A little lesson in early vs. late Metal Lawn Chairs and what to look for.

Bang! The Fourth of July has done been and gone already! Now I guess we just ride out ( in our trusty Lawn Chairs that is!) summer and wait for football and hunting season to arrive!

Today, let’s look into what the makers were doing in the late 1930’s to the days leading up to WW II and then what was happening after. By knowing some of the “tells” I look at, you too can judge for yourself the approximate age of a cool find. To begin, we need to know  little history. We’ve all been taught in school about the Great Depression and how the Nation’s economy was thrust into tumult. Thousands and thousands of people out of work and factories all over closed up. It was a very bad time but you might have to wonder how some got along despite the hard times. Cars were still being made, houses were being built, furniture was widely available as were household appliances and all sorts of other things. What happened is labor became much less costly. A factory could hire more people to make things with more man hours involved but it did not translate into higher production costs.

Now this is a little hard to understand here in 2016 what with so many service workers petitioning for a $15.00/hour minimum wage. Not only were jobs scarce but payment for work was greatly reduced. I’ve read in some old books where a guy with a good job making a rather tidy living as an advertising artist was now working on half scale and then was asked to work on half of that later on. It was either that or no job at all!

When we look at articles made in the Pre-WW II era, we see lots of detail. Handwork being, for lack of a better term, cheap, a factory could well afford to have a worker doing a task that was a bit fiddly. Say for instance in a late 1930’s metal lawn chair, many of these old pieces used a one piece frame. Even though there was a machine doing the bending, it was a person doing the setting up of the part to be made. A one piece frame could not be made in one operation and likely required three. Then, this solid piece had to handed on to another worker for finishing and then on to packaging.

Let’s stop here a moment and talk a little about packaging and shipping. As with worker’s wages, shipping was also a very different animal than in today’s standards. It was not such a big deal to ship bulky items back then because a load was a paying job no matter what. Lawn Chairs in particular were not all that easily broken down for shipping for the most part. Instead, parts simple nested together and were pilled in. I can say with reasonable certainty, several all steel lawn chairs were shipped from the factory to the retailer completely, or near completely assembled. And, their protection device was more than likely just a wad of news paper here and there. This would all come to an abrupt end directly after the War when all sorts of items were re-designed to be more compactly packaged.

Details, details, the devil is in the details! In pre War II America, it was not at all unusual to decorate or build with lots of trouble; speaking today in more contemporary terms. For example, you will notice a large number of the early period pieces utilized rivets to assemble with instead of screws or bolts. Rivets are mostly permanent and yield a piece that is assembled of nearly so. Also, brackets used for attachment points were common which all had to be formed in a machine by a person or persons. And, when a single bolt would have sufficed, the maker may have chosen to use two fasteners or maybe even incorporated some other extraneous something or other. This is when the phrase, “They sure don’t build’m like they used to!” comes from. All these little extras had to go by the wayside after production returned to peace time.

So, when you are inspecting an interesting old lawn chair and you’re asking yourself, is this really an old piece or is it newer, look closely at the way the old thing is built. As I’ve said before, one piece frames are a good indicator it’s Pre-War. Somewhat complicated attachment points are a good tell also. Decorative arms are another point to notice as these pretty much went away by the start of the 1950’s. If the chair frame has slight bends or seems to be more than just straight with no other element to it is a good consideration. The old Calumet chair being made prior to WW II, sold during the War and then into the very early 1950’s saw a few of these small changes. The one piece frame went from being rounded at the back to having square corners (still a one piece frame though). And, on the chair arms, the early examples have a little dog leg bend just before the chair arm makes contact with the chair back. This serves to open the frame up a little. Later models did away with this small bend which took someone to load into a machine and make it, to a smooth straight section.

If you’ve run onto a really nice example and just can’t decide for yourself when it might have been made or if you just want a second opinion, I’m happy to respond! Please send o my email address tmc@torransmfgco.com along with a couple of pictures, I’ll gladly tell you what I can!

Party On Lawn Chair Nation!

Skip

 

To color match or not….that is the question!

Hey All Y’all up in here in the Lawn Chair Nation!

Memorial Day was a little wet for us Southern folks but we still managed to get outside and make a trip or two to the lake for the inaugural start to summer! Bang! It’s here don’t you know!

