Repairing an Eames Chair

I got a call last week from a distraught family friend:  their much-loved, much-used Eames Chair had given out.  Apparently, the back had somehow disconnected from the seat.  I was delighted and honored to have a shot at fixing this cherished fixture of their home.  Fortunately, with Eames Chairs (technically, "Eames Lounge 670"), this problem is not so much an "if" as a "when,"  and the repair is relatively straightforward.  

(Disclaimer:  This chair has been around for the better part of a century.  It is a classic - truly an American icon of design, and better still, simply a great piece of furniture.  You could fill a library, or at least a reasonably-sized basement, with the tomes that have been written about both it and its creators, Charles and Ray Eames.  By almost any measure, Eames Chairs, especially older models, are collector's items.  Mint-condition, early editions of the chair continue to sell for many thousands more than the asking price price of a new one. That said, I am pretty sure that the repair I am describing below, at least from a high-end furniture conservation standpoint, is completely wrong.  Conservators, to their credit, would never replace old parts with new, and would make absolutely sure that their repairs are 100% reversible.  The downside, however, is that in order to prevent any future damage to the piece, the piece can no longer be used under any kind of normal circumstances.  (Imagine the record collector who refuses to play his or her records for fear of damaging them.)  I am sure that there is a conservation-correct, Herman Miller-approved way to fix this chair.  However, that is not the focus here.  The focus on this chair, which has been in continual use for thirty years, is to get it back in working order and useable for another thirty.  Sorry, I am getting kind of sidetracked here.  Point is, this is one way to fix this chair, but not by any means, *the* way to fix this chair.  Consider yourself duly disclaimed.)

(Kind of hard to tell from this photo, but the entire back assembly is slumped sadly to one side.)Detail of one of the failed "shock mounts" used to attach the arm and back assembly to the seat shell.From what I am told, it is not so much the glue that fails in this situation, but the rubber in the mount itself that starts to deteriorate.  Here you can see where the shock mount in question has simply popped off.


Sometimes the mounts pop right off whenever they feel like it.  Other times they hang on like a loose tooth - wiggling and stubborn.  Above, the original mount, along with a new, metal-backed mount.  Hopefully, the metal-faced mount won't deteriorate in the coming decades.

Above, the plywood shell where the new mount will be re-mounted.  All the old glue and leftover rubber bits had to be scraped off to ensure a long-lasting,secure connection.  Sadly, some of the veneer came away with the old mount.


Gluing the new mount to the shell with high-grade structural adhesive.  The original locations of the mounts were scribed onto the seat before removal, ensuring that the new ones go back in exactly the right place.


After the mounts have been allowed to set for a day or so, the arm brackets, and with them, the back assembly, can be reattached.  It will be good to get this chair back to its home.