Perfect Deterioraton

IMG_5863This past spring I found an original Shaker #7 rocker dating from the late 1800’s. These chairs are really not what you would call rare, they seem to turn up pretty often. This one is what is usually referred to as a production chair, made at the Mt. Lebanon, NY. Shaker chair factory.

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I was thrilled to get this chair not so much because it was in great condition, it wasn’t, but because the hide glue holding it together had probably given up around the time Truman was president. The upholstered seat that had replaced the original tape one at some point in the chairs life was all that was holding it together. I had been hoping to find just such a chair that I could disassemble without damaging and make patterns from.

I labeled each part’s location to avoid any confusion when it came time for reassembly.

After the seat and the four screws attaching the rockers were removed, a few mallet taps here and there were all that was needed to get the chair’s 25 parts separated.IMG_5885

Once the chair was apart, I was able to make perfect patterns from the arms, rockers and back slats.
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I also made full sized patterns of the posts with part sizes and joinery locations.
One neat thing I found was that apparently the back slats had been fitted individually to there mortises. Each one had their location written in pencil on the ends.

I had to make two replacement parts for the chair, one seat rung was broken with an old repair and I also turned a new mushroom cap to replace a missing one. I then re-glued all the joints with fresh hide glue and assembled the chair. The finish was badly dried out varnish, I lightly cleaned it with an ultra fine Scotch-brite pad and then wiped on a coat of oil. After the oil dried, a couple of coats of wax gave the old finish a nice sheen. Last but not least, a new tape seat to replace the missing original.


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Ready to rock!

-Will Myers

16 thoughts on “Perfect Deterioraton

    1. To build new chairs! If you mean am I going to sell them, I don’t have any plans to. Don’t know if there would be enough interest to make getting them printed worthwhile.


      1. Hey, any chance you would be willing to scan and make them available for download? It would be a great chance to make this history more tangible to everyone!


  1. Will, That is a really nice looking restoration, and a great idea making templates from the disassembled parts. Good find too.


  2. How have the rockers held up over the years? You mentioned screws which hinted that they had been replaced.


    1. The rockers and screws were original to the chair. The chairs from this era all had screws thru the posts to attach the rockers. The rockers are only 3/8″ thick hard maple, always amazes me they survive so well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s what I call a detailed renovation. Great job. Why do you use scribes to trace the original parts instead of the pencil alone?



    1. The edges of the arms are rounded, the tracing tool is more accurate than freehand with a pencil. It is also just easier with he tool.


  4. Will, I think that there would be almost as much interest in a construction article and classes/a video to make it as there is for the Shaker candle stand. The No. 7 chair is an absolute classic of American furniture.
    There is currently a significant amount of interest in Shaker projects. Just last month both PW and FW featured articles on building a Shaker settle.


  5. I’ve loved the Shaker chairs for many years. They are so simple, strong, and comfortable. Very nice restoration.


  6. Will, I’m curious if you could tell anything about the wood and how it was processed. Was it riven or just saw cut?
    Steam bent or sawed? Any thing else the wood tells you?


    1. As far as I know all the production chairs were from sawn stock, at the very end they were buying dowels for posts and rung material.


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