Long overdue post, but it’s a good one!
This is one of a set of six Cowhorn chairs by Hans Wegner that had been in the owners’ family since they were purchased in the late 50s or early 60s. They were produced by Johannes Hansen, Copenhagen (and currently made by PP Møbler, Denmark).
At some point in the chairs’ early existence, they were coated with shellac. Maybe this was to add some gloss to the teak. I did some research to determine whether it was the original finish and the answer came back: nope. So I very carefully removed it and oiled the bare teak.
Oh, and I rewove the binder cane seat.
The seat had been shellacked too, but the cane had also darkened naturally. The new cane will darken with age too, it’ll just take awhile.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with shellac as a finish, but it does get really dark over time and also can get gummy in humid weather. You can actually see the wrinkles of someone’s shirt in the finish in this photo. Dust and grime become imbedded in it.
The shellac was also faintly alligatored in areas. Old shellac is brittle and it no longer flexes with minute swelling and contracting of the wood when the humidity changes. It develops tiny cracks and feels and looks rough, kind of like an alligator hide.
This is the same chair back. Wegner cut the back from mirrored pieces of the same block of wood and the light/dark effect is reversed if you look at it from the opposite angle. It is breathtakingly beautiful.
That one little corner in the middle of the row of tenons is a chip that was filled in by the craftsman who made the chair. It probably matched when he did it, but the wood darkened a bit more than the filler over time. It must have been hard to get a perfect cut on those tenons on every chair, every time. I imagine him cursing under his breath when that little corner broke off.
No, this is not a photo of my sweater sleeve. It’s an extreme closeup of one of the chair backs showing the imprint of a Tshirt in the shellac. That stuff just had to go.
The shellac had gotten so dark that it obscured the grain of the teak.
Wow, right? I never got tired of looking at this.
These arms are just the perfect shape in your hand.
And now they look good, too.
I just like this photo. Makes you just want to swoop your hand across that smooth wood.
Also, you don’t get that light/dark thing when you look at the backs straight on. Only from an angle.