Hans Wegner CH23 chairs

My friends at Home Anthology asked me to take on two of these CH23 chairs by Danish designer Hans Wegner.  I had already done one for myself and was happy to restore these two.

 

Someone had redone the seats with heavy black polypropylene rope.  It almost looked like the elegant black paper cord that you see on some Danish chairs…but it not quite.  Definitely didn’t feel like paper cord.

 

The wood—a handsome combination of teak and oak—had decades’ worth of grime on it.

 

I use a solvent-free oil to clean the wood and condition it.  No nasty fumes!

 

The backs of dining chairs are usually the dirtiest part because that’s where people grab them.  I guess they don’t notice the buildup because it happens so gradually.

I sure notice when it comes off, though.

 

Once the frames are clean and oiled, the weaving starts.  First I do the front-to-back strands.

 

The cord is looped around Danish L-nails, which inevitably scratch my knuckles and inspire a few curse words.

I should learn to swear in Danish.  It seems appropriate.

 

Then the front and back rails are wrapped in cord between the strands.   The cord must be kept meticulously and evenly tight to look good.  It’s hard on the hands.

 

Last, double side-to-side strands are woven with a leading loop pulled off the main roll of cord.  This is mindless but is also hard on the hands.  The last few rows are the toughest because there’s not much room left for the cord.

 

The Wegner CH23 chairs have two side rails so you get to do this cool extra wrapping that makes a beautiful pattern.  It doesn’t have any function.  Just looks good.

Well, ok, I guess the second rail might make the frame stronger…but the wrapping doesn’t do anything other than look Danish-super-model gorgeous.

Done!  Danish paper cord seats are comfortable to sit on and are very durable, lasting thirty or forty years with proper care.  I love the contrast of the woven cord with the wood.  So handsome.

 

 

 

 

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30 Responses to Hans Wegner CH23 chairs

  1. I just scored 4 of these at a yard sale this morning, and am looking forward to making them look as fabulous as these! May I ask what is the solvent-free oil that you used to clean them?

    • MCR says:

      Lucky you! The oil I used is Weiman’s Lemon Oil but a few weeks later I’m seeing a film develop on the surface of the wood that I cleaned with it. It’s only on some areas of some pieces. It could be dissolved wax coming to the surface. I’m not sure at this point, though it does seem to clean off easily enough. I would go with one of the more time-trusted Danish oil finishes if you want to be sure. Good luck!

  2. Dana says:

    We have a Hans Wegner rope chair which needs to be completely re-roped. Where can we buy rope?

  3. Paul B says:

    I’m starting on a similar project with a set of Wegner wishbone chairs, and I saw you mention that you cleaned away the grime with oil. I thought the oil would be used as a finisher only, but I never considered it to clean with as well. Or did I miss something here? And any recommendations for a specific oil / cleaner? Your results are great, and I’d like to achieve the same.
    Thanks.

    • MCR says:

      Any teak oil is ok, just be sure it doesn’t have varnish added. Oil loosens the dirt so that you can wipe it away.

  4. Benny M says:

    Awesome article, just scored one of these the other from a skip bin! Reglued the frame and now embarking on the cord weaving, great to know where to start!

  5. Honolulu Brock says:

    i have a Wegner CH-22 lounge chair -the plywood back is peeling on both sides (i inherited this chair). i need an expert. and im in hawaii. suggestions? thank you

    • MCR says:

      Brock,
      Sorry, I don’t have a directory of upholsterers across the country but you might get some help if you post on the Design Addict forum. There are a lot of knowledgeable, helpful people there and someone might know of a repair person in your area who is up to the job. Good luck.

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  7. jasmine says:

    thanks for the tutorial! do you ever cut the rope? how do you keep the rope on the spool and loop it all the way trough?

  8. Leif A says:

    Thanks a lot for the info about weaving.
    Like Jasmine I have questions about the side to side weaving. Do I need to cut the amount of cord needed for weaving the whole side to side part, off the spool ?
    Do you know the length in feet?

