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EAMES CHAIR LOUNGE RESTORATION WITH 15 YEAR WARRANTY ON THE SHOCKS, BROKEN BACK RESTORATION, AND ANYTHING BREAKING AS A RESULT OF SHOCK FAILURE - UNIQUE IN THE RESTORATION INDUSTRY. REUPHOLSTERY OF LOUNGE WITH VINTAGE STYLE LEATHER


VITRA OR HERMAN MILLER EAMES LOUNGE AND OTTOMAN

The Eames Design: A Legacy of Shock Mount Maintenance Or Failure

Herman Miller Lounge Repairs Lounge with detached shock mounts, back detached

Herman Miller Eames Lounge Repairs          
Lounge Chair with detached shock mounts, back detached


Designers Charles and Ray Eames' Lounge Chair has been manufactured by licensees Herman Miller and Vitra, and imitated for decades by numerous other manufacturers. In attaching the back to the base, Eames avoided the use of bolts, choosing to mate the plywood pieces by gluing a rubber "shock mount" between them. The term "shock mount" is more symbolic and a marketing decision, than descriptive of its function. The real shock is when this expensive chairs' attachment fails, and the owner finds what a large community of similarly disappointed owners they can commiserate with. Herman Miller and Vitra never offered more than a 3 1/2 year warranty on the shock mounts, contrasting with 15 year warranties on other products of the Eames's.





Sooner or later, the shock mounts will fail. Each rubber shock mount encases a metal plate that accepts the armrests' screws. But only glue holds this assembly to the wood bottom and back pieces of wood, and glue does not bond metal or rubber to wood for very long. They simply behave too differently. Or the neoprene gets old and oxidizes, and breaks up or weakens internally. This behavior of rubber is familiar to anyone with old upholstered furniture or an old car seat- the rubber gets brittle and powdery, and nothing can be glued to it. When the bond of the shock mount separates, the sitter can fall backward and lands with their back on the floor. This chair failure causes terrible damage to the chair. If the sitter falls backward when the mount separates, the swinging away of the back fractures the back shell or tears it away from the mount on the other side. This damage to the plywood neither Herman Miller nor Vitra can be restored. Their suggestion is to buy a new set of plywood shells, and get someone local to finish it. This is a terrible disappointment if you have a family heirloom or have grown fond of the chair, or have a vintage Brazilian Rosewood chair worth twice as much as a new chair.





We can restore such damage almost invisibly. But it requires intensive efforts by our European craftsmen. We rebuild the plywood from the inside out, saving the outer layer of the veneer to retain the original flitch veneer pattern of the lounge chair repair. There can remain a hairline scar where the plywood sheared apart.



Our proprietary solution to the shock mount defect is warrantied for 15 years, and we are the only company to include warranty against breakage of the back shell resulting from a failure of any of the four shock mounts we replace during that period. In contrast, neither Herman Miller nor Vitra has ever warrantied the shock mounts or anything else on a new Lounge chair for more than 3-1/2 years, today for only 3 years. From our observation of thousands of shock mount failures we do not think that the metal-and-polyurethane mounts used today hold as long as the older original neoprene shock mounts did.



Impending Lounge catastrophe? What to watch for:


To prevent a catastrophic failure of the shock mounts, and breaking of the lower back shell, an owner must be vigilant, and observe any signs in deterioration of the shocks:


  • •  If the chair back is sagging, the shock mounts are breaking, and should be replaced immediately. No one should sit in the chair.



  • •  If the chair back is stiffening and losing its spring, the mounts should be replaced.





Shock Mount Fragility - Replace, or risk breakage of plywood Lounge chair lower back shell-



Joints welded, made of heavy guage steel Iron windows are much stronger and secure than windows made of any other material used by manufacturers


Lounge broken ear, by a repaired lower back shell
Eames chair repair lower shell ear detail


In the Herman Miller Lounge Chair 670, the armrests attach the back wood piece to the wood seat using the armrests. Each armrest is composed of a steel plate covered with a leather pad. The armrests are screwed to what look like "rubber blocks," or "shock mounts." Technically, they are neoprene (in newer production, polyurethane) and steel sandwiches. These four shock mounts are glued to the inside wood veneer of the back shell, and to the seat shell. The shock mounts have had varied construction over the years with a major overhaul around 2000, but the newer design is no better, and perhaps weaker than the original design.


