Eames Lounge Repair VITRA OR HERMAN MILLER EAMES LOUNGE AND OTTOMAN The Eames Design: Rubber Shocks require periodic inspection and replacement 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” was in part is more symbolic and a marketing decision. We see too often the dismay and grief when this expensive chairs’ back attachment fails, and the owner discovers the large community of similarly disappointed owners. 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 oxidize, harden and fail. Each rubber shock mount encases a metal plate that accepts the armrests’ screws. Only glue holds this assembly to the plywood seat and back pieces of plywood. The neoprene weakens internally from oxidation, and ultimately shears apart. 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 restore. Their suggestion is to buy a new set of unfinised plywood shells. 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- 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. Old shock mounts are irreparable, and the four pieces must be replaced when one fails. 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 restored, prior to touch-up Broken ear restoration after touch-up 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 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 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 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. 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). 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.