Kicking off my new website with the story of my latest in process restoration. I acquired a pair of 40s era Dunbar for Modern dining chairs in mahogany, with caned backrests and upholstered seats. In perfect Edward Wormley style, they are a fusion of modern lines and traditional styling. They are the most generous seat of any mid century chair that has crossed my path yet. 70 years old and still as solid as a rock. All of the issues have been cosmetic. I decided I was going for it. After consulting with my local upholsterer, I decided I was going to attempt cleaning the upholstery and turning over to him for foam and cane installation. I then attempted to clean the upholstery and realized it was in sadder shape than I thought. The foam had totally degraded, but the fabric was not far behind. I could totally see the fibers coming apart as I scrubbed. I disassembled the seats.
I got to work removing the old upholstery and was thrilled to see the details of the seat. The construction was 1 and 1/2 (possibly thicker) foam on the seat covered with a muslin liner, covered with batting, covered with upholstery. 13 buttons on each seat were threaded through the whole she bang and through a drilled whole in the board. Underneath, there was a system of tacked strings, where the buttons were hand tied. I left the whole system in tact and plan to tie the new buttons up like the originals! There is piping on the top and bottom of the seat upholstery, but it does not look too complicated. I decided that with my mother helping, this would not be a bad job. She is a whiz at the sewing machine and with patterning so I know I have the right gal for the job.
On to the Wood.
I work in a shop full of woodworkers, so when I have questions on how to proceed, I usually take my projects in to run my options through with my friends. I spent a few hours in the finishing room after work cleaning and doing some minor touch ups to the wood. It was decided that I could fill some flaws and I got the wax fill stick filling lesson. It went well. Matt also determined that the original finish was shellac. The good news is that after my touch ups, I could apply a few coats of spray lacquer and save the original finish and patina! Next, I had to deal with removing the old broken cane, replace, then spray my lacquer.
The arrangement for the cane was I had to source my own supplies, and the upholsterer would install. I watched a few youtube videos and decided I was totally game for the removal. I ordered a $40 steam cleaner and got to work steaming the spline. It did not take long for the glue to loosen and out came the old cane. I got them both removed in a jiffy. I found a local basket and cane supply store, The Country Seat and set out to find my supplies. They were super helpful as I took the chair and samples of the old spline and cane. I was hooked up with glue, wood spikes and tips. I got this!
My first attempt at replacing sheet cane was awesome! I didn't even swear! I watched the video and got right to work. Soaked the cane sheet while I got the other supplies ready, found and emptied a work bench in my garage and planned my attack. I worked the now pliable cane sheet into the track with the wood spikes, starting in the centers and working out to the sides. Once I got the tracks filled, I put the spline in to soak. After about 20 min, I pulled it out and doubled checked the track that it fit and planned my attack with the glue. Once I was convinced that all was going to fit. I started putting the glue in the track, inserting the spline and hammering in with a rubber mallet. I worked my way around making sure I mitered the ends for a smooth butt where they met. Everything worked like it should and I was very pleased! I would definitely take on another sheet cane project in the future!
I let everything dry and put my lacquer coats on. The wood is done. Next up will be the upholstery. I have to wait a week to get started as my mother is in charge of the Bible School program at our church next week and forbid me to convince her to start the project. Next stop….Granny and her sewing sweat shop!
LISTING IS UP. I will reserve one or both of these chairs for serious buyers. Please message me to put the listing on hold for you!