Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 1 Excavation

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The chair needed re-upholstery,
as the seat was failing.
Our clients chose a leather
similar to the original leather,
which our client remembered.

There were issues with
the mortise and tenons at
all four leg stiles, front and back.

As is often done,
previous upholsterers
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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Written by Kate Powell  ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
This entry was posted in antiques, art, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, upholstery, wooden objects and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 1 Excavation

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I always find these reports to be amazing. Great work.

    • Thank you, Dan! It is encouraging to know that others enjoy our work and having feed-back is always nice. I especially enjoy questions from readers which allows me the opportunity to interact with those who are interested in this work. Detailed questions often help me in sharpening my skills of description and require me to convey the information in a descriptive language that can be easily visualize and understand. This chair is a fun project for me and has offered up a couple challenges from a woodworking perspective because of it’s modest seat apron which has very little tolerance between tacking surfaces and dowel mortise joint connections. That said, I can imagine the scene when Hunzinger designed this chair, handed it off the the woodworking shop and then landed it on the upholsterers bench; the lead upholsterer probably scratched his head and asked, “You really want me to tack the foundation and show-cover through that tacking margin and risk splitting that rear dowel mortise?” Yikes! 🙂 More on that in a later post! Best, Mitchell

      • Dan Antion says:

        I will be concerned about tacking that close to a joint. I’m always impressed by how much information you uncover (no pun intended) as you go. I can imagine DIY types just tearing things off willy nilly.

        • Hi Dan, Sorry about not replying to your reply,I missed this one! I am a novice relative to blogs and it is one of my determinations, this year, to craft regular posts and answer questions and comments as they come.
          Yes, I too am always concerned when tacking over joinery. This particular chair has mortise and tenons so close to the tacking margins it is almost impossible to not penetrate into some of the joinery. One has to be selective relative to how many tacks or staples.
          DIY’s as well as professional upholsterers often forget to pay attention to details prior to and during excavation. They call the process, “Stripping” and it is because of this mind-set that much information is lost. I once had a spiritual teacher, of sorts, who liked to say, “A set idea is the greatest obstacle to recognizing truth”. Resistance to taking the time to glean all the facts during the excavation phase, in favor of getting on with the project in order to achieve profit, often blinds one to possibilities which might actually assist the process toward a better outcome. I run into this attitude all the time when posting, or answering questions, on general upholstery forums. Many are in such a hurry to let you know how much they know, they lose the possibility to learn something new. Ah, the human condition; what’s a fella to do? 🙂

          • Dan Antion says:

            I love these posts (series of posts) and the way you dissect these pieces. I know almost nothing about upholstery. I have a few basic tools, as I was hoping to take on a small footstool project I had seen (I think New Yankee Workshop). Maybe after I retire.

            If you’re worried about splitting, do you think you have better control over tacks than staples?

            • Dan,
              I would be happy to walk you through a future upholstery project, if you like. Considering today’s communication technology, I think it is very possible to take you through it with ease.Just let me know whenever you wish.

              There can be advantages with staples in that they make a much smaller punch into the wood, That said, removal of them, depending upon the area amd the wood species can be good or not so good. Tack brands can also be important. Sizes of tack, length and girth are important. Tack manufacturers, unfortunately, do not list girth, so one has to sample the tack to know which works best. I can tell you that a company which is widely distributed in the decorative tack field, Dads, has terrible upholstery tacks. They are powder coated, rater than blued steel, their shanks are way too wide and they are not very sharp. On the other hand Gurney Tacks are decent and more similar to what I saw earlier in my career. My British colleague uses Lion Brand tacks and says that they produce a “bayonet” style tack with is much more thin and sharp. I have yet to try these but think I will order some next time I order from the UK.

              After four decades in this business i have come to the conclusion that an upholsterer should just get used to tacking margin reparation as part of the actual job. Fact is, any time one removes tacks, or staple, a bit of the surface substrate is damaged and of course we have the ubiquitous holes from the shanks. Upholsterers are afraid to apply the method which I have promoted because it takes so much time. So, they push it down the road for the next “guy” and so on it goes until the frame is depleted and they begin to tack into the decorative surfaces. But I digress!
              Yes, in may ways I think I do have better control over tacks, rather than staples. Although the tack splits a larger hole than a staple, its removal generally takes less material out of the surface (especially if one is being conscious and skillful while using ripping chisel and mallet). Digging into the surface substrate in order to get under the staple in order to pull can do a great deal of damage.

              That said, there are items when I am grateful for staples and just used some the other day on that Hunzinger spindle chair. Turned out, because of the way i had to repair the frame tenons (from the upper spindles into the base),I had to anchor those tenons from the interior of the seat frame, penetrating the tenon through the interior screw blocks, with screws. That meant I had to recreate the traditional seat form with the spindle back already on (it was originally created with the inside back and arms off so that the upholsterer could easily gain access to the seat tacking margins. Once the back was on I no longer could easily reach those seat tacking lines along the sides (inside arms) with a tack hammer. Staples saved the day, in this case, especially shooting staples through a long nosed gun. I did not have the same problem with the foundational materials and spring ties, because I set internal infrastructure (additional interior tacking margins) into the interior seat aprons. So i could easily tack that part, but woe unto me when it came to the show-cover (leather); yikes! Staples it was and the next guy inherits that part sometime next century. 🙂

              Kate is going to be putting up the conservation/restoration process on this chair sometime soon. That should be fun to watch! I’ll keep you posted. Best, MRP

  2. Pingback: Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 2 Frame Reparation | MPF Conservation

  3. Pingback: Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 3 Finish | MPF Conservation

  4. Pingback: Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 4 Upholstery | MPF Conservation

Leave a Reply