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Calling all Furniture restoration masterminds!! 3 Niels moller model 56s in bad shape for 30$

- 17 Mar 2015 -
41 posts / 0 new

I am excited and scared at the current moment! i just picked up 3 Niels moller model 56 dining arm chairs with danish cord in bad shape for a total of 30$ (20$ for the decent one and 5$ each for the poor shape ones) was driving back from lunch and stopped in a thrift store i dont normally go to (found a single russel wright plate) I was cutting back through some very depressed neighborhoods to get back to the main road and i spotted what i thought was a moller chair on someones porch. 

Pulled over, went on the porch of the older row house (kinda scared i might add) and knocked. no answer. not sure if anyone even lived there. went to the neighbor house and knocked, no answer. walked back to my car and started writing a note to leave when the neighbor walked out. (she spoke very very little English) when she finally got what i was trying to say she showed me the phone number for the person with the moller chair. i called, she answer and i made my odd request and she said her husband would be back in 10 min.

The ladies husband was there and i said i wanted to buy the chair on the porch. He said 20$ and i paid him. when i was about to leave he said if i would be interested in the other two? I was like other two?! (thinking maybe inside the house and in better condition) he walked me around the house to them just sitting on their sides on the ground with nothing covering them except a tree. He said how much would you pay for these since they were in much worse shape. I threw out 5$ a chair and he was ok with that.

While loading them awkwardly in to my small coupe trying to make all 3 fit, i asked where the guy had gotten the chairs from, and he responded, for free, as him and his boss cleans out junk from houses on the side.

SO now to point! i have 30$ into these. I have never done danish paper cord but have a book on it as i have been wanting to learn to do it.

The one from the porch is not in bad shape. still tight joints and no cracks. needs alot of sanding to clean the teak but i can restore it with my skill level. 

ON THE OTHER TWO, i have never refinished something this bad and some joints are loose and the tops of the chair backs have cracks from wood swelling. Should i break apart the chairs and clean them up and then re-glue. how do i break still tight glue joints and what are some tips and tricks to danish paper cord that you have leaned from experience from doing it that might not be in the books.


thanks fellow design addicts

chairs & stools
1950 - 1959


- 17 Mar 2015

Start with the worst one by going ahead and removing all the cord to better assess condition issues. Do all your experiments on that one. Loose joints will usually come apart without too much coaxing. A bar clamp that can be reversed to use as a spreader comes in handy. Just work slowly applying even pressure so as not to break tenons and dowels or otherwise deform the components.

There are extensive and excellent threads on weaving danish cord seats archived on this forum if you look.

You'd be surprised at what an oxalic acid treatment or two can do for weathered teak. Sometimes "deck brightener" from the big-box home improvement stores is the cheapest source for this. Teak restoration products from boat suppliers are basically the same at twice or more cost.

- 17 Mar 2015

i have found a few writeups about the danish paper cord on here and a few other sites that i am doggie earing for a latter read. 

what do you do if the joint is cracked but still very tight?

another thing i am worried about is the rusty paper cords hooks, i feel i am going to break alot of them while bending them to opena and close them. should i just go ahead and replace them all?

- 17 Mar 2015

Nice pickup. Are you set on cord? There's always the option for converting to upholstered seating (elastic webbing + foam sheet  + upholstery of choice).


Looking forward to seeing the wood restoration. Post some closeups of the damage that you mentioned. I usually leave stable cracks alone. Once there's movement in the crack, then it goes to a case-by-case basis.


On a slight off topic, I'm currently in the middle of fixing a snap break in the leg of a Moller 75, the side chair version of this design. I'll eventually post step-by-step photos of what NOT to do (but I did anyway).

- 17 Mar 2015

It might be a good idea to let the chairs reacclimate to a stable indoor environment before disassembly. That could take a month.

Sometimes a good rap in the right direction with a hammer is all it takes to break a not-quite-yet-failed glue joint. Use a block of softwood between to prevent denting the teak. If a joint seems intact, though, you might just leave it.

The L-nails are a judgement call. You might end up breaking more trying to remove them all than just replacing the odd failure here and there. See how it goes.


- 17 Mar 2015

I've completely disassembled and re-assembled a few Møllers.  So I can say it is certainly possible.

