Monday, May 14, 2012

Identical cousins, a chair update.

When my kids were young, I would walk them to elementary school. I walked with them to junior high, too. And as is my thing, I sang songs as we'd walk. One favorite number was the theme song to the Patty Duke Show. It goes something like this, but of course it sounds better while walking with children:

But they're cousins,
Identical cousins all the way!
They look alike, they talk alike, at times they even walk alike - you could lose your mind!
When cousins
Are two of a kind!

It came as a sad reminder by one of my way-too-smart kids that there's no such thing as identical cousins. Apparently, as I was reminded by my kid several years ago, that's just not possible.

And I was reminded of that song again the other day when I visited the chair I found at a thrift store in Greeley that's currently being recovered. After doing some research, I found that my chair was the spitting image of The Chair by Hans Wegner. This chair is credited as an iconic example of Danish design history. 

It's such a long story, kind of like how Patty and her cousin got to looking so very identical. I've written a few times about this chair, and I'll leave it up to whoever feels so prone to find the entries about The Chair.

After a few crossed wires which were sparked by a friend who called Ackerman's to contribute to my chair's restoration as a gift for my 50th birthday, I learned that not only had Mike and his team not started caning the chair I thought might be done a few weeks ago, but another identical chair had come into the shop for a bit of a joint repair.

Mike A. (Ackerman) wanted me to come in and take a look at my chair's identical cousin.

The woman who owned this chair had a crap-ton of chairs just like this one at home, and they're all as identical as it gets. Mike wanted me to come in to see how this original caning had been crafted, in order for them to get the go-ahead to replicate the design on the seat of my chair.

But like Patty and her precocious twin cousin, there were differences between my chair and this very obvious original.

At first glance, my chair looks just like this chair, without the caned seat, which is fairly typical. Retaining caning after 50 years is kind of like keeping one's face completely line- and fault-free after a half a century. It's very rare, and if it looks original, there's a high probability that it's not.

Let me briefly remind you that this is my chair.

It's strikingly similar. 

Mike and I have looked at these two chairs, side by side, like a forensics expert would look at a dead body.

My chair has been refinished, and we chose a lighter grain. The other chair may have started its life a bit lighter, like just about anything that was created 50 years ago. The other chair, which is what I'm apparently calling it, has had 50 years of use without being refinished.

I have no idea if anyone thinks this is as fascinating as I do, but it's fun for me, so I'll continue.

I compared a few things while I had a moment with both chairs. Like the joints of the arms. They're very similar. I didn't have a way to measure the width of the arms at the time, but in hindsight, I wish I'd have done that.

It was kind of like missing a blood spatter, if you were Dexter.

The height, width and joinery looked identical in person.

But there was a very obvious difference.

It was all about the zig-zag joint. No, let's not go there.

I'm talking about the chair.

This was called the jigsaw joint, and it was defined by Mr. Wegner as The Way to connect the back to the arm of The Chair. This defines the real deal.

This is the Patty Duke. The original. 

But what of my chair? 

Did you take photos of the joinery of your chair, you ask?

Yes, I did. And I did a bit of research.

Because this is the joinery of my chair.

Notice the straight line. No jigsaw puzzle. 

Therein lies the conundrum.

I know this chair was made in the 1960s, based on information I found on the chair (Compelling, I know. Kind of makes you want to find those earlier entries, but I'm too lazy to add a link, so you'll have to find it for yourself.).

I did a lot of research to try to find prototype design ideas by Mr. Wegner. I looked for age-appropriate reproduction resources. I've found a few leads that I'll pursue, but at this point, I have to assume my chair might be a very early knock-off.

But I haven't lost hope.

There's that lead I'm following. A missing drop of blood.

Until then, in my mind, these chairs are beautiful, illogical, identical cousins. 


  1. Don't got it for under $10. You can't even get a ratty ass lawn chair for that! Cheer up, Miss's a steal at half the price:) And it's a lovely chair regardless of its distance cousins zig zag joints.Frankly,I'm about the same age as the chair and I my joints are going zig zag too.

  2. I agree! I can't wait to sit in this chair! It's a completely comfortable ride, regardless of its origin. What a fun experiment this has been!

  3. I love your chair stories!!