Friday, May 14, 2010

Dissection of This Chair

I found this great old office chair at Goodwill yesterday for $10 (it had a coarse gray upholstered seat and back which I immediately disassembled upon getting home). It's probably 1950's or 1960's, made back when things had metal parts instead of the black plastic prevalent now. I turned over all the chairs that had swivel bases and examined their parts for aesthetic appeal and for whether they'd suit my project, and this one won hands down. The modern office chairs have very large, clunky mechanisms where the support meets the seat that handle raising and lowering the seat, tilting the chair back and swiveling all in one. They're bulky, ugly, have arms projecting on all sides, and are made of unattractive metal or plastic meant to be unseen, like the black-clad stage hands in a play - although they do the job well. I liked this chair because of the simplicity of its mechanisms, because I'm a sucker for anything that's cast metal (this is brass), and because the finish is brushed stainless. And who doesn't love brushed stainless? Am I right?

The height of the seat is raised and lowered by turning the bottom disc, through which the threaded post moves. The disc is attached to the base with the legs and casters. There is a catch (the little nub in the middle of the unthreaded track on the post) that serves as a barrier for both this mechanism and the disc above, which sets a height for the chair back to brace against. The top disc also threads on the post, but it moves up and down independent of anything else.

The disc can be lowered.

And then the chair back.

The seat mounts on 2 steel strips that bolt or screw to its underside and then slide back and forth on the base to determine how far forward or back you want to sit in relation to the chair back (I don't think I've ever used a modern chair that does this, but maybe I just couldn't figure out their inner workings). There doesn't seem to be any guard to keep the seat from sliding off the base, but there is a simple set screw (with the enlarged knob handle) that braces against the seat bottom to keep it from self-adjusting.

The last mechanism is a simple tilt built into where the chair base secures to the back that responds to the angle at which you lean within a small range of motion.

I think re-using this old chair base for what God intended it to be is going to be a lot easier than trying to hack something together from plumbing parts and old pipe and whatever else I can find at the hardware store. What I really need is either a forge and machine shop or a hardware store that stocks all the weird and over-specialized bits of hardware that no one would ever have any reason to use outside of an industrial production setting. It would be entirely unprofitable, but what a cool place to go and poke around and try to figure out what things do. It would have to be bulging at the seams, poorly lit, with tight, claustrophobic spaces - basically an even more convoluted annex of Hardwick's. If you ever find a place like this, please let me know.

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