When I need to separate joints I've borrowed a trick from somebody here (tchp? cdsilva?) and started using a steamer (like for cleaning or removing wrinkles from clothing).  It really softens PVA glue a lot.  Just aim it at the joint for a while.  And then nice even gentle pressure to ease it apart.  Or possibly light taps with a mallet.  

The clean off the old glue very well, dry fit to make sure all the joints are tight, glue, and clamp.  Spend a bit of time planning your clamp job before hand.  It is very important for the strength of the joint.  

Oxalic acid is an excellent suggestion.  I would possibly start with it and see what problems remain.  Then go to more oxalic acid or sanding.  You can get it in a plastic container at Sherwin Williams paint stores in my area with the "Wood Bleach" on it.  Somewhere on the container it says it is "oxalic acid" in small print.

I would remove the rusty L nails.  Some places sell electric wire staples clipped in half.  They work, but the real L nails are nicer to work with, and less sharp when you are weaving.  



- 18 Mar 2015

thank you everyone for help and sugestions.

i deff will keep it updated with progress once i make progress! projects can be slow at times!! but they will be left inside to stableize them and also i am going to picking up some wood bleech for sure

thinking i am going to be replaceing all the L hooks with new as i do not think i am up to date with my tetus shot...since i read that your hands will take some abuse and rather not get lockjaw

how much cord will i need per chair? i saw 2 pounds of it for 35$. laced and unlaced. i think mine are laced since i can see the twisting correct?

cdsilva, you should sell me the moller chair so i can have somewhat a set of 4!



- 18 Mar 2015

Laced and unlaced are virtually identical in my experience. And I believe 2 pounds about does a chair. (I got an enormous roll a while back and I've been using it forever, now).

I believe Spanky posted about getting some rather thin cord from somewhere and I would try to avoid that if possible. 


Tktoo's advice about letting the chairs re-acclimate to indoor humidity is a very good idea that I strongly second. Disassembly and reassembly thought that process could cause problems.

Also, forgot to mention that Møller chairs have tenons on two of the seat rails and pegs on the other two. I can't remember which  front and back have, and which both sides have. BUT the result is that the pegs go through the tenon of the other rail in each leg, and lock it into place. So you have to remove the peg side first.  Make sense?

- 18 Mar 2015

If my chair was solo, I'd happily sell it to you (except your set really wants a fourth 56 arm, not a 75 side).

However, my broken chair is already the fourth of a set that I have, of which the other three are in excellent shape structurally. I had been keeping an eye out for a similar patinaed replacement 75 before starting the cleaning/reupholstering, but finally decided to attempt the repair and see how it went. Should be able to finish it up this weekend. I'll go ahead and post photos in this thread if okay with you.

- 18 Mar 2015

The best deal on true Danish L nails that I found is from The Caning Shop in Berkely, CA.  I got some and am happy with the quality.  

Get some angled pliers with spring-loaded handles for removing the corroded old nails.  They are likely to break off in the wood, just so you know---you might have to pre-drill all new holes.  

Pretty much everything you need to know about weaving the seats is in those other two threads on this board.  Read them through and then refer back to them peridically when working on the chairs.  There's so much information there that it's hard to remember it all once you get going.  

- 19 Mar 2015


-So i spent some time today undoing the papercord on the 2 worst chairs. i used a serrated bread knife and cut most of the papercord off and then started bending the L nail heads, Wht happened was that the nails did one of two things; head immendilty snapped off with little to no pressure or the nail came complety out of the hole. there were a very few nails that didnt break and stayed in their holes but it was a rareity. i am missing one danish control emblem and the other 3 came off with no effort (for safe keeping)

-one chair is still pretty structurally solid with no loose joints and one split where the back rest meets the upright.

-the 2nd chair was much worst. one tennon was completly broken and the cording was keeping it semi- stable and the joint at where the back of the armrest meets the chair upright support and also where the backside of the side strecher on the same arm area are loose. the strechers have kinda large swelling cracks also.



to stabilize the swelled cracks as well as the swelled splits on the strechers from the nails, should i fill them with a pigmented epoxy after i have finished bleeching the area and sanding? tape off the crack to fill, fill it, let dry and use a spoke shaver to trim off any pertruding expoxy and then sand? 


all of the pictures are of the very worst chair. sorry for the crazy depth of field photos. i was shooting at a very large aperture on my camera as it was very dim outside and i was not trying to bump up the ISO.