We get calls everyday from folks that what to outfit their front porch, back yard, deck or what all. The problem comes with picking colors! We offer a whole bunch of colors and sometimes that presents a little trouble. What color to pick? Just this week a lady was fretting over her choice for going all white or mix in some color for her front porch. There are folks that want their furniture to match the house and then others want their chairs and gliders to add a splash of color. Either way is perfectly acceptable and to be very honest, there are no hard and fast rules as far as I’ve found!

But, lets take a look at what folks did back in the day how about? From the very start, reds, yellows, blues and greens were common color choices. So, if you had an all white house and you wanted metal chairs and gliders then you just put them out there and that was it. This was normal and common to see and no one freaked out. And, it was so very common to see all these colors in one setting. My feelings are that since color was such an important thing in the Post War Era that people pretty much demanded things to be offered in a choice of colors. If it wasn’t in a color then most likely it was chrome! This is also the time when cars came in colors too and not just white, black and silver.

If I could guide anyone on colors, I’d say to pick whatever suits you and have fun. I used to think we needed to match the color of the year and for awhile we did but pretty soon we came to understand that vintage style metal lawn furniture need not be in whatever the rad color was supposed to be for that year. The normal top 3 is and has been red, yellow and green. Blue is a popular third color in some parts of the country more than green. However, school colors are an important thing to consider. Folks always what to show their school colors and quite often it gets pretty intense! This is one reason why we offer so many colors.

Let me say something about red with white. There is I’m sure a physiological explanation as to why this color combination is so popular across so many years for all sorts of things. It was the hot go to colors of the 50’s but so was yellow and white let’s not forget. My aunt was a yellow and white fan of the first order! I’m sure, Coca Cola has had a lot to do with furthering the red/white proliferation. But, they weren’t the only ones cashing in so maybe it’s just in our human make up to gravitate to this color combo. As a side note, we worked with a guy on the East Coast for awhile that made the old chrome diner furniture. He told me he purposely would not bring anything red and white to display at a trade show. I asked why he didn’t go with his strongest offering? He said that every time he showed red/white, no one paid any attention to his other way cool colors! So, in order to sell his other choices, he had to leave red and white at home.

To sum up, really all you need to do is reflect back to what you mother or grandmother would have done. After all, they were in the same situation themselves back in their day too! But for them, the world was all about colors and color combinations. They just went with the flow and did what seemed natural to do. Making the world a little prettier has never been a problem for anyone. So my recommendation is just have fun, let some color flow and if that gets old, change it around! If you want a dead on match to your house color then that’s all cool as well! The important thing is to make yourself happy and enjoy the outdoors. Of course an added benefit to having multi colored lawn chairs and gliders out front, your pizza guy or visitors won’t miss your house!

Party on All Y’all and remember, don’t toss ‘m, save ‘m!

Louis (Skip) Torrans

 

 

Saving that special find and making it new again!

Hiddy Hi all y’all out there in the Lawn Chair Nation!

OMG! Memorial Day is like here and I mean right now! Y’all know what that means? Summer time is upon us and sitt’n outside is what it’s all about! We’ve got most of the kids coming so we washed and arranged our chairs and gliders for everyone to enjoy. Hope the rain stays away and I hope all y’all take a moment to remember the reason for the holiday and thank a Veteran for his/her service and their help in making our Country the Greatest on the Planet!

Today, I want to help y’all with rebuilding that garage/lawn/church/flea or whatever type of sale you scored an old piece of metal lawn furniture and brought home to love. Sourcing parts can be a little difficult compared to rebuilding other things. I remember as a kid working on go-carts, mini-bikes and cars that you had to go to the back of magazines to locate companies selling the stuff your needed. You had to write off for their catalog, which took weeks to arrive and sometimes you even had to send them money to buy them! But that’s how it was back in the day and I was a catalog collector of the first order. I had catalogs from all over the country and I used to look them over like they were one of those men’s magazines I used to try to sneak a peek at in the rack down at the drug store. Hoo Boy!

