Information about antique Morris chairs
There are three other pages on this site that discuss old Morris chairs. One is about antique Morris chair hardware and another shows some pictures of complete antique Morris chairs, particularly those from the Larkin company. A third which may be, in Mark Twain's words "chloroform for the eyes," is my page about Morris chair patents.
Replacement Hardware for Morris Chairs
While I never intended to go into the hardware business, I get a lot of requests for replacement Morris chair hardware. I hate to have to charge for hardware, because it seems so small. However, I am in business and the hardware does entail steel, arc welding supplies as well as acetylene and oxygen. I consume grinding disks and wire brushes that have a limited lifespan. I also must have simple packing supplies and I have to pay postage when I send hardware. There is a little bit of my time involved too. I bill my forge time at $40/ hour and a bunch of that money goes to shop overhead, rather than into my pocket. I don't like to sound as if I am whining. I guess I am trying to make an honest apology for the cost of seemingly small hardware.
If you want to order any Morris chair hardware or have questions email me at:firstname.lastname@example.org. I have no order forms or anything like that because the orders often need a bit of communication. If you cannot email, drop me a snail mail note [at 10 Mayflower Drive, Scarborough, ME 04074] or call (207-885-9433) and we can figure out what you need.
Summary of this page
Because there is a lot of text on this page, here is a simple price list of hardware from me so you can see if the prices scare you off. If not, I advise you to read about the hardware you need in the text below this table. 5.5% ME tax and postage will be added to these prices. I know that prices are supposed to end in odd numbers of cents, such as $10.98. I guess we are supposed to think that $10.98 is not really $11. I refuse to conform to that nonsense.
|Steel back bar cut to your length||$50.00|
|Brass back bar cut to your length||$60.00|
|Mark 1 replacement steel Morris chair hinges||$50 for full set|
|Mark 2 replacement steel Morris chair hinges full set||$100 full set|
|Mark 2 replacement steel Morris chair hinges by the single piece||$30 for one piece|
|Reproduction cast iron back racks||$75 per set of 2|
|Replacement actual antique back racks when available||varies, whatever I had to pay|
Reproduction of lost /broken custom hinge part (other than Mark 2)
|$40 per shop hour|
|Repair of broken hinges (keep all the broken parts!)||$40 per shop hour|
Replacement Cushions for Morris Chairs
Before we get to hardware, here is a note about cushions. I am often asked about this. I do not make or sell replacement cushions for Morris chairs. The cushions are often missing or decrepit on old Morris chairs. For antique chairs in my own home, I have made my own cushions in the past. I have very limited sewing skills, but I was able to make passable cushions that lasted quite a long time. My own thrashing with a sewing machine was OK for me when I could afford nothing else. Usually local upholsterers can make them with either down or foam as fillers. Working with someone local also makes the issues of fabric choice much easier.
Another solution is to buy the cushions from the web. I have not bought finished cushions from the web, but I have bought some foam to use in cushions from cushionsxpress and I have been pleased with the product. The prices there seem very reasonable. WHILE I HAVE NOT DONE THIS MYSELF they will also cover the cushions in what appears to me to be a wide range of fabric choices. They have an excellent website that has videos about types of foam for use in foam cushions. Ordering is very straightforward. I do not want to speak for every chair, but we make our cushions about an inch wider than the space in the chair so that they will pack in and not seem to be loose. If anyone tries cushionsxpress (or any other website) for covered Morris chair cushions, I would be glad if they would send me some feedback so that I can post experiences here. At this point I have heard from one friend that the fabric samples they received were not very nice. That tells me that you should be sure to get samples before making final decisions about ordering covered cushions. I know that many of the hits to my website come from people looking for cushions so maybe we can help them if we work together. At this time, the foam that I am using for the seat cushions in my chairs consists of three inches of 3618 medium firm foam and two inches of memory foam. I have tried very many types of seat cushions in down and foam and this one is the best I have found so far.