- 19 Mar 2015

I wouldn't use epoxy.  Oil will not soak in and you are extremely likely to have a color mismatch when it is all done.  

On face grain tktoo shared a trick a while back in which you take a V gouge and carve a channel out along the crack, then carve a donor piece of teak out of a new board and glue it in.  That won't work on end grain.

I would consider using a putty of elmer's school glue and shavings from the chair.  I would also consider breaking the wood open along the crack and gluing and clamping.  

- 19 Mar 2015

The epoxy would be for the stretchers that would be covered by the papercord.

I ment to say it would not be for areas like the armrest and seat back cracks where I would oil

- 20 Mar 2015

so today i went to practicaly every paint and home impovememnt store in my city looking for oxfolic acid. NOTHING! so i had to order off of amazon which is a bummer but hey, i have prime!


i want to go ahead and buy my materials to have them when i get to the point when i need them. and i am on frank supply for caning. i am looking at (3) 2 lb spools of unlaced danish paper cord Plus i need nails.

Now franks's nails sorta look like cut electrial staples to me. can anyone tell me about there quailty? since i am putting in all new nails at least on the 2 bad chairs i want what ever is going to be the easiest and if cut staples are harder to work with etc i want to avoid them


also on the joints is it that the front rail has a tenon and the side rails have both a tenon with dowels pins on the tenon or does the side rail only have dowels pins? i drew a picture too if anyone that has taken a moller 56 or 75 can tell me??

- 20 Mar 2015


Not sure if you've looked at this video of another Moller chair weaving.


top of the list while seaching online but its very helpfull although a bit tedious at times.


Ive done several sets of chairs like yours and they are very rewarding at the end.


Like someone said - it could have even been Hans Wegner talking to the guys from Carl Hansen and son.

"Make sure you do it properly from start to finish" No mistakes no matter how small!

or was that Yoda? 'do or do-not, there is no try'


Hope that helps

- 20 Mar 2015

Thanks for that link. I will watch it for sure.

I have gone through most of the design addicts threads about danish cord and also have the Cainers handbook (which I got at a estate sale a few months ago for 50 cents hoping that I could get some danish paper cord chairs one day)

Hopefully this will be very rewarding for me as I can't wait to get them around my table (which I don't think will look right for them so I need to figure that out as well as I have a latter made danish table by brdr furbo)

- 20 Mar 2015

One rail only has dowel pins, no tenon. The adjacent rail has a tenon.  When it is assembled the tenon goes into the leg first. Then the holes are drilled for the two dowel pins into the leg and through the tenon. This locks the tenon into place. 

It is possible to remove the tenon first, but it requires damaging it.  I did that once. 

- 20 Mar 2015

That's what I had thought seeing the single broken tennon on the bad chair. I just didn't know if the if the side stretchers had a tenon/ dowel combo.

Are the lower dowel stretchers just pressure or do they have glue as well?

- 20 Mar 2015

I would expect they are glued in. But I've never disassembled a Møller with a lower ring, so I can't say categorically. I would be very, very surprised if there is not indication of glue. 

- 20 Mar 2015

Don't get the paper cord currently offered by Frank's.  It is a thinner diamater, which means less paper, which means not as durable.  They are supposedly going to go back to better quality cord but for now I would buy from The Caning Shop in Berkely, CA.  It costs more but it will last longer and you're only doing a few chairs anyway.  If you had a set of 8 or 10, then the difference would really add up, but for just two or three...not really worth it in my opinion.

And yes, Frank's L-nails are cut staples.  Get the real thing from The Caning Shop as I recommended upthread.  Other places sell them as well but he has the best price. 


Tip for tapping in new nails:  hold the nail with needlenose pliers and use a tack hammer to tap it in.  Hardware stores carry tack hammers and they're only around $5.  The small head makes it easier to get at nails (and tacks) in tight corners.  Plus you can use the magnetic end to pick up a nail that has fallen on the floor.  

- 20 Mar 2015

Thanks spanky

Sorry for missing the suggestion uptread about the nails. I'll order everything from them then.

So I am predrilling a shallow small hole just to get the nail started right? Thanks for advice on the tack hammer I will deff pick one up

I was gonna use a rawhide hammer when it came to taking the chair joints apart and putting it together. Would you forgo the softwood spacer block as it doesn't leave marks?

