Eames Chair Restoration

July 26th, 2009

The Eames Chair Restoration Projects main objective is to restore and re-mount six wide mount Eames side shell chairs to six black Eiffel bases. We have the technology. They will be better, stronger, faster. More stylish.

I’m not the most patient DIY’er and find it difficult to stop and take pictures in the middle of working things out. I used the Chairfag restoration tutorial to help me through the process, and hope that this little DIY may help someone else.

This particular set of Eames chairs lived their previous life as school chairs – with desks attached and everything (therefore explaining the wide shock mount problem). There’s a lot of gum on the bottoms to prove it. Yum.

For the price (free) it was worth chipping that 1970′s gum off. Thanks Maya!

Here is the base of the chair with the wide mount shocks (and gum). What we need to do is remove them (both).

I used a hammer and sharp little flat head screw driver to gently knock off any surrounding epoxy and loosen the shock mount from the base.

The shocks pop right off. Keep them for later.

Now that all the shocks are off, its time to get rid of the old epoxy.

I used a small hand sander with a medium grit paper to remove most of the leftover epoxy and then switched to a fine grit to complete the sanding.

Hooray! The epoxy is sanded off.

The fiberglass on all the chairs is worn and dirty from years of students abuse.

To bring the finish back and make them look like new wet sand each chair with the help of a spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of dish soap. I used a medium grit paper and then switched to a fine grit to finish up. Its easy and itchy!

After all the chairs are sanded to an awesomely smooth finish, hose them down with water and clean all the dust and gunk off. Let them air dry in a clean dust free area.

Penetrol is easily found in your local hardware store. Its an oil based product that seals and restores fiberglass. Wear gloves, this stuff can get sticky.

Use a lint free cloth soaked in the Penetrol to begin sealing the chair. Rub down the chair and massage the Penetrol gently into all its crevices.

These chairs are all oiled up and drying in a dust free area. It takes a little while for the Penetrol to cure…be patient. When I’ve restored other chairs I’ve usually done 2-3 coats of Penetrol to really get them sealed, restore the color and make them super sexy shiny.

After the chairs have dried thoroughly its time to remount the shocks onto the narrow mount configuration. I used JB Kwik Weld Epoxy – which sets in about 4 minutes and is a nice color match to the original epoxy.

This cat’s cradle base was from another chair. I used it to create a template for the narrow mount shocks to be attached. I screwed the shock mounts on loosely and set them on the narrow mount flat areas already cast on the chair. I outlined them with a pen in order to quickly replace the mounts once the epoxy was applied.

Mix enough epoxy to create four quarter size dollops that go in the mounting areas that were just marked.

Attach the shock mounts to the epoxy. Do it quick! It sets up very fast.

After about five minutes unscrew the base and leave the shock mounts to cure overnight. At that point they won’t slip around and just need some time overnight to completely cure. Then they will be ready for the base to be attached!

Repeat this six times, and you’ve got a dining set.

Next up…the big reveal!

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    41 Comments

    1. modfrugal on 07/26/2009:

      Awesome job….I had read that Penetrol would yellow on white chairs so I didn't use it. (I'm restoring a Burke right now) Yours looks great in the picture so I'm wishing I had! Thanks for sharing.

    2. THE BRICK HOUSE on 07/26/2009:

      Thanks, I've used Penetrol a lot and never really had a problem with yellowing, but these chairs are not truly white more of a greige…so I'm not too concerned.

      Penetrol is awesome.

    3. Tony Paul on 07/27/2009:

      I can't wait to see how they look finished! Great work, very inspiring!

    4. FROM THE RIGHT BANK on 07/27/2009:

      You big tease. I want to see the result!

    5. Hanna and Daniel on 07/27/2009:

      Yay, wicked work!
      Can't wait to see the end result.

      /D

    6. Katie on 07/27/2009:

      thanks for posting this! maybe i will be brave enough to try it out on my own chairs now… can't wait to see the big reveal!

    7. Alison on 07/27/2009:

      Thanks for posting! They look awesome so far.
      I love visual step-by-step instructions.

    8. White Willow Vintage on 07/27/2009:

      What a wicked post…..such in-depth instructions! This post has been more helpful than any other I've read for restoring fiberglass. Thanks for sharing.

      Can you imagine these as school chairs?!

    9. John on 07/27/2009:

      Wow Morgan, great job! I can't wait to see the results!

    10. carrie @ brick city love on 07/27/2009:

      Very cool! Pictures are so much more helpful than text directions. Can't wait to see the final results.

    11. Nikki on 07/27/2009:

      Grest tutorial! The chairs are looking awesome.

    12. my little apartment on 07/28/2009:

      THANK YOU, Morgan!! I'm getting my grandfather's Eames shipped out next weekend and they are in bad shape. this was a great how-to post, much appreciated.

    13. thecatskillkiwi on 07/28/2009:

      wow those chairs are gonna look killa once done!

    14. down and out chic on 07/29/2009:

      wow, i am impressed! these look amazing i can't wait for the big reveal!

    15. Gretchen on 07/29/2009:

      Very cool DIY how-to. Can't wait to see the reveal pix!

    16. eli on 07/30/2009:

      Do you know what size the bolts that secure the base to the shock mounts are? I'm just finishing a resotarion (orange shell + dowel base), but am missing one bolt.

      Thanks for your help.

