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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
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    Default Interesting Construction For Old Chair

    I noticed something interesting in the construction of this chair. Note the insert in the seat that is almost as wide as the seat and seems to go all the way from front to back.

    This chair is one of six my mother saved from her father's saloon. He operated up to 1920 when the US government, in all it's wisdom (hah) banned alcohol. (The ban was removed in 1930.)

    To construct something like this back at the start of the last century must have been quite a task with just hand tools.

    It must serve some special purpose to warrant all that work. Any idea what?

    Also, see the crack that just showed up? This chair was in my previous house for 40 years. It has been in this house for just over a year. I'm guessing it is the heating system. The old house had what we call circulating hot water. This house has hot air without any humidifier to moisten the air.


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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
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    Upper Hutt, New Zealand
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    Default

    That would be one heck of a job of work. It looks like it's laminated until you see the back where the lighter wood doesn't extend side-to-side.
    Are you sure it's not simply a contrasting inlay?
    Pete

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
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    Vic
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    Default

    [QUOTE=petec;2126159]I noticed something interesting in the construction of this chair. Note the insert in the seat that is almost as wide as the seat and seems to go all the way from front to back.

    This chair is one of six my mother saved from her father's saloon. He operated up to 1920 when the US government, in all it's wisdom (hah) banned alcohol. (The ban was removed in 1930.)

    To construct something like this back at the start of the last century must have been quite a task with just hand tools.

    It must serve some special purpose to warrant all that work. Any idea what?

    Also, see the crack that just showed up? This chair was in my previous house for 40 years. It has been in this house for just over a year. I'm guessing it is the heating system. The old house had what we call circulating hot water. This house has hot air without any humidifier to moisten the air.


    [QUOTE]

    That's a mass produced US chair form the factory's that pumped them out back then Pete.
    There is a similar chair (The University chair) on the right side of this page in this Sears catalogue no 112 from around 1903. I'm guessing the date, I have a 1902 copy, a later 1969 reprint, its no 111 and was 1902. Yours with the carved bit in its back is different than the one pictured but its close.

    https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl...act=mrc&uact=8

    The added strips look to me like the work of someone trying to help it out or repair it. Its not the norm to see that on a chair that was being pumped out at a price. Glueing strips across the grain like that though is more the work of a repairer though because professional woodworkers generally wouldn't do it . Its against woodworking law. It makes something crack pretty quickly, if its fully glued in that is.
    You never know though . The factory my have done a run of strengthened ones? and just put a dab of glue in the middle? Putting it in would have been a pretty quick job when the chair was in pieces. For who ever did it .

    What happened to the other five chairs and do they have the same added strip of wood ?

    The crack is not good . Are you going to have a go at a repair?

    Rob

  5. #4
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    Jul 2005
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    Oberon, NSW
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    I suspect Auscab is right and those strips were added after original construction.

    It wouldn't be that hard a job to run a plough plane over the front and back to insert fillets for 'strength.' Pity whoever did it didn't leave a 1/4" expansion gap at each end, though.
    I may be weird, but I'm saving up to become eccentric.

    - Andy Mc (AKA "Ghost who posts." )

  6. #5
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    Mar 2004
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    Brisbane (western suburbs)
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    I'll add my voice to the strips being a later "repair". I suspect it was done originally in response to the crack that is now very evident, but may not have been so before moving it to your current heating regime. I also strongly suspect the strips are quite shallow, no more than a plough (plow) plane can reach. It's a fairly neat attempt at solving the problem, but a triumph of hope over wood technology principles, imo.

    In my experience, only very fresh cracks glue with any hope of long-term holding, and even then, I wouldn't trust it in this situation, so attempting to glue the cracked seat is unlikely to be at all successful. Since the chairs are old & probably of great sentimental value, unless you have the skills & tools yourself, you would probably be wise to entrust any repairs to someone who has them. The most sound solution would be to disassemble the chair, cut out a strip containing the crack, glue in a matching piece of oak (using a non-creep glue compatible with oak), and reshape/refinish the seat. That would be considered brutal by some, wrecking the original, etc., but if it's a common, factory-made chair, there is no mystique to preserve. Done properly, the repair should be invisible to all but the closest scrutiny, and having a safe, usable chair would please my practical nature more.