- 25 Mar 2015

My pure oxalic acid wood bleach finally showed up today. Oh how amazon prime failed me with shipping 2 day.....

I mixed it with hot water and got to scrubbing with a cleaning brush and wow, the difference you could see right before your eyes

What went on as a whitish water came off blackish brown and it's was a beautiful transformation.

I did both of the 2 worst chairs and took a picture of it compared to the other midway. I still am going to do another application of it as there is a few darker spots but the difference!!!

- 25 Mar 2015

Looks good.  

I've never tried scrubbing with oxalic acid.  I've always just brushed it on and let it dry.  It is a chemical reaction that happens in the wood (this is why hotter oxalic works better than cold).  But it certainly seems to have worked for you.  

- 25 Mar 2015

I noticed that too. But there was also a layer of mossy like krud from them being in the dirt
on some surfaces

The 2nd time around I just going to let it sit like you said since all the grime is gone.

I didn't know you are suppose to let it dry on the wood. I let it sit on for about 15-20 mins after the light scrubbing and then washed off and dried what I could with a towel

The strechers (are they bleech wood?) Cleaned up a little but not that much

- 07 Dec 2015

defiliciantonio -- how are these chairs coming along? Did you finish them?

- 07 Dec 2015

Haven't finished them yet. I ended up letting the chairs sit for 3 months before I started messing with them after the oxfolic bath. two of them are ready for the nails and paper cord, kinda been putting it off

But the worst chair, I steamed apart. About 2 months ago I found a commercial Jeffy steamer at a goodwill for 4$. Pretty nice steamer I use to have when I was doing bent lamination in the college shop. When syeaming the joint , half of the dowel pegs where broken or very soft so I drilled them all out using the method where you start with a small bit, and work your way up 3 or 4 sizes till you are left with just a skim of the dowel pin that can be pulled away. Pretty time consuming when you have to do a entire chair. The chair back also broke off in fabulous moller style where all of the stress cracks. Also both of the side chair railing are kinda rotten. The wood is soft enough where I can dig my fingernail into them. So I kinda got held up and distracted by other projects like house remodels, clutch replacements and other projects. I am not sure what to do about the rotten side rails? Do I make new or can I apply a wood hardener?

- 07 Dec 2015

Don't mean to hijack the thread, but I just realized that I never posted my repair effort to a snapped chair leg on one of my #75s.

The snap had happened long ago (before I got my hands on it), with the jagged edges of the split wood worn a little smoother over time. A previous repair effort with a drilled diagonal wood dowel had also failed. Combine that with a difficult location near the side stretcher, and I was not very optimistic of getting a tight fit for the repair.

The repair piece insert is a hanger bolt, with wood threads on one side and bolt threads on the other. I had initially planned on doing a PVC-pipe-guided drill effort, a la tchp's excellent repair job for a Round Chair from last year. However, the stretcher location and non-round cross section of the leg at this location made it impractical.

After a few months of debating, I finally decided to . . . (gasp) . . . eyeball the drilling effort.The "hip" portion of the leg received an exact diameter drill hole (first smaller pilot bit, then exact size), with the wood screw end then screwed tightly into place. I then drilled a similar sized hole into the leg piece, following by shaving of certain sides inside the hole as required to best accommodate the the machine thread end of the hanger bolt. I used a two-part epoxy glue (Loctite, I think), once the fit was as good as I was going to get. The epoxy was good for filling in all of the extra space between larger shaved hole and hanger bolt, and the machine threads were great for ensuring a strong grip.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a failproof aligning system in the clamping set up, and the leg cured a little out of line.

Despite the slightly misaligned leg, the repair was structurally solid. I then filled in the repair creases with a mixture of sawdust, wood glue, and stain, followed with a little oil and steel wool finish.

From a repair strategy perspective, I am pleased with the hanger bolt / epoxy approach. The next time, I will have a better clamping setup to ensure a straighter set. And I am always looking to improve my sawdust/glue/stain matching skills.

Before/After photos attached. Note in the 2nd and 6th photos, you can see the previous repair with the angled wooden dowel. I'm not sure how anyone thought that spindly dowel was a good solution.

- 07 Dec 2015

That was a wicked break! Could have give me those chair rails! Ha

I've started following medium rare resto on Instagram. I have some pretty smart ways to repairing and clamping from him. Check it out!

