Eames Chair Base


This time I show how to make a modern chair by sprucing up some Eames style molded chairs with some new walnut mid century modern bases! 

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These chairs are made to match a table I built for a client. The client really likes the molded Eames chairs, so we ordered some of those and all I had to do was build new bases to match the table.

The plans for this chair are available.

The first thing I did was build a prototype to work out the proportions and make sure the design is sturdy enough. I just pocket holed and screwed the prototype together which is a lot weaker than the final product will be. Because the prototype held me bouncing on it, I know the final bases will be plenty strong.

The other nice thing about having a prototype, is it made laying out my pieces really easy. These bases will be made from walnut and pinned with brass, just like the table base. I skipped showing the milling process in this one, so if you’re not familiar with that you can see it at the beginning of the table video.

I wanted to get three legs from each piece, so after I laid them out I roughed them out at the bandsaw. Of course the bandsaw doesn’t leave a flat cut so next I took them to the jointer to establish a flat and square side before clipping the angle on each end at the table saw.

I used the tapering jig I made for the table legs to cut the inside taper on the chair legs, I just added a piece of plywood as a spacer because these legs are narrower. I made the stretchers by first making a bunch of long stretchers and then cutting some down into short stretchers. Unlike the table, I won’t be putting a taper on the underside of the chair stretchers because the pieces are so small and it won’t really be noticeable anyway.

Next up is cutting the half laps that will join the stretchers to the legs. I do this on the table saw using a dado blade and my miter gauge. The dado blade leaves a fairly rough surface though, so they will all get cleaned up with hand planes later.

I really racked my brain on the best way to join the short stretchers to the long ones and decided that dowels would be a good way to go. They’d provide enough strength and be fairly quick to do. To accurately locate all of the holes for the dowels, I took apart my Rockler doweling jig and made a quick jig to hold it and the stretchers. I did this before gluing the legs on because the legs would’ve been in the way.After the glue sets I drill the holes for the brass pins. There are 24 joints needing a total of 48 holes so you guessed it.. I make another jig to speed this process up.

Then I move to the brass rod. I’m smarter this time and scuff the brass before cutting it by chucking it in my drill and running sand paper over it. Then I chop it into small pieces on the bandsaw, and epoxy them into the chairs.I gave the epoxy a day to fully cure before taking the legs to my sander. Everything will get palm sanded later, but I use this to flush up the brass pins and half lap joints.

The last part in assembling the wood is doweling the stretchers together. A conservative amount of glue and some persuasion and these all come together nicely. The small angled blocks I hot glued on came in handy for clamping.

My clamps would’ve wanted to just slip off because the legs are sloped, but those pieces give my clamps two parallel surfaces to squeeze.

For the bases to go on the chairs properly it’s really important the bases are square and the glue up is the time to make this happened. If needed, I use some quick clamps and my square to bring everything into alignment.In my experience, it doesn’t matter how careful you are.. getting a chair to come out sitting level requires some kind of black magic I don’t want to mess with. So I use this table saw trick. I raise my table saw blade about 1/32” an then slowly run the tall legs over it until the chair stops rocking, too easy.

Now the really fun part, putting on the finish. I use my old standard on these, General Finishes Arm-R-Seal.

Now the really tricky bit, how to attach these bases to the chairs. I come up with two types of hardware, one for the front and one for the back, because the chairs are made to have the front elevated a little higher than the back. These are pretty hard to describe, but if you watch the video it's pretty easy to understand.

The plans for this chair are available.