My Eames upholstered shell chair restore. I have had these two yellow Eames fiberglass chairs by Herman Miller in my garage for over two years, it was time to do something with them. I did a lot of research about removing the foam and glue that was under the naugahyde. It seamed like there was a lot of mixed results when people attempted this, some said it was easy and others were reduced to using grinders and sanders to remove the old foam and glue from the fiberglass shell. I figured it was my turn to give it a try. click “READ MORE” to find out how I did.
I first started by taking the covers off, mine were on there pretty good. I turned them upside down and pried the black binding off the lip of the chair making sure not to gouge the fiberglass. After I got the covers off I removed as much of the foam as I could by hand. If you go slow and and take it off like you would a sticker that you don’t want to leave behind any residue you get more of the foam off. In this picture you can see on the left chair I started to remove some of the glue by hand, that got old really quick.
I knew I had to use something to help this process along or I would certainly go crazy. I went to my local big box store and looked around for something that would remove glue or anything tacky. The only product that looked like it may work was Goof Off, so I bought a bottle.
I poured it from the top so that the Goof Off would run down in-between the fiberglass and the foam. On a side note, make sure to have proper ventilation or do this outside, Goof Off has a pretty strong smell, you don’t want to be breathing it. Another tip is to let the shells sit outside and get hot, I was fortune to be doing this on a three digit day. The Goof Off started to work instantly, on 65%-75% of the chair the foam lifted away from the fiberglass like it had never been glued and came right off. There were some more stubborn parts that I had to rub the last of the glue off, I wore some leather gloves that were not a smooth leather. I used one 16 oz can for each chair, it may be cheaper to by one bigger can.
Here they are all cleaned and free of the foam and glue. I would say in total it took me just over two hours to do both chairs.
The next item to address were the holes in the fiberglass where the base attached. I have seen people leave the metal grommets and just make a cushion for the chair and I didn’t want to do either. I had the idea to let the epoxy come up through the hole and create a small black dot. Because my shells were dark gray I figure it would look better than a metal grommet.
I knew I had to make some sort of dam so that the epoxy would not spill out into the seat. You can see here I did a little pre test to see what epoxy would not stick to. The winner was the smooth side of packing tape, it came right off leaving a smooth surface.
To make the dam for the holes I cut out a small circle of packing tape slightly bigger that the hole in the fiberglass. I turned the small circle of packing tape upside down or smooth side down, then secured it with another piece of tape sticky side down.
Now it was time to put the shock mounts on. This chair originally did not come with them so I went to my trusted source for shock mounts, Special K Products. I have used their products in the past and have been very pleased with the quality. You can see a couple of other Eames restore projects HERE and HERE. I started by sanding the area where the mounts will be glued.
I put the shock mounts on the chair base and positioned them over the holes and flat spot on the chair. I outlined the shock mounts in pencil so I would know where to mount them. I have seen other mount all four shocks together with the base but I decided I didn’t want to go that route. I wanted a better feeling of pressure and how much epoxy I was forcing up through the hole.
Shock mounts mounted with epoxy.
Here is what the seat side looked like when I took the packing tape dams off. Not bad! I can handle looking at 4 small black spots. I did sand them a little after they dried to get them completely flush with the fiberglass before I applied the Penetrol. The shock mounts from Special K come with some black pigment powder used to color your epoxy, I would love to see some one try and color match a color other than gray or black, I am betting you could get close. I won’t go into the Penetrol, you can review it HERE.
I had these bases powder coated some time ago as I was planning on making a bench out of them but plans changed on that one. As you can see the chairs came out really glossy, maybe to glossy, it was only one coat of Penetrol. I don’t know if I will hit them with some steel wool or not, I think I will live with them glossy for while.