Pekka used a commercial cleansing liquid made specifically for furniture (there are several brands available to choose from). Alternatively, you could also choose to use methylated spirit or mineral spirits for cleaning. Whatever your preference, it is important first to try it on an area which is not visible to the eye, such as an area covered by a cushion. It is also good to do the cleaning in a well ventilated area or even outside as the evaporating fumes will make your head hurt if working in a closed, small space.

Seat panel - before

Pay attention when using steel wool on veneer. Rub it only to the direction of the grain, otherwise you might scratch the wood and leave unwanted marks. Be also careful when working on the areas where brand labels are located as you don't want to damage them either.

Use clean rags or household towels once you start rubbing the wood with cleansing liquid. As soon as the dirt starts coming off the panels do not smear it all over the panel, but rather wipe it off with a clean rag. Next, add more fresh cleansing liquid to the steel wool and repeat the same procedure to the rest of the panel.

Working with steel wool

After the panels are clean and dry it was time to start the most rewarding part of the restoration: applying the oil. Again, patience is a virtue: the oil can't be applied on a wet wood, ever. Depending on the ambient conditions and preferrer cleansing liquid with you may need to wait for a few hours or even to the next day just to be sure all the liquid have evaporated from the surface to be treated.

Panel-oil and a dachshund's snout

There are several types of oils to choose from. Some brand names indicate what the product actually contains (such as pure tung oil) and others are just names (such as tung oil finish) created by marketeers and might have little or nothing to do with the actual oil composition. The content of these products usually varies being usually a blend of some sort of oil, varnish and hardener, and perhaps not be the best choice for a vintage chair. Whichever oil you choose make sure you know how it will behaves on the surface to be treated, just to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Originally, Herman Miller used gun stock oil - so take a wild guess what Pekka chose for our chair?

Half washed, half oiled

After careful cleaning and treating, it is certainly a pleasure to see how the oil gives richness to the wood tones and really makes the grain pop. Yes, freshly oiled Rio palisander is indeed one of the prettiest sights we know!

Freshly oiled rosewood

In the next part of the series (promised, it will not take another year) we will show what happened to the base, domes of silence and the shock mounts. So please stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment