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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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

Shock mounts mounted with epoxy.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

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.

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish

eames fiberglass chair restore herman miller refinish


 


  • Chris

    You were lucky! I have the same color shells, except mine have all of the different mounting holes predrilled into the shell, seven holes in total. Do you think that epoxy would look okay without the shock mount behind it? I also really like the powder-coated base. I will have to keep that in mind if I ever get a tulip side table.

  • Tyler

    Chris it might be hard to tell, you could always get some black clay or something similar and put it in the holes to see how it looks.

  • http://mid2mod.blogspot.com Dana@Mid2Mod

    You did an amazing job. If I’d had any idea the shell could look that good after cleaning off the upholstery and glue, I wouldn’t have sold mine.

  • Amy R

    I like the glossy finish. I still want that bar cart in the background….

  • http://javierchavira.com Javier

    They turned out fantastic! I need to get me some of that Goof Off! thanks for this post!

  • MIke

    I’ve have pulled the seat covers off a few Eames Shells and have been lucky and unlucky. I had adhesives that came off like rubber cement and some nasty stuff that was like super hard mastic. Nothing seamed to get the mastic style adhesive off except a grinder with a flap sanding disc.

    I used Jasco adhesive remover that was marked as safe for fiberglass. (I can no longer find this remover). I’ve tried regular Goof Off with no luck. I’m going to look for the PRO STRENGTH, you’ve used.

    Thank you for sharing!!

  • Carlos Orraca

    They turned out extremely nice. I’m planning to do the same to my upholstery shells and I’m wondering what is the best way to remove the metal grommets from the fiberglass chair without damaging it??
    Thank you

  • Tyler

    Carlos, the metal grommets came right out almost as if they were loose. Just take your time and try and slowly work them out.

  • Kylee Cannon

    Hi Tyler. Love Plastolux, so thanks for the great site. Recently I followed your guide to restore two upholstered shells, and now they look beautiful. But I have a question on how to “shine” up the bases. Do you have any experience or information on how to restore aluminum contract bases?

  • Plastolux

    Kylee, thanks for the kind words. I actually did have these bases looking pretty shiny but I had access to free powder coating so that is why they are white. Just remember they are aluminum (you already knew that). I would find a polish brush you can put in a drill. Find some metal polish that will work for aluminum and follow the instructions. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help, just don’t try doing this by hand.

  • Kylee Cannon

    Good suggestions. Really. (I would have done it by hand.) Using the drill… much better.


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