    17. THE BRICK HOUSE on 07/30/2009:

      hi eli,

      nope – i don't know the exact size. what i do if i need a new bolt is take one i have that fits and go to the home depot and find a bolt that matches. usually one of the workers helps me….

    18. switch-smith on 08/16/2009:

      Excellent post.

    19. nath on 08/21/2009:

      labour of love. well done.

    20. Anonymous on 10/29/2009:

      did you use low rod or eiffel bases on your shells?

    21. THE BRICK HOUSE on 10/29/2009:

      eiffel bases – i used the low rod to mark and epoxy the shock mounts.

    22. Katrine Martensen-Larsen on 10/29/2009:

      Thank you for sharing this info.
      I am having a huge problem with my new (old) side shells as the shock mounts are glued on the shells and they keep getting loose. Do you know what can be done? I have an image, I would like to send you – how can I do this?
      Regards
      Katrine

    23. THE BRICK HOUSE on 10/30/2009:

      You could email me at morgansatterfield at gmail dot com

      But I imagine you could just epoxy them back on. It's super easy.

    24. Logan Hendrickson on 11/23/2009:

      thanks alot for this! I picked up 20 of these exact chairs with the stackable bases for pratically nothing. I'm gonna try one out!

    25. Anonymous on 12/02/2009:

      Where can I get new shock mounts for Eames fiberglas chairs. The old ones have disintegrated.

    26. THE BRICK HOUSE on 12/02/2009:

      You can buy individual ones on Ebay usually.

    27. Leslie on 02/02/2010:

      I love this. last weekend we copied your pipe shelving and made a small bookcase for all my cookbooks. Looks amazing.
      I have a question – there are a few eames chairs that I am looking to buy on Ebay and not sure if the condition is comparable to yours. Would you mind looking at them (I could send you a picture) and giving your opinion on whether or not this technique would work? I would soooo gretly appreciate it. Thanks.

    28. THE BRICK HOUSE on 02/02/2010:

      Send me a link and a picture and I’d be happy to check it out.

      Also – send me a pic of your shelves, I’d love to see them.

    29. Chairfag on 04/01/2010:

      Hi Morgan!
      Thanks for the bigup of the original http://www.chairfag.com tutorial!
      We’re glad your chairs came out so well! They look fantastic!
      It’s great to see fellow restorers making such a kickass job of it!
      Love the site btw :)
      Chairfag

    30. *amy* on 05/27/2010:

      Hi Morgan- I’ve got a four vintage fibre glass chromcraft chairs (look very much like the herman miller originals) that i’m trying to restore. although originally an orange-y colour, these bad boys have been painted brown. As they no longer have the original finish I was thinking that the penetrol re-finishing trick may not be of much use to me. I was hoping just to spray paint the chairs. Do you think this wld cause any problems? Any thoughts? Tips?
      Thanks!
      Amy

    31. THE BRICK HOUSE on 05/27/2010:

      Amy –

      Sand them down like you would the eames. Sand off the paint and then restore the fiberglass with penetrol.

      Depends on if you want them original or not. It’s not like they have a huge resale value, so if you want to spray them – go ahead. It may just flake off a bit.

    32. jeannette on 07/18/2010:

      chairfag! penetrol! epoxy! this truly is a labor of love, thank you for sharing the awesome results.

    33. laura on 09/01/2010:

      Where did you get your Eiffel bases?

    34. Federico on 10/03/2010:

      Thanks for all the instructions! Could you give me some pointers on where should I look for some Eiffel Bases and shell chairs?

      I cant find any? Thanks in advance for all of the help

    35. Albert on 11/20/2011:

      Hi,
      I#ve just started restoring four eames chairs.
      I sanded them first withe a 240 grit and then with a 400, then i applied the owratol.

      Unfortunately, the surface feels dull to the touch, unlike the smooth original feeling.

      Now I’m wondering if I propably used a too coarse grit for the finish or if I need to apply more coatings of owratol.
      Any advice wold be highly appreciated.
      regards,
      albert

    36. dani on 01/22/2012:

      I’m not sure if you’ve already answered this question, but where were you able to find your bases? And if you don’t mind my asking, how much did you pay for them? Feel free to email me :-) I just purchased six chairs via ebay with bunk bases/kind of having a panic attack…

    37. Ryan Bogan on 02/27/2012:

      Hello,

      I was wondering where you bought the new shock mounts?

      Thank You,
      Ryan Bogan

    38. meghann stephenson on 09/16/2012:

      Hi Morgan,
      Thanks so much for the tutorial! I just bought a set of 4 shells in white on ebay for $200 they’re pretty beat up but I think it’s easily fixable. The only issue is the bases. We ideally want walnut dowel legs but also love the eiffel. Is $75-100 a fair price or can we find them for less?

      Thanks!
      Meghann

    39. Sara Budisantoso on 10/16/2012:

      Hi Morgan!

      I’m so inspired by your post. Where did you find the chair bases? I am living in Los Angeles and most of the ones I found are $300 and up! I really don’t mind putting in some elbow grease to get a finished product like yours. Any information would be awesome!

      Thank you for posting.

    40. Jorge on 10/28/2013:

      Modern Conscience sells awesome reproduction bases, along with new shock mounts.

    41. Simple home on 07/06/2014:

      Excellent site. Plenty of useful info here.
      I’m sending it to several friends ans additionally sharing in delicious.
      And of course, thank you foor your effort!

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