Below is a step by step guide on how to reupholster and repair Danish modern chairs. Please let me know if you have questions on any of the steps.
Clean area to work
Watco Danish Oil
Vinyl - 3 yd for 4 chairs
Black fabric for under the seats - 3 yd
1/2" thick foam - 2 1/2 yd
3M Super 77
Felt feet to protect floors
How To Reupholster and Repair Danish Modern Chairs:
Step 1- Assemble all materials and prepare a large enough area to work in. An area will be needed to clean the chairs and another area to lay out the fabric and foam. My studio has a ceramic tile floor. While it is not the prettiest, it allows me to get the floor wet and to then mop it up or vacuum easily. As you start to disassemble the chairs, you will have a mess as the old foam crumbles and the fabric starts to shed. If you don't have much room inside, a couple of these steps can be done outside, weather permitting.
Step 2- Disassemble the chairs. Take photos or notes while you are disassembling. Everyone always thinks they will remember how they took something apart, but they never do! It will make your life a lot easier if you document your process.
With these chairs, you need to remove the wooden buttons to get to the screws that hold the chair together. The buttons will pop out if you place a Scribe tool in the corner and pry them out. Sometimes, you will have to sacrifice one that splits. They can also be repaired with glue, as they are just cosmetic. Put all your screws, buttons, and parts together with each chair. Label each chair and each part to that chair. This is very important. Wood can get tired and cranky when its old. Most likely you will not be able to interchange parts from different chairs and you will be just as tired and cranky if you have to try to make them fit.
Step 3- Clean the teak wood. Depending on the condition of the chairs you are working with, you may be able to skip this step. As I mentioned, the chairs I was working with had a layer of grime on them from cigarettes. I could run my thumb nail along the surface and scrape a black coat of filth off. Gross. Using hot water with a bit of Murphy's Oil, scrub the chairs with Scotchbrite. Change the water often. If you can get away with only using a rag, try to. It took a long time to remove all the dirt. Allow the chairs to thoroughly dry.
Step 4- Examine the wood for any cracks, splits, and damage. If the chairs are perfect, skip this step. Because teak is an oily wood, regular wood glue will not work for repairs. Gorilla Glue will need to be used. One of the chairs had a split on the side member. I dampened the wood and shoved the Gorilla Glue into the split. I then clamped two scrap pieces of wood on each side to hold the repaired piece in shape. I let it sit overnight for the best results. When taking the assembly apart, carefully use a chisel to scrape any glue that has oozed out of the crack and onto the surface.
Step 5- Sand the entire surface of the chairs with 220 sandpaper. Teak wood can dry out overtime and needs to have oil reapplied. Sanding the surface will ensure that there is no residue or foreign material on the wood. By creating an even surface, the oil will absorb nicely.
Step 6- Apply the Danish Oil or Teak Oil. Using a clean dry rag, follow the instructions on the back of the Watco Danish Oil can. I like to use the Danish Oil Natural, but feel free to use the Teak Oil. There isn't much of a difference between the two types. Between coats, let the wood dry overnight. Before applying the next coat, rub the entire surface with superfine steel wool. Put 2 to 3 coats of oil on the wood. After final coat, rub entire surface with superfine steel wool. It will bring up a nice shine to the finish and make the wood sing. Place wood frames to the side.
Step 7- Remove old reupholstery. Take the seats and remove the staples from under the chair with a screwdriver.
As seen in this photo, I put newspaper over my table. When taking the old upholstery off, a lot of it just crumbles and falls apart. When I'm done, I can gather up the paper with all the debris and throw it away. Follow the same method with the backs.
Often when I reupholster, I will find out that I am not the first person to redo the piece. It can become a mini excavation. Based on the different layers and fabrics, you can figure out the approximate time someone did a reupholstery. It's interesting to see the history of a piece.
Once all the fabric and foam is removed, use the chisel to scrape any remaining foam that may be stuck to the wood.
Step 8- Apply foam to seat and back. Carefully layout the seat and back parts on the foam. Cut the foam to size. Do this outside or in a well ventilated space.- Spray Super 77 onto the wood and the matching side of the foam. Place the foam on the wood and work the two materials together. Super 77 is sneaky to work with. Try to keep from getting any on your hands, or you will be amazed how everything that becomes stuck to you- lint, dirt, foam, your dog, etc. Let the Super 77 dry according to the directions on the can.
Step 9- Carefully layout the seat and back parts on the fabric. I used black vinyl because I find it to be era correct and desirable to the market. I chose a more expensive vinyl that looked fancier and was a better quality to work with. Vinyl, in general, is hard to work with because it is stiff. To make the process easier, choose a fabric without a repeating pattern.
Also cut out the pieces of black fabric for the underside of the seat. It is a nice finishing detail.
Step 10- Attach the fabric to the seat and back. This will be the hardest step in the whole process. Use a staple gun with the appropriate staple length. I use an electric staple gun because it is hard to have the strength to staple through all the layers manually. For the seat, start in the center of one side, secure your fabric in place and begin to staple around the perimeter, pulling the fabric tightly. Unless you have meaty hands, your fingers will be sore from this. Staple the corners last and try to work the fabric over the corners smoothly.
Applying the black fabric after will create a nice finish detail and make the underside of the chair disappear. For the back, start by stapling on the bottom edge. Wrap the fabric over the front to the back and fold the edge. Place the folded edge on the bottom and staple to secure. Then, wrap the sides and staple the sides cleanly. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of the back assembly. So, let me know if there are any questions. Sometimes the staples will not seat all the way down when stapling. Use the hammer to nail them fully in.
Step 11- Reassemble the chairs. Using your notes or photos, labeled screws and wooden buttons, put the chairs back together. Apply felt feet.
Step 12- Fini! Stand back and admire your work.
These Danish modern chairs, which have no official name that I am aware of, are really great. They have survived the test of time because the design is well thought out. It has minimal pieces and assembles easily with screws. Teak is a durable wood. The proportions are perfect. Whether you are small or large, you will fit comfortably in them. They also do not take up a lot of room and they are fairly easy to find.
Good luck with your project!