    • MCR says:

      Yes, you need to do the side-to-side weaving (the weft) with cut lengths. Longer lengths tend to tangle more and you will spend a lot of time untangling them. I think I do about 22 yards/meters, not sure. This doesn’t have to be measured exactly, just pull it off the spool gauging it from midpoint on your torso (or your nose if that’s easier) to outstretched arm’s length.

      I learned how to weave Danish paper cord seats from The Caner’s Handbook by Jim Widess. I highly recommend it. Don’t be put off by the cover illustration! The instructions for Danish chairs are excellent. He demonstrates on this exact chair plus a Moller chair.

  9. I have 4 Hans Wegner CH 23 chairs ( maybe knock offs) and the back is off one and I am unable to find the hardware to reattach it. It looks like a raised round disk with a key hole. Where can I find a replacement?

    • MCR says:

      Lee Valley Hardware online may have a keyhole insert that fits this chair. If not, there are other sources online for this kind of thing. I don’t keep a list of parts like this—sorry! I just google it when the need comes up and usually I find what I need. Ace Hardware stores also carry a lot of oddball little things like this.

  10. Leif A says:

    I have now finished my first ch 23 chair.
    I can give you the information about the amount of paper cord I used for the new seat:
    Front rail 40 meter
    Back rail 10 meter
    Side-to-side weft 80 meter (2*40 meter)
    The side to side part I devided into 3, because it is much easier to handle the shorter lengths.

  11. Robert says:

    Fantastic job and thank you for sharing.
    I’ve just acquired 4 knock off Hans Wegner wishbone chairs but two of the chairs have loose joints which are causing the chairs to “rock”. The weave is still in perfect condition so I’m not in a rush to redo this if not needed.
    I’ve had pretty good look over the chairs but can’t seem to figure out a way to reglue the joints without removing the weave. Anyone have success with this?

    • MCR says:

      If there’s enough space to get a small size glue syringe into the joint, I would try that. I don’t do a lot of regluing and I don’t think people use the comments section here for group discussions much, so this is probably not the best place to ask. You will probably get more help on boards dedicated to furniture repair.

  12. Justin Grow says:

    Can you give me an idea of the amount of time this took?

    • MCR says:

      If you are familiar with the process, it will take around four hours. If you haven’t woven one of these before, it could take longer. If you have never woven any paper cord seats at all, it could take a lot longer. It really depends on how quickly you pick up the technique and the nuances of weaving with paper cord. That seems to vary a lot depending on the person.

  13. Louise says:

    Beautiful job !
    I have 2 chairs, I am now thinking woven with paper twine.
    One is very sun bleached. Is there anything to be done ?
    When I was thinking it was rope it seemed a light oil might rejuvenate it.
    The wood could use it as well.
    Sorry to bother you – I read through most and didn’t fid an answer.

    • MCR says:

      I’ve never heard of oiling paper cord but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. I don’t really know! It’s the same material as the wood—cellulose—so I doubt that the oil would hurt it, I would be more concerned with how evenly it’s absorbed, I guess. Danish paper cord used to be treated with wax, so if there’s any of that remaining it might prevent even absorption. If you are willing to risk having to get the entire chair rewoven, maybe it’s worth a try? I do think it would darken the cord a bit. You can also get oil with pigment in it, which would darken it even more.

