Almost eight months ago we had decided to build a new home. I really wanted a set of Eames shell chairs and a Eero Saarinen dining table, with that idea the hunt began. When I got thinking about the total price I cringed a little so I resorted to a Burke table. My area does not really offer the opportunity to grab these very cheap. eBay and Etsy were the places I found my shells. Some were in great shape and as you can see the two blue ones were pretty bad. With out reinventing the wheel I read up on the restoration processes via Chairfag. I pretty much followed most of the steps but added a few of my own. Make the jump to read the steps I took and see the end results.
These two blue shells were in pretty bad shape. They were pretty dirty and very faded.
First step was to remove the old shock mounts. Some of the mounts were in OK shape but I decided if I was going to replace some, I would replace them all. A tip here would be NOT to pry up on the mount once you have the tool under the mount. If you pry up you could remove more fiberglass than you want to. The white shell was a perfect example, the old glue really held on to the fibers. Just continue to tap around the mount until you are all the way through.
Once you have removed the mounts, you have to now sand the remaining glue from the shell. I used a hand held sander and some medium grit sandpaper. While I sanded, I kept the area wet using a spray bottle and just a little dish soap. Always use something to cover your mouth and nose, You do not want to be breathing dust and fiberglass.
After the glue was removed I then used a finer grit to finish up the area. Next I sprayed down the shells to get rid of any dust that had been left behind. I let them air dry for a day before the next step.
Finding replacement shock mounts was easy. I just went back to Special K Products. I used their shock mounts for a couple of DCM chairs that I restored. You can also get the two part epoxy from them. I have to say that they worked perfectly, two for two from these guys!
To mark placement of the shock mounts, I attached the mounts to the base and then placed the base on the flat spots where the mounts are supposed to go. I then used a pencil and traced the mounts leaving an exact guide were to apply the epoxy and the mount.
I mixed the two part epoxy, which is quick set and placed just enough so when the mount is pressed to the shell a little presses out around the edges of the mount. After you have set the base on the shell and pressed, you will need to hold it in place for a few minutes until the epoxy is firm enough to unscrew the bolts and remove the base. You could also just glue these on one by one now that you have the exact location. Zach, from chairfag has a better method but I did not have the old base part that he used.
Now that all of the mounts were on, the chairs needed to be cleaned and sanded. I read somewhere that OxiClean worked good on embedded dirt. I found a gel spray from OxiClean, I first prayed down the chair and then sprayed the chair with the gel and let it sit for a few minutes. I then used a fine sanding block and started to work the gel into the chair. I have to say that the combination of sanding and the OxiClean gel worked amazing, it really cleaned up the two blue chairs quite nice. On the other shells I just used a scrub sponge. After I was satisfied I rinsed them off really well and let them air dry for a couple of days. Make sure you wear a mask and keep the area wet during this process.
The next step is applying the Penetrol and in the UK it is called Owatrol. It was pretty easy to put on. Wear gloves and use a lint free rag. Soak the rag and apply it to the shell. Pay attention to the surface and whether you are putting too much on, you will be able to see pooling or over glossy areas. I used a dabbing/rubbing technique for the application. Apply to the backside then screw the base on, next apply to the front side. I did not apply it to the white shell as it may turn yellow over time. I actually ended up putting 3 coats on the blue shells, one heavy coat and two lighter coats to even out the shine. This is an oil based product so it will need a few days to cure before you go sitting on them.
The next challenge was to find some basses. My first love is the walnut dowel base but I had mentally written these off due to cost. I did a little research and came across a company called Modern Conscience. They offer the whole range of reproduction basses at some pretty good prices. All of their basses are made in the US. I took the plunge and ordered 6 bases. At first inspection the quality was there. The walnut was beautiful with a great wood grain. My day time job has me working as creative director for a manufacturer and we see a lot of finishes, coatings, nuts and bolts. I can honestly say that even the hardware for these bases are quality.
These last few images are of the final chairs done and assembled with the new bases. I am pretty pleased with how these turned out and they look great under my Burke table. Now to find something to put in the middle of the table!