roped folding chairs, Yugoslavia edition

yugo1There are a lot of these folding chairs from Yugoslavia around.  They were made with a tinted clear finish that is almost always scratched and scuffed, and the original hemp/cotton cord is inevitably frayed and worn.  I’ve always wanted to ebonize a pair of them and finally I got the chance.

yugo2These are done in Danish paper cord, which wears better than the original cord.  I also did a more Danish-style weave.  (Photo courtesy of Rob Degenhard at Home Anthology).


yugo4I just love the look of the natural kraft paper color against the soft black of the wood.



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13 Responses to roped folding chairs, Yugoslavia edition

  1. Jeff Jambois says:


    First, let me say that you do wonderful work. I love MCM furniture, and you do an amazing job giving it new life.

    I am just starting down the road of furniture building and restoration(2 years now). In my free time, I have been working on a few different wood refinishing projects and building my shop in the process. I have a long way to go in tools and experience, but I am getting better with every project.

    I was able to pick up 2 of the Yugoslavian Wegner chairs, for $20 a piece. The wood was in pretty poor condition, and the glue joints completely failing. In fact, the chairs seem to be held together by the still-intact hemp cord. I have taken one of the chairs apart, refinished, and re-glued it. Repairing and refinishing wood is my strong point, re-upholstering and caning are not, which brings me to my question…

    …. I am tying to decide how to weave and what to use to weave the seat and back-rest. Inspired by your post, I would like to use the Danish Kraft Paper, and the same weave you used. Can you offer any suggestions on where to get the paper, and also how you execute the weave?

    I would really appreciate any suggestions that you could offer. Thank you

    • MCR says:

      Just do a google search for “Danish paper cord” and you’ll find several suppliers in the US. The ones that list it as “genuine” or “authentic” Danish paper cord generally have a heavier cord of better quality. That’s why it costs more than the stuff not described as genuine.

      As for the weave, there are online tutorials and books about how to do the typical Danish weave but nothing I know of (yet) that explain how to do the front-to-back strands on the seats and backs where there are no L-nails. I have no plans to do a tutorial myself. Fortunately, it’s not hard to figure out! It’s just a matter of looping the cord around and through in the correct order. It took me about 2 minutes to figure out, I’m sure you can do it too! Good luck.

  2. Rae says:

    I have also been wanting to try ebonizing on some generic rope chairs I picked up. What technic did you use?

    • MCR says:

      I used permanent India ink. It will only work on bare wood, so you must remove all of the old finish completely by stripping or sanding. The ink will just bead up if there is any finish left. If the chair has a lot of spokes or rungs, this will require a lot of meticulous work. But once the chair is completely bare, just brush the ink on with a foam brush. Some brands of permanent India ink seem to have more shellac than other brands so you should test your brushing technique on some unfinished scrap wood first to see how much time you have to go back and touch up areas. You may need to do two coats depending on how good the coverage is. If the grain is raised (slight roughness after the first coat dries), sand lightly with 220 grit paper and do a second coat of ink. Let dry and cure for a couple of weeks, then apply paste wax according to the directions on the can. This will prevent any rub-off on clothing when the chairs are used. Some people apply a clear coat finish instead of waxing.

  3. Leah Harp says:

    Hi! Just bought a foot stool would love to wash the cord. Any recommendations? Toothbrush and mild soap on a sunny day? Appreciate the expertise!

    • MCR says:

      If you do a Google search for “soap flakes Danish paper cord” you’ll see a number of sites with directions (including mine). They’re all more or less the same information. Good luck!

  4. Denise kneisley says:

    I just bought 2 old crackle barrel style rocking chairs. But they are missing the back. I want to weave the back but idk how much to buy. Can you suggest any information for me? Thank you for posting yours they are beautiful.

    • MCR says:

      I had to look up “Cracker Barrel rocking chair”—I’m guessing you mean the one with the paper rush seat and back? I have never done one of those but it looks like it’s about the same amount of woven area as a typical chair seat, so whatever the supplier recommends for a chair seat will probably be enough. I do not work much with paper rush but I’m sure there are plenty of videos on youtube about it. Good luck!

  5. HILDA LANATA says:


    • MCR says:

      Paper cord weaving isn’t hard once you get the hang of it but it can be daunting at first. This diagram should help with how to wind the cord around the top and bottom rails on the back (and the front and back rails on the seat). The weaving itself is the same as on a Wegner CH23 chair and others that don’t have Danish L-nails on the inside of the frame.

      I learned the general techniques of paper cord weaving just from The Caner’s Handbook by Jim Widess and Bruce Miller.

  6. HILDA LANATA says:

    Thank you for such a quick and instructive answer, I suppose all I need now is a
    big ego push to get started. I got the 3 ply paper cord from England.
    Will let you know later…much later how it went.
    Once again thanks for your kindness. Hilda

  7. Richie Brouk says:

    Ok, I’ve read your very informative articles for about 2 hours about weaving rope furniture, you do very good work, but I’m lazy. I’m a retired architect that collects architect designed mid modern furniture, and I have a lot of the 20’s-60’s big names. I bought a Hans Wegner style folding rope lounge chair or Yugoslavian chair (w/o handles) and refinished the wood frame. The rope is in relatively fair condition, but appears to be sun bleached and brittle. Is there any oil or liquid that I can spray on to moisturize and rejuvenate the rope weaving?

  8. MCR says:

    Assuming the chair has paper cord and not hemp cord, you could try the soap flake treatment. Just grate about 1/3 bar of Ivory soap (has to be Ivory) with a cheese grater. Dissolve it in 3 quarts of simmering water on the stove. Make sure it’s completely dissolved.

    Let it cool down a bit, then sponge it onto the paper cord with a clean sponge. Saturate the cord. The cord will expand and sag; this is ok, it’ll tighten back up as it dries.

    Make sure all of the cord is evenly wet. If you only wet part of it, it’ll dry with essentially a big water stain. If all of the cord is wet then there will be no demarcation line when dry.

    Don’t sit in it until it’s completely dry. Drying takes at least a day, maybe two. A fan will speed it up.

    I don’t know if this will work on hemp cord; I’ve never tried it. (Hemp cord is braided over a cotton or linen core. Paper cord has twisted plies like string or rope.)

    The soap solution has some fats in it that provide some stain resistance and I imagine they also help with dried out cord though I’ve never done a soap treatment specifically for that reason. The Danes use this treatment on paper cord and also on plain pine floors. It’s centuries-old.

    Hope this helps–good luck.

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