    A not-so-neat fix, but one I've seen done a few times on these sorts of chairs would be to clean off the bottom of the seat for several inches each side of the crack, clamp the seat to close the crack, then glue/screw a strip of the same oak species, about 5 or 6 inches wide, by an inch or so thick, across the crack. By orienting the grain in the same direction as the seat, the repair will expand & contract with the heating cycle the same as the seat itself, instead of fighting movement like the current 'repair'. Stop the reinforcing piece about 1 to 1 1/2 inches short of the ends of the seat & it won't be visible.....

    Cheers,
    IW

  7. #6
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    May 2007
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    I don't want to sound like I'm nitpicking Ian . I was almost going to mention it in my last post here but was in a rush.
    I didnt even think of a plow plane for the additional strips as well .

    The most likely timber I would say is in that seat is the Red Elm . Ive had plenty in for repair and seen it as an Elm . Never read it to confirm it was the Elm type used in these chairs though and I'm not sure how many Elm types their are in the US . There is only the Red Elm listed in the lower link.
    In the chair you can see the colour difference between the white Oak spindles and the seat though. And no visible Medullary rays on the seat end grain.
    https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl...act=mrc&uact=8

    https://www.baillie.com/red-elm

    Rob

  8. #7
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    Mar 2004
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    Rob, I didn't look closely at the seat wood, just glanced at it & assumed Oak because the spindles clearly are Oak, but now I take a proper look, the seat certainly isn't. I'm not one to debate wood id on the basis of photos, but just looking at that ring-porous end grain, another possibility is Chestnut, which is a softer wood which is easier to carve, but more likely to split than Elm. Actually, the chair is quite a mix, the back legs & stretchers aren't Oak (Maple??), but front legs & all the other spindles in the pics are.

    Hmm, whatever it is, getting wood to match the seat won't be easy, nowadays, thanks to the devastation of North American Elms by Dutch Elm disease and Chestnuts by the Chestnut blight. I arrived in Ontario in the early 70s, in time to watch dozens of beautiful old Elms go through their death throes as the fungus had its evil way with them. The only reminder of the once-common Chestnut were scattered small saplings in the woods from residual seeds - they'd flourish for a few years until the blight found them, then pffft. Sad.......

    Cheers,
    IW

  9. #8
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    Aug 2007
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    St Georges Basin
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    953

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    I've seen the added strip in that style of chair quite often, I always thought it was manufactured that way. There is a consistency of construction and dimension across the chairs that I have seen that strongly suggests away from later additions. Often the strip is only across the back.

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by burraboy View Post
    I've seen the added strip in that style of chair quite often, I always thought it was manufactured that way. There is a consistency of construction and dimension across the chairs that I have seen that strongly suggests away from later additions. Often the strip is only across the back.
    Interesting, bb., I haven't seen this before & didn't consider it might be factory original, so your observations throw up more questions. Question to OP -do the other chairs in the set have similar inlaid sttrips?

    If it's original, what was its purpose? It could be just decorative, but the mix of woods in this chair suggest it was meant to be painted, as so many were back then (though perhaps this was an exception), in which case it wouldn't have been very visible. If it's an attempt at strengthening the seat, intuition & the obvious crack suggest to me it isn't a very good solution, although to be fair, after a hundred years of use, not forgetting its original service in the saloon, any chair is entitled to show some wear & tear!

    Btw, machinery probably took a big part in the manufacture of this chair. The US was pretty advanced with factory-made furniture by 1900 and the automatic lathe was invented 30 years before that. The legs & other spindles don't look to me like they were hand-turned, and I'd suggest the trenches for the inlaid strips could easily have been done by machine, if they are a factory original (milling machines go back to before 1820)...

    Cheers,
    IW

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