- 31 May 2018

Tacking this onto this old thread about dramatic transformations of Møller chairs because I couldn't find the thread about crazy alterations that people do to good design.

I walked into a consignment store yesterday and this thing jumped out at me. The top of the back must have been damaged and someone just sawed it off. It was very neatly done and cut ends matched in height and angle and were finished nicely, but BOY did it look weird.

It was priced at $170. A bit high for parts.

- 01 Jun 2018

It is not one of the chairs that have detailed line drawings in Noritsugu Oda's book Danish Chairs, but the 3 images at the top page are dead on front, side & rear elevations which can be scanned and imported to AutoCAD (any format) & scaled to full size using an actual chair to verify dimensions, traced over with new line drawings if desired to use as template/shop drawing to replicate the missing parts..that is if you can't get it out of your head.

- 01 Jun 2018

minimoma--it wasn't even in my head to start with! Maybe if I had a set of five and wanted a sixth very badly and there was zero chance of ever finding a whole one, ok. But none of those conditions exist, i'm good.

If it had been $5-10, maybe---but I'd just make a back cushion of beautiful Danish wool and sell it as an occasional chair (with full disclosure, of course). But it was marked $170 so I just laughed and moved on. It was in a big consignment store that sells antiques and very traditional stuff, so i'm sure they had no idea.

They had two Oiva Toikka "Flora" pitchers too--reasonably priced but I already have one so I passed on those, too. They were labeled "Finland lollipop pitcher"!

Leif, have you really seen a 62 with the back cut off or were you kidding?

- 01 Jun 2018

Spanky- the $170 is for the keywords, "eames era, shabby chic, wegner juhl panton risom baugman style". If it is "broken", you are right that it should only be $5-10 or even less.

If someone has access to a CAT scan, maybe the missing part could be printed in 3D.

- 01 Jun 2018

This particular brick & mortar shop reduces the price every 30 days that the thing is there, and finally they will put it in the clearance section for half off, and then I think they finally donate it if the consignor doesn't want it back. But I'm sure someone will snap it up before that, thinking it's a hidden gem. It was in beautiful condition aside from the one glaring deformity.

- 01 Jun 2018

@spanky: I was not joking. I really have seen a Møller 62 with a broken backrest, in the same place, which was then subsequently saw of cleanly.

- 02 Jun 2018

Assuming the chair had indeed broken, thus inspiring modification that we see in spanky's find, it would suggest a failure of Moller's quality control protocol. There's just no reasonable scenario that would result in a break at or near the makeshift termini of the rear posts that doesn't involve at least one defective (short-grain) component.

- 02 Jun 2018

Well, i was thinking more like damage that occurred in a moving fan, like when an amateur packs the thing and furniture tragedy ensues. Or some moron tries to do that trick where you walk over a chair---put one foot on the seat and the other onto the back and gradually shift your weight to the back and lower it to the floor---except being a moron, he did it incorrectly and broke the chair.

Or you know...something like that. Something outside of the range oft normal everyday use.

- 02 Jun 2018

I am not sure it is a quality control issue. If you consider the bend in the leg/stile, there is no way to keep the grain perfectly straight everywhere. And it would appear that right above the armrests is where leverage against the backrest meets moderately cross-grain stiles. End of story.

- 02 Jun 2018

Seems like you're inferring it's a design issue then, Leif. Indeed, there may be an inherent weakness if the boards selected for the rear posts lack corresponding curved grain direction, but I'm sticking with the young journeyman looking forward to a hot date theory.

The combination of good design and expert craftsmanship is what determines sought-after antiques. Considering the volume of Moller's production, it's really no surprise that few duds made it through here and there.

I hear you loud and clear, spanky. I've wrecked much nicer chairs than these! ;^)

- 03 Jun 2018

Funny to find this topic. It was two months ago when I spotted at the edge of a park what remained of a Moller 79- i suppose. The black leather seat, still with the fabric's mark, was the only part left, with parts of mutilated legs and supports for the backrest. My conclusion was that the intact chair was left beside the road, and someone in need to start a BBQ ( public spot available in 50 m) used all parts could be destroyed easily. What pity no one could pick it up.


- 04 Jun 2018

Not a true Viking funeral, perhaps. But maybe close enough.

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