The theory behind the shock mount construction is that it allows the backrest and headrest to flex when someone sits in the chair. Actually, the shock mounts contribute very little (if anything) to the flex. They are, after all very rigid material on a steel core. It's the angle of the wooden "wings" (aka "tabs" or "ears") and the thin highly flexible plywood that allows overwhelmingly greater flexing.


The manufacturer's shock mounts are weak design points, and should be replaced.


Old shock mounts are irreparable, and the four pieces must be replaced when one fails. As they are defective from the start, we will not warranty, nor work on any Eames Lounge chair's shock mounts without replacing all of the shock mounts. We could use the neoprene/steel threaded-plate sandwich design that Herman Miller used to use, or the newer generations of polyurethane with metal embedded plate, but all of these designs are flawed, because (in lay terms) relying on rubber to be a structural joint, and gluing to attach rubber to wood or metal is a flawed concept.



Olek's superior shock mount design allows us to offer a 15-year warranty

Our solution? Cement wood to wood - a concept proven over centuries of use. We fabricate ebonized solid beech wood plates with the same radiused shape and sectional profile as the Herman Miller shock mounts. We drill holes into the plates, to contain threaded steel flanges. To replicate the original flexibility, we surround the flanges with neoprene compressible bushings


This assembly provides the shock mount flexibility and security, without its fallibility. We have repaired numerous Eames lounge chairs over the past fifteen years with this proprietary shock mount design, and none have ever failed.




How Olek Lejbzon & Co. saves the outer veneer and rebuilds the lower back shell -

When the back comes loose and swing away under the occupants' weight, it tears away from the lower plywood shell on the opposite side. In repair, our objective is to restore the original appearance, including conserving the flitch pattern (grain) of the exterior veneer.


Olek uses the shell's original outer veneer. We remove it from the damaged plywood. In the finished repair, you will see a hairline joint at the break, visible upon close inspection.




 

Examples of Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair Broken Ear Repairs performed by Olek Lejbzon & Co.

Chair #1:

Rosewood veneer inlays necessary after broken ear repair, prior to touch-up Broken ear repair after touch-up

Rosewood veneer inlays necessary after broken ear restored, prior to touch-up
Broken ear restoration after touch-up


Another angle of the veneer repair after touch-up Inside of the lounge has rosewood inlay as well, not carefully matched or touched up (cushions will cover)

Another angle of the veneer repair after touch-up
Inside of the chair has rosewood inlay as well, not carefully matched or touched up (cushions will cover)


Chair #2:

Broken ear repair after inlay at top Broken ear after repair and touch-up

Broken ear repair after inlay at top
Broken ear after repair and touch-up


Inside veneer inlay Broken ear repair during plywood replacement

Inside veneer inlay
Broken ear repair during plywood replacement


Chair #3:

Broken ear after repair, with veneer inlay on interior (not intended to match) Broken ear after repair, prior to exterior veneer inlay to replace missing veneer

Broken ear after repair, with veneer inlay on interior (not intended to match)
Broken ear after repair, prior to exterior veneer inlay to replace missing veneer


Highly bleached rosewood required use of lighter veneer Broken ear repair, during touch-up of inlays

Highly bleached rosewood required use of lighter veneer, for artistic touch-up to infill grain pattern. Rosewood does not come as light as the bleached chair, so a lighter color veneer was inlaid, and touched-up to match.

Broken ear repair, during touch-up of inlays


Broken ear repair after touch-up of missing veneer

Broken ear restored after touch-up of missing veneer.

 



How to avoid catastrophic failure of the Eames Lounge Chair 670

In chairs that have not failed yet, we recommend replacement of the shock mounts immediately. If you don't mind gambling and delay replacement, by all means change them -- certainly as soon as you notice a decline in the chair flexibility, or stiffening up. This stiffening signals that the neoprene is oxidizing, and will soon break. If the back sags, that indicates that the shock mount has already partially failed. DO NOT SIT IN AN LOUNGE CHAIR IF THE BACK IS SAGGING BELOW ITS ORIGINAL POSITION. The shock mounts will fail completely shortly after. Don't ever attempt re-gluing an old intact or broken shock mount.




