Hiddy Hi all you lawn chair cats!
I see today the weather folks all have just one thing to talk about. HEAT! Yeah, well, its summer and we all knew it was bound to happen. A heat wave has settled in on most of our Nation and Lordy me it is hot but here in Texas its just another day to us. If you’re in an area of the country that’s not used to this I surely hope it doesn’t last long before getting back to y’all’s normal. When folks ask me about Texas summers, I tell them it’s not for the uninitiated! You need to either be born here or get used to it by gradual degrees.
I had a call from very nice lady just this week and she was in the process of redoing her family’s old steel chairs. She had read my blog on finishing and they had chosen the powder coat route but needed a couple of questions answered about age. Before long, she had described for me chairs that were without question first generation Ed Warmack. They contained all the ingrediants I look for in dating a vintage chair. So the thought occured to me to give a slight lesson on how to date old stamped metal lawn chairs.
One of the first things to look for is in the frame. Almost all early lawn chairs utilized a one piece frame. This means the tube frame was made from a single length of pipe with no joints. This made a very strong frame and rust was not an issue for many years IF the tube frame did not receive too much water inside. However, once water entered the frame, it had no way to escape and corrosion began in earnest. A well kept vintage one piece frame chair used undercover should have a very solid frame but you still need to be cautious.
The next thing I look for in dating is the seat. If the seat has drain holes then you’ve surely got an early model. Again, most all early lawn chairs had certain tells and factory installed drain holes is one you can hang your hat on. Ed Warmack used holes in his early chair seats because he was just following behind the others. But, he soon learned those small holes designed to allow rain water to drain out with the idea of slowing down rust did exactly the opposite. You see, a hole by its very nature has a very sharp edge and these little guys just don’t hold paint worth a darn. So when you go to sit in your chair you’re wearing the paint off the holes from the very first. The paint just rubs off right at the hole and before long rust has gotten a foothold right where we don’t want it!
Ed designed what we call the “Tractor” seat about 1947. This is a seat with a slight dish molded to fit the sit’n area of a person. Then he formed in a little channel or canal which directs the water to the back of the chair and it just sort of seeps out between the back and the seat. This is why its so important to keep your lawn chairs washed out and free of leaves, pine straw and dirt. If allowed to accumulate, moisture can linger and rust moves in to help itself to our furniture.
Ed Warmack also changed the way we packaged lawn chairs in about 1949 when he developed the slip together three piece frame. Now he could put a whole chair in a box not much larger than a good sized briefcase and that meant more chairs in a rail car. Other chair makers used multi piece frames as well. Ed’s nemesis, Alvin Shott who at one time billed himself as the world’s largest manufacture of steel lawn furniture went to a three piece design but it had to be bolted together. Bolted style frames were inherently prone to rust and not as solid feeling when you were sitting in them.
So now you can look at a vintage chair and judge for yourself if its’s a true oldy or not. Drain hole chairs were made by various manufacterers up into the late 50′s but the numbers were gettin’ small. And the one piece frame didn’t last much past about 1955 from anybody.
Everyone have a happy and safe 4th!