Anyways, now we have the internet and with just a few clicks you can find almost anything you might need. However, parts for vintage lawn furniture is not, shall we say, a target rich environment. To my knowledge, we are the only company offering parts for the old chairs and glider in the styles we make. Today, we service an ever growing community of Lawn Chair Aficionados fixing up their found treasures or family heirlooms. Most of the time we can help but there are other instances where we can’t.

Ironically, we have some sources I’d like to share with all y’all that routinely comes to the aid of a stumped owner/rebuilder needing parts. Vintage Glider – www.vintageglider.com has been helping to save old chairs and gliders for over 10 years. I’ve been watching them all this time and have seen them grow from a little ole’ shop to what they are today. Mostly, they refinish the square, couch looking metal glides like those made by JR Bunting. but they have other pieces available and provide custom work too. Now that they are enjoying much deserved growth, they have a nice supply of vintage parts available to help you rebuild that old family piece that’s on its last leg. I’m certain if you have one of the old square shaped gliders and are in need of a part or just want to check on their services, they’ll take great care of you! They have the same passion for these old pieces as you do!

Another source for a few things might lead you to eBay. I’ve run across old parts there pretty often from someone that has torn down an old piece and is selling the good parts. Also, there are a few folks that have taken the time to remake some of the old parts that are hard to find. They might not be vintage but they are modeled after old pieces and will get you back in business!

And lastly, we receive inquiries pretty often from folks working on old glidesr in the style we make. In the early years, about the 1970’s to the late 80’s, Flanders was making gliders and using swing arms that had nylon bushings that looked a lot like a little top hat. They fit onto a special made bolt that had a larger than normal shoulder so the nylon bushing would run smooth. You must have these original bolts to use replacement bushings. Without them, the bushings will be way too loose. And, at this time I can’t help with a source for replacement bolts of this type. AND! Before I forget, if you have one of the older made Flanders gliders and intend to have them powder coated, make double sure the powder coater does not throw out these special bolts! I can’t tell you how many times some one calls me and they have “lost” one or more of these special bolts! Now, if you just need to replace the bushings, here’s what I have for you. Contact McMaster Carr @ www.mcmaster.com and order part number 6389K625. These are nylon bushing as closely made as I’ve been able to locate to replace the bushing on an early Flanders glider. If you need a complete new set of swing arms, ours will get you back going! They include a pressed in bushing in the same style Flanders went to in the late 80’s up until 1996 when they stopped production. Sorry, but our swing arms bushings are not available separately.

We’re always happy to hear from folks rebuilding an old chair or glider and we gladly offer whatever support and advise we can.to get anyone fixed up.

Thanks for dropping by and have a safe and very happy Memorial Day Weekend!!

Skip

Some news, couple of updates and some odds and ends.

What’s up Lawn Chair Nation!!

I thought maybe I’d post a few pieces of news for all y’all. First, our Heavy Duty chairs are very soon to be back in stock, like before the end of April or sooner. These are our commercial grade frames that have a weight rating of 325 lbs. Or normal frames are weight rated at 275 lbs but lots of our bars and restaurant customers asked for a heavier made chair so we developed our Heavy Duty chairs. In fact, they have become so popular that we are gearing our entire chair line over to Heavy Duty frames as our standard chair. And, there will only be a modest cost increase but you’ll be getting the strongest made tube frame metal lawn chair that has ever been made no matter who or when it was made! You’ll still be able to get our regular frames which are the strongest in the industry but they will have to be ordered this way. I’ll have more news about this as our stock rotates towards all Heavy Duty frames.

We’re running a way cool sale right now! When you buy $140.00 in purchase total (excluding shipping and taxes) you’ll receive a super way cool vintage lawn chair tee shirt in your size! Tee shirts are limited to stock on hand and the choice depends on what we have. Be the first on your block to sport this totally rad, one of a kind summer time favorite!

Now seems like the time when everybody is in the fix’n mode! They’re fix’n to do this and do that and among these they are fix’n up their old lawn chairs and gliders. A nice lady called just this week with a funny story. Said she had scored a way cool vintage two seat lawn chair only to discover later it was really a two seat glider minus the main frame and swing arms. This is actually more common than you might first think. We fixed her up with a brand new main frame and set of swing arms with new hardware! Now she’s on her way to glide’n and sitt’n like a Queen in here rebuilt vintage glider! Many of our chair and glider parts will rebuild almost all the old gliders and chairs made in our styles. However, we get lots of requests for other glider and chair parts for the other vintage styles. We’re always happy to help you with your rebuilding project and search for parts. Even if we don’t have the parts, we at least know or have some ideas where to look. After all these years, we sort of have a little data base made up of where to locate stuff and we’re more than happy to share our hard earned knowledge with you!