  14. Donna Krooskos says:

    I have 4 of these chairs and 3 need new seats. But I LOVE the darkness of the paper cord; its about the same color as the chair finish itself. They’re in great shape except for the paper cord. One chair has a single strand that’s come off (not sure if its broken) and otherwise could last a lot of years longer. The other 3 have several cords torn and hanging down. Do you have any idea how I might be able to find out how the paper was darkened, or is it just age? I hate to give up the “patina” of the old paper cord if I don’t have to; I would prefer to treat the new cord to look like the older ones. Hope you can help…

    • MCR says:

      Donna,
      It can be hard to replace single strands that have broken but it’s worth a try. Paper cord darkens with age and a lot of old Danish chairs also have cord that was a more golden brown than what is available today. You might be able to stain new cord to match. I have never tried this and it will probably require a bunch of trial and error with color mixing. In addition to this, some paper cord was sealed with shellac long ago (I have a Mogensen chair with shellacked cord—you can tell it’s shellac by the way it flakes off in worn areas, and you can test it by wetting a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol and rubbing it on the cord in an inconspicuous place. Shellac will immediately dissolve and the Q-tip will turn a golden brown color.)

      I have never tried staining paper cord. I like the look of old cord too, but usually when one or two cords break the rest are not far behind, and I personally prefer to not have to worry about preserving fragile things.

      If you do decide to go this route, be sure to stain an finish enough cord to replace future broken strands. And good luck! Hope it works out for you.

  15. irina says:

    Fantastic workmanship! Congratulations!
    Do you have any experience cleaning paper twine?
    I have a real challenge here: the weave is in perfect shape, just dirty. How to clean it safely? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

    • MCR says:

      Paper cord can be cleaned with a product called Soap Flakes, which is available online. A less expensive substitute which I use is to just plain old Ivory bar soap. Grate it with a cheese grater, or use a food processor, then dissolve a few tablespoon of the grated soap (or Soap Flakes) in a quart/liter of hot water. You can speed this process by simmering on the stove.

      Let the soap solution cool to room temperature, then sponge onto the paper cord. You must get the entire seat evenly damp or wet, but be sure to dry any drip off the chair frame immediately. The soap won’t hurt it but you could end up with water spots. If you don’t wet all of the paper cord, you’ll end up with water marks on that, too.

      The soap penetrate the paper and loosen the grime. It won’t get rid of deep stains but often you can lighten them. It may not get rid of all of the grime either, but usually it helps.

      Do not rinse at all. The soap will protect the paper cord from future soiling and will even help to repel stains.

      The cord will stretch when wet but don’t worry, it’ll tighten up again when it dries which usually only takes a day or two. Don’t sit in the chair until it’s totally dry.

      You can repeat this process several times for really dirty paper cord. Just do NOT rub or scrub the cord at all when it’s wet! Paper is much weaker when wet and you will quickly create an unattractive fuzziness on the surface if you scrub it.

      This is how the Danes treat paper cord. They also use soap as a finish on pine floors (same material–cellulose). I’ve seen pine floors in castles there that are hundreds of years old that have never been refinished, they’re just routinely cleaned with soap and water and they look smooth and clean and beautiful!

  16. Kevin M. says:

    Nice work. We just acquired a couple of CH 23 chairs and the paper cord is new. I was wondering if you or any of your readers know of a good sealant for the cord that wouldn’t damage or discolor the cord? I’ve noted the cord has a wax on it and the soap process helps when used. Any other thoughts?
    Thanks.

    • MCR says:

      Some of the old books on the subject say to shellac the cord, and I have seen old Danish chairs with paper cord that has very original-looking shellac on it. But be advised that shellac can get gummy in hot, humid weather, especially with a warm body sitting on it! This may be more of a thing for old shellac than new, I’m not sure. I have seen shellacked teak chair backs with the imprint of shirt fabric in them—though if you keep AC on during the summer, you will minimize the danger of this happening.

      Do test it on some paper cord wrapped around a block of wood. I used spray shellac on a newly woven seat once and it was horribly blotchy. So probably brushed-on shellac is the way to go.

      Shellac WILL change the color of the cord, though. It will be darker and will have a glossy sheen. Sounds like you want to avoid that.

      I’ve only ever done soap finishes myself, and when kept up they block grime and stains. A lot of not-so-bad stains can be lightened or eliminated by a few rounds of soap treatment over a few days. Every time you re-soap the paper cord, the fresh soap & water reconstitutes the old soap and lifts the dirt out. It’s a good system.

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