BEWARE- Unskilled repair can damage the plywood shells

This includes repairs by the manufacturer

Herman Miller replaced these shock mounts, and broke three to four layers of veneer on each ear



Inexpert replacement of the shock mounts can also lead to critical damage of the seat and back shells. Even restoration facilities that do this job regularly have been known to do it poorly. We have seen examples of restoration by the manufacturer Herman Miller, where the plywood of the seat or back was broken. And, of course, any split in the plywood is catastrophic in itself and leads to future failures. The thin plywood design leaves no room for weakness without consequences. Brutish force to remove shock mounts -- can rip out plywood when the shock mount holds tighter than the layers of the plywood. In this case the plywood will rip out with the plywood still attached to the shock. Applying an extra heap of epoxy does not retore the damage done in any way, only splicing in new plywood layer by layer can restore the chair to original strength. The damage shown above is consistent with hydraulic removal of the mounts.  

 

In either case, the manufacturer's policies are that they will not restore subsequent damage to the plywood when they damage the chair during shock mount replacement.

 

In contrast, Olek's skilled cabinetmakers have the proper education, training, experience, and attitude. In our hands, such reckless damage has never occurred. Consider carefully who you trust your Eames Lounge chairs to. A "warranty" of even the 12 months that Herman Miller offers for the shocks, won"t help repair such damage to your chair.

Eames lounge chair broken ear Repaired lounge seat

Lounge broken ear, by a repaired lower back shell

Repaired Eames chair lower shell ear detail



The Eames Lounge Chair 670 holds the back to the seat using the armrests which are composed of steel angles, covered with leather pads. The armrests/steel angles are screwed to neoprene (newer production polyurethane) and steel sandwiches, or "shock mounts". These four shock mounts are glued to the inside wood veneer of the back shell, and to the seat shell. This type of construction allows the backrest and headrest to flex when someone sits in the chair. The shock mounts are weak design points, and should be replaced regularly. Offered with a 3  year warranty by Herman Miller in recognition of the limitation of the shock mount design, failure of the shock mount can be catastrophic to the chair. When a shock mount loosens up, the back can swing away under the occupants’  force as they tumble to the floor, and snap off the lower plywood shell on the side opposite the loose shock mount.

 

Shock mounts separate because they are old and oxidizing, losing elasticity, and don't have the internal strength to hold together any longer, or because of epoxy glue failure. Old shock mounts  are irreparable, and the four pieces must be replaced. We could use the neoprene/steel threaded plate sandwich design that Herman Miller used to use, or the newer generations of polyurethane with metal embedded plate, but  all of these designs are flawed. Olek has a superior shock mount design that is stable enough  to offer a 15 year warranty. By using ebonized solid beech wood plates with the same radiused shape and sectional profile as the Herman Miller shock mounts, with holes drilled into the plates, into which threaded threaded flanges are inserted, with  neoprene bushings around the threaded flanges, Olek provides the shock mount flexibility, without its fallibility. We have repaired numerous Eames lounge chairs over the past fifteen years with our proprietary shock mount design, and have not had any failures. 


You can send the lower back shell and the seat shell to us disassembled in a box, and we will restore and ship disassembled, for you to reassemble (simple screws).

 



Stickley Arts & Crafts Rocker, with broken rocker and back before repair Stickley Rocker- Arts & Crafts Period with Broken Back


Olek Lejbzon & Co. can save the outer veneer of broken lower back shells from the Lounge 670, and rebuild the lower back shell –

 


When a shock mount loosens up, the back can swing away under the occupants’  force as they tumble to the floor, and snap off the lower plywood shell on the side opposite the loose shock mount.

 


Olek restores the damaged lower back shell with the original outer veneer of the shell, preserving the flitch pattern of the outer veneer.  A hairline is visible at the break of the outer veneer, upon close inspection. The best means of preventing this is to replace the shock mounts regularly, or certainly without delay if the chair flexibility starts to decline, or stiffen up. This stiffening signals that the neoprene is oxidizing, and will soon break. If the back is sagging, then that indicates that the shock mount has partially failed. DO NOT SIT IN AN EAMES LOUNGE CHAIR IF THE BACK IS SAGGING BELOW ITS ORIGINAL POSITION. The shock mounts will fail completely shortly after.