Our armchair, affectionately known as the “lollipop” chair, was made circa 1880. George Jakob Hunzinger (born 1835 in Tuttingen, Germany), was a progressive designer out of New York who was often influenced in his designs by machinery; their geometry and patterns of repetition in their elements. This is a Hunzinger original, a family piece, which has weathered more than a century of continuous use.
There were issues with
the mortise and tenons at
all four leg stiles, front and back.
As is often done,
and repair people had
“made do” in their repairs,
using screws and and nailing
through tenons instead of
creating a proper repair.
EXCAVATION, a Slow Strip!
As always, we begin with a deliberate slow excavation.
Excavations are often rushed by inexperienced upholsterers,
but there is so much to be gleaned from paying attention
to everything as you take apart each layer.
The chair is turned upside down: webbing is removed,
and the springs are set free to bounce!
“The underside of a chair is often neglected
because it is the least seen and therefore often taken for granted!
It’s importance, of course, is the foundation for support and comfort of the sitter, but it is also, from the standpoint of the engineer, the focal point for the distribution of load.
Springs had not been used in chairs more than a few decades
before Hunzinger built his chair and the introduction of
their buoyant properties revolutionized upholstery! The introduction of springs to upholstery frames created a stress dynamic which most designers and upholsterers now take for granted, and those stresses from lateral motion of the spring under tension impact the way a frame performs, especially if careful thought has not been taken to include bracing: the frame must withstand the stresses.
Notice how modest the depth of the seat apron is
relative to the actual height of the coil spring.
The springs are four times the height of the seat frame!
Their coiled energy was expertly compressed within the modest seat frame,
attached between basket woven jute webbing and linen lashing cord.
This technique added comfort and versatility to objects created
for both an aristocratic class and a now burgeoning “middle” economic class
who desired both grace and comfort. This chair has given 150 years of comfort
and is just now begging for attention. Now it is important to make
thoughtful repairs to this modest frame so it can withstand another century,
or more, of spring compression through daily sittings” ~Mitchell
From the top, the current show cover is removed to expose the previous
show cover, a woven coral cotton-rayon from the early 20th century.
The “second stuffing” (term used in the industry) cotton topper and hair are lifted.
The hair is carefully vacuumed through a filter.
Most of the fiber will be reused when the re-upholstery is performed.
The primary seat stuffing foundation’s flax-straw pod stitching is released,
and the fiber pod is carefully set aside for conservation.
The canvas dust membrane which covers the jute webbing is vacuumed;
we find more information about the chair’s history.
Bits of green fiber beneath tack heads and embedded in the stuffings
show at least one previous show cover.
“Modern upholsterers used inappropriately large tacks,
which are seen next to the smaller tack, and this is a common mistake. The seat frame, as well as the legs, though they look to the casual eye to be crafted from mahogany, or walnut, are actually birch which makes both joinery and tacking surfaces less robust than most hardwoods.
The rabbeted tacking margins, including the underside of the seat frame, are peppered with excessive holes and splits from over-takings.
If not properly repaired, they will in time make upholstering impossible
without causing catastrophic damage to the frame.” ~Mitchell
The last bits, the springs, are dangling from the frame.
We measure and set aside.
The frame is ready for reparation, next post….
Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 2 Frame Reparation
Written by Kate Powell ©MPF Conservation.
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