And, as always, if you have an old vintage chair or glider and have some questions about it, please call or drop me a line at tmc@torransmfgco.com. It’ll be real helpful if you’ll please include a couple of photos because sometimes working off just a description doesn’t always get you the answer you’re wanting. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!

Anyways y’all, enjoy the spring weather and please remember to save’m and not scrap’m!

Until later y’all!

Skip

 

 

OMG. Where as the time gone…by?

Hey All Y’all out there in the Lawn Chair Nation!

Sorry it’s been like a year since I blogged last but time has just flown by and life in general has been way hectic! But, I’m so very glad spring is back and I’m sure most of y’all are too. I want to talk with you folks that are doing a little lawn chair collecting and maybe want to know a little more about the old pieces you’re running onto. First, if you haven’t read my book “A History of the Metal Lawn Chair….What We Know Now” I invite you to take a look at it please. I worked for about 5 years on it and wanted it to be the end all book on the subject of Metal Lawn Chairs but alas, the history is so reclusive that I hit a wall on anything further and simply decided to put out what I knew at the time. And, it still appears for all practical purposes that further information is scant and less than enough to make any updates with a new edition. However, one thing has been more present in the last year than most others. I’m talking about the metal lawn chairs made with spring steel frames instead of the normal tube frame varieties we’re all more accustom to findings.

In my book, I talk a lot about Alvin Shott and his dominance in the 1940’s making what he called, all steel porch chairs.  Mr. Shott claimed and I have no reason to doubt it, that he was the largest manufacturer of all steel porch chairs in the world. That is until Ed Warmack built up a good head of steam and surpassed him in the late 40’s and early 50’s. But, Shott did something Ed Warmack didn’t do and that is offer a high end chair at a much costlier price. Actually, Shott didn’t do anything all that outstanding but instead took cues from some of the past makers that were in place prior to World War II. (That’s 2 and not 11 now you kids!) Back in the days before Shott got rolling, a few of the early manufacturers would offer their same tube frame chairs but in a highly flexible, spring steel frame. The seat and back were the same, just the frame was different. Some used spring steel all the way around while a few others made a sort of hybrid piece using spring steel for the bottom of the frame up to about the connection point at the front of the seat. Then, they combined the flat spring steel with round tube material to continue on with frame to form the chair arms. This means there is a joint just under the bottom edge of the chair front where to two shapes collide. Chairs with this arrangement of construction are to my opinion pre-WWII. The added work to marry the two shapes of material would have been rather costly production wise but one does see this added work in many things in the years leading up to war time. It was after the war that manufacturers tended to economize and in Metal Lawn Chairs, you can see subtle differences of things that might have taken a few extra steps to add in. By dropping these design elements, the maker streamlined their process a bit and saved production time.

When manufacturers like JR Bunting, who by the way was already considered a high end maker added a spring steel frame their retail costs were dramatically higher! I’m talking at least nearly double here folks! A normal tube frame lawn chair could be had for about $3.50 to $4.00 in the mid 40’s  but with a spring steel frame, the costs were almost always closer to $6.50.Just for an example, in today’s money these high end pieces would be near $100.00. Now I know today’s tube frame lawn chairs are priced not too far from this but this was in the 1940’s when little differences made large changes. In an effort to gain a little extra clout and offer the buyer who wanted a little nicer piece, these makers of the day could justify the added costs and also expect a good return on their efforts. Consequently, the buyers for the spring frame chairs proved a little less than anticipated and production numbers are characteristically small. This is the largest reason so few of these examples are not found in descent numbers today. BTW. these spring frame chairs flex a lot and depending on your size and weight, you get quite the ride of ’em without fear of breaking!

When Alvin Shott came along, he too saw the benefit of offering these higher end chairs but I fear he didn’t understand the economics behind them. Still, