Eames chair repair.
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  1. #1
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    Default Eames chair repair.

    This molded ply back to a ca 1973 Eames lounge chair just landed in my shop.
    I have some tricks up my sleeve to repair but was wondering what you fellas think as to approach.

    This is a highly loaded part...

    fccc2c9e-8d2c-42f4-9822-b3cae588be4f.jpg

    b1311b65-67f6-495d-b033-a97e3983eece.jpg

    Charles Eames, Ray Eames. Lounge Chair and Ottoman. 1956 | MoMA

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    Scarf joint as far from the break as you possibly can (i.e. 12:1 pitch if possible) and essentially re-ply the broken section.

    Like the scarf joint on a boat's strake.

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    Why not call up Knoll or whomever still makes these and order a replacement? Is a 1973 chair back so special that it is worth repairing? Of course, if the customer says jump, for enough money you say, "How high?"

    On edit, I see that Herman Miller, and not Knoll, originally made the genuine official Eames chairs, but now it's an outfit called Vitra that makes them.

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    The customer would like the chair repaired.

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    Another thought would be to simply recreate the entire plywood laminated back using resawn lumber of the appropriate thickness and number of plys.

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    I offered that as well- maybe a bit of a study to match the rosewood but simple enough otherwise.
    Also current manufacture replacement back.
    The customer would like repaired if possible.

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    I have my thoughts but what are your plans of attack. I assume that when completed, the repair is to be invisible.

    Tom

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    TR - I suspect you know as much as anyone here about epoxy and laminations. It does seem to me that you'll have to replace the entire visible (outside) ply on the back -- or maybe at least the lower 6" and try to match wood grain. Inside is covered by a cushion - right??

    Weaving new plies into however far you go back doesn't seem like a fun job -- keep us posted how it comes out. I would think you need to get pretty far into what's left to stay out of the high stress area where it cracked to begin.

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    Hello Tom-

    I have a nice clean break that hasn’t been fussed with- all those needle points of the brittle rosewood are there so the outboard fitup will be ok with minimal fill and acceptable to owner.
    The inside will have a final rosewood veneer as close as I can find as last laminate on that side.

    Approach:
    1) Mill braces to hold curve across break- probably a bottom plate and two braces.
    2) Glue up the break using clamps/braces.
    3) Pull out of clamps and secure braces with two side tape to part.
    4) Cut back across repair where new laminate will be glued up.
    This will probably entail thinning broken off ‘tongue’ back to just under outer rosewood veneer carried past break a measure then taken back to inner surface with long taper.
    5) Built back to full thickness with laminates as loose scrims.
    Grain orientation to match original- maybe a bit of carbon fiber biax cloth as first outboard veneer, rosewood as final inner (carbon under finish veneer inside too??).
    6) Glue-up the veneer stack- pinned, definitely epoxy, probably vac bag, maybe separate glue-up for inner veneer.
    7) Trim work to profile and touchup/finish as needed.

    This probably broke because the two bonded on rubber shock absorbers are hard as a rock and had no give to absorb torsion as person in chair leaned to one side.
    I am guess the ply tore from top towards outboard.

    Soooo.. in course of repair replace those both sides - they are available new.

    “Cutting back” I would like to do on the Zimmermann which would be a champ for this job.
    I have the factory certificate (from 1978), that the platen to table is square to .03 mm. (Damn those Germans like things a certain way..)

    Perfect- I am ready.
    Only problem- the damn Zimmermann is three phase... (see other thread..(‘s).. lol).

    But that is what I would do- just the obvious cold mold veneer repair.
    Is there another way to skin this cat?

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    I'm surprised no one suggested gorilla glue

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    Yeah Pete- the solution above is technically correct and simple to conceive- just fussy to execute.

    I am at the fun stage of a repair where I can scheme about approach.
    I could see milled in dovetail splints across repair but am certain they are not meeting twist through part as well as fully laminated..
    Correct scarfs are good to go.

    As you say above- the key here is to get the taper back past where the part twists in use- not far but far enough...
    I was surprised that the ply failed in tension till I saw those hardened plates and now see that twist got to it.
    The part probably delammed then tore later..

    The big problem with laminating a repair is it tough to not make the new bit lots stiffer then the rest of work and therefore load the transition zone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by plastikdreams View Post
    I'm surprised no one suggested gorilla glue
    The husband did!
    It’s the wife’s prized chair and she vetoed that..
    The guy is a snap surgeon- and his dear wife probably told him to leave this to someone who won’t screw it up lol.
    The owners are long term clients.
    I don’t really do this sort of work unless a boat client drags something in like this..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trboatworks View Post
    The husband did!
    It’s the wife’s prized chair and she vetoed that..
    The guy is a snap surgeon- and his dear wife probably told him to leave this to someone who won’t screw it up lol.
    The owners are long term clients.
    I don’t really do this sort of work unless a boat client drags something in like this..
    I can work to less than a thou in metal...when it comes to wood sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't.

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    I think your plan as laid out is sound, but wonder if this improves it any...

    Make a contoured brace from the good opposite side of chair back and wax them up real nice so the epoxy will release. The brace can be made with a saran wrap release film and plaster over the good symmetrical part. Sort of a mold.

    Put the good fitting broken parts together with some un-thickened West System, applied with a tiny brush then a bit with thickener, then push together, lay in brace, come back the next day.

    Scrape away a long scarf spot over the repair on each side just deep enough for a thin carbon patch. Veneer each side using a vacuum bag.

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    It’s funny- the mind wants to see the scarf taken to surface on both sides.
    I think a realistic caution about a butt joint from fracture starting a new break.
    That’s why I would lay a bit of carbon as first outer laminate to stop that tear- anything needing to be left on outer side is then just cosmetic.
    This chair is classic enough and breaks here often enough that there is a shop which is advertising ‘correct’ repair.
    They let in a small rosewood veneer patch on outboard side to bridge the break.
    Not strictly needed and introduces needing to match grain etc.
    As Pete says above, simply carrying new veneer right around back is sensible..

    Long scarf joints work- lo these many decades ago, my first woodworking job was as a luthier in a shop that brought in many student instruments for repair.
    I fit in more than a few long maple double scarfs in broken cello necks.
    I always imagined the students tossed them under bus wheels to end their forced lessons but suppose they just got dropped... I never saw one break across the repair.
    I fit up enough in boat work- they work.

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    I like it henrya- a easier win both for structure and cosmetics.
    I don’t know I will pursue it due to the challenge of matching visuals- grain and age of old veneer.

    A typical laminate patch in solid FRP panels use this approach- tapers inboard and out taken to fine point in center.

    Edit- I just measured the core ply.
    A 12:1 scarf on this carries 4”.
    That takes it well into the corner of chair back and to full height of back.
    That is telling me I might have to laminate the core first then fit up and bond.
    Last edited by Trboatworks; 05-02-2019 at 12:15 PM.

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    The customer is not always right. My response would be to simply say "No" to a repair. Buy a replacement, or laminate up a new piece.
    What do they gain by a very expensive, marginal, repair?

    What do YOU gain from a repair that is likely to net less per hour than a run of the mill job, and puts you at liability when it breaks again, either at the repair site or on the other side?

    Some jobs are just not worth it, unless you have no other work.
    Just to be clear,I was a custom furniture maker for many years, a high end yacht cabinetry guy, etc- there is some experience backing up my opinion.

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    Now where is the fun in that.

    The repair is less expensive than factory new or shop formed back.
    Hardly marginal as the repair will be stronger than the original and keeps the chair original with the Brazilian rosewood matched to rest.
    What’s in it for me- I am too busy to turn around and spit but have always enjoyed some work outside of “run of mill”.
    At that I would turn this away if off the street but for a long term client- I am happy to turn my practiced hand to the work for them.

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    I don’t see this as a marginal repair. It will probably be better than new structurally. Or just buy a new chair for 5 grand plus.

    Once its thought out this is not that hard for an experienced hand and its almost always a good idea to take care of good old customers. Its how you get this referral: “that TR Boatworks can fix anything he’s treated us right for decades - he’s like part of the family”. Can’t buy that but you can earn it.

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    Watching because I have one to fix as well...
    And hoping for before/after pictures.


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