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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. welderHowever, 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 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. The phone is not a very good way to discuss replacement hardware because I will likely want to see pictures of the situation anyway.


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


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 rcushions 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 chair in my house 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.

If you are making your own cushions, you might want to buy the foam from the web. I have bought some foam to use in cushions from cushionsxpress and I have been pleased with the product. They will cut it to size and the prices there seem very reasonable but the shipping can be steep.

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 topped with 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 when it comes to replicating the "sit feel" of antique Morris chairs. For the back cushions, I have used 4" of 3618 medium foam.

Currently I have a Morris chair customer working with an upholstery and furniture repair company called Liberty Bell in Portland ME. Check out their website where the work looks beautiful: I have seen some of their work and I have been impressed with it. My contact person there, Jannette Paisley, told me she would be willing to make cushions for Morris chairs even if they were out of the area. She can be contacted at, 207-219-2200. Please tell her I sent you.

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.


Replacement Hinges

bflapSome 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.

myhingeoldhingeOn 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.

repair weldring hotring

Of course, there are other ways to repair broken pin-and-eye female Morris chair hinges. Above left 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.


On the left, makecook is a pair of broken and repaired S.A. Cook & Co fixcookfemale 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, there is another broken Cook hinge and beside it is a copy that I made to replace a broken version of this insert-side hinge.

Only one side of the Cook hinge has the little insert. If a female Cook hinge is missing the insert or the insert-side hinge is missing from the chair, there is another fix I have devised. I cannot make the insert. It is just too small and odd-shaped. What I have done, however for lots of people is to make a work-alike hinge. The only functional difference between this hinge and the real Cook hinge is that screws will have to be pulled in order to remove the back in the future. My experience is that people rarely remove the back anyway. Below is a picture of the work-alike replica I have made for people with broken hinges (left) and a real Cook insert-side female hinge (right).newcook

In order to install this you would have to insert the pin of the male into the new replica female, slide the whole hinge in position and then secure the replica female with the screws. The screws should go back into the existing screw holes.

I charge shop hours for making these and they take two hours at $40.00 per hour. There is no significant material involved. I do not sell enough of these to make it worth mass production of this hinge, which would bring down the per-unit cost. Now that you can see what I do, you might also be able to find someone local who does metal work who can do it for less. I do not have a machine shop so I have to make these by hand with a welder, hacksaw, file. grinder and drill press.

The whole complex original Cook hinge was designed so that the back of the chair could be removed when it was swung out to the back and parallel to the floor. Trying to remove it with any slight deviation from this position would break the hinge. It was a bad design and I am surprised that they stuck with it for such a long time. I talked with my foundry about casting replicas of the Cook hinge with insert but I decided against it because they would have the same breakage problem and I did not want to take part in that.

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 sballantique 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 finials" instead. brassballs

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 an 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

bbcastI 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.

bbanglesThere 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.

It is also possible for me to have some sorts of back racks cast at the foundry if I have one like it in my reference collection. Email me if you think you migth want something like that.


Replacement Springs

coilspringI 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:

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:

torchrodI 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.








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