Gallery of Antique Morris Chair Hardware
Also before we get to hardware, replacement hardware that is, I would like to call your attention to the Gallery of Antique Morris Chair Hardware that is located on another page of my website. One of the reasons why I mention it here is that sometimes people will have a bent, broken or lost Morris chair part. They will email me trying to describe it to see if I can fix or replace it. This gallery page may make the description easier. While I am only too happy to sell people brand new hinges or whatever, sometimes I can repair old ones or make a single replacement part for an otherwise intact set. I charge by the shop-hour for this work but I can give you a maximum quote before I begin. If it takes less time than I have quoted, the resulting bill will be less than I quote. Emailing pictures is by far the best way to communicate about lost or broken hardware. You may also want to tell all your friends about this antique hardware gallery because I am sure that they will all be excited and interested to see all this Morris chair hardware collected on one page. Oddly that has not been the response of my friends, but my friends are strange.
Some Morris chairs have a version of the hardware store backflap hinge, as shown here. The pattern of holes in the wood will give that away. Get those from the hardware store if you need them.
Hinges are the most commonly requested hardware. Many of the originals were cast iron and they broke very easily. I get requests to replace Morris chair hinges that have been broken as well as ones that have been lost. As far as I know, I am the only source of the special hinges that many antique Morris chairs require. If you should find another source of these hinges, I would be glad to know because I would buy them myself, rather than making them.
I send slotted screws with the hardware. I think they look better than modern-appearing screws on Morris chairs. If anyone is looking for a great supplier of slotted screws, I highly recommend Pointe Products in Chesterfield, MI.
On the far left is the Mark 1 model hinge that I have made for Morris chairs. It is shown next to the antique Morris chair hinge after which it was modeled. I make the pins long so that the back cannot work itself off the hinge over time. I believe that chairs originally designed for this type of hinge need a similar hinge as a replacement. It lifts the back of the chair above the back stretcher. Replacing it with something else, such as the hardware store backflap, would alter the angles of the chair back. I will make a set (two pairs, four parts) of these for your chair for $50, plus 5% ME Tax and postage within the USA.
Below left the cast iron pin-and-eye type of antique Morris chair hinge: it breaks easily. Just below is a broken antique is shown with my replacement. Usually it is only the female part that breaks. I will supply only the female part if that is what is needed. This type of hinge, The Mark 2 model is quite a bit more work than the simpler hinges above. A single replacement female or male (1 part) from me is $30, and a replacement set (two pairs, four parts) of complete hinges of this type, males and females, is $100, for boh prices add 5% ME tax and a few dollars for shipping.
My version of these hinges are made as a blacksmith would make them. They are a lot of work, but I believe they are worth it.
Antique cast iron himges
New Mark 2 hinge with broken antique
Pair of my Mark 2 hinges next to an antique pair
If you have the pieces of broken cast iron hardware, I have had some luck in brazing these back together. KEEP THE PIECES if you can. Even if you have do not have some of the broken pieces I still might be able to repair the hinge by brazing on some other pieces of metal. Email me and we can figure out if we want to try to fix it. This repair does not cost much because it does not take very much time. I am currently a fabulous buy on hinge repairs because I only charge $40 per hour of shop time to do that work. That is quite a bit less than the cost of my car mechanic, the appliance repair person, the plumber and so on. On the left, below is a pair of S.A. Cook & Co female hinges. Note there is a little insert in one of them. All three parts were broken and I managed to braze them back into life. On the right, below there is another broken Cook hinge and beside it is a copy that I made to replace it.
Of course, there are other ways to repair broken pin-and-eye female Morris chair hinges. Here is a clever repair I found on the web. It only involves a hardware store screw eye and a screw. This is not a budget-buster and would put the chair back in service. Who (besides me) looks at the hinges anyway? There are no hinge police.
Replacement Back Bars
I sell back bars like the ones I make for my chair. These have to be custom made for a particular chair. I can make the bar longer than usual, if you like. I am told that the reason why some antique back bars stuck out three or four inches on each side was so that the back could be adjusted while sitting in the chair by reaching back with both hands. I don't make the bars that long on my own chairs because if they stick out too far they snag clothes and the dog bumps its head on them.
The steel back bar with ball finials made to your length specification is $50 plus 5% ME tax and a few dollars for shipping. An example is pictured to the right. It is shown on an antique horizontal back rack, but, of course, it will work on any chair that will accept a 3/8" diameter rod. If you think that calling the finials "balls" will open your chair up to crude jokes, call them "round knobs" instead.
A solid brass bar with brass balls for finials is $60 including tax and shipping. It is intended to be a replacement for lost or missing back bars where the backracks are brass. The bar has no finish and it will oxidise gradually until it looks like any antique brass. If you want to order a bar or anything else, email me. Brass bars are available from commercial outlets such as Hardware Tree and Kennedy Hardware or on Ebay. You can save some money by buying a commercial version. In my opinion, my brass back rod is more historically correct and better looking. Antique chairs often had brass balls at the rod ends. For some reason, the commercial ones have little beehive-shaped things for finials. Worse yet, these commercial beehives are held on with nasty little set screws. Not to be mean about it, but I have heard them described as "looking like curtain rods." However, it is your chair so you do whatever you like with it.
The picture above shows you the measurement that I need to make your bar. How long do you want it from the inside of one ball to the inside of the other? The one in the picture is 24" between the balls. In my opinion, you should make your bar so that it hangs out about an inch and a half on both sides. To do that you would ask me for a bar that is three inches longer than if it were to be a tight fit on your chair. I use the "between the balls" measurement to make bars. The balls are in inch in diameter, so if you give me the between the balls measurement, your new bar will be 2" longer total length because that total will have the balls added to it.
Replacement Back Racks
I own an antique chair with closed back racks that I admire. Closed back racks are nice because the chair back cannot fall to the floor if the bar comes off a hook. I wanted to copy these to put on the chairs I make. I was fortunate to find a wonderful small local business: the Auburn Stove Foundry . This foundry makes many one-off replacement cast iron parts for all sorts of things from fence pickets to steam locomotive parts. They were willing to cast new back racks for me. We used a rack from my antique chair as the pattern. I love these back racks and I decided to put them here with the other Morris chair hardware in case anyone might need them. They are $60 for a pair with an additional $5.80 for shipping (in a USPS Flat Rate Box) and 5% ME tax ($3) for a grand total of $68.20. As with other hardware, email me if you want to buy them. While I did not make them myself, they were made in good old Maine, so your money is providing employment here. Thanks.
There are going to be issues of fit with any back rack. This reproduction casting will fit on many chairs. If you have a chair that needs back racks, you could check for good fit by reproducing the back rack picture below at full scale. Print it and cut out the back rack to see if it will fit. If you cannot reproduce the image, email me and I will send you a paper one in the mail. We made the feet on this back rack slightly thick, so that they could be ground on a home grinding wheel to change the angles a bit. If you want them to go on a chair that is old but not priceless, you could sand the back of the chair to fit the angles of these brackets.
I think these may be the only cast iron reproduction back racks that are available anywhere. There are brass back racks available from several vendors including: Hardware Tree and Kennedy Hardware. However, most old Morris chairs originally had cast iron hardware and that is why I had mine cast in iron rather than some other metal.
I do not advertise this very much (only on this site available to the whole world) but I also have a small stock of antique back racks that I will sell. I gather them from places such as Ebay and junk shops. If your chair is missing a set, I might be able to supply you with orginal equipment. I charge whatever I had to pay plus postage for these. That is break-even for me, but I am glad that they will have good homes. Email me if you want to talk about this.
I get many inquires about springs. They sometimes fail. You would too, if I sat on you for 100 years.
I do not sell coil springs but on occasions when I use coils, I buy them from from DIY Upholstery on the web: http://www.diyupholsterysupply.com/
They have them in three different lengths and it is likely that one of them will work. They are hitched to a steel strap and probably there is one that will be close enough to go on most Morris chairs. If your springs are flat and fatigued, I would replace them. If they merely appear disheveled but have some spring left then I would re-use them.
As you probably know, once in place they will need to be tied to prevent lateral movement. There are lots of instructions for this on the web. It is not very difficult to do. If I can do it, probably you can do it. The springs are classically tied with so-called Italian Ruby twine. Don't ask me why. Anyway I use it when I tie springs. It is not impressive stuff, but it is very like the original tie material. You can get it, loose coil springs, and anything else you might need for upholstery, from DIY upholstery supply: http://www.diyupholsterysupply.com/
I have no training in business and it probably shows from all the rambling above about each little part. Since I am going to work on the little part by hand, it will be very special to me. As replacements, most of them will go on Morris chairs that are about 100 years old. With the correct parts, the chair will be ready for the next hundred years. Drop me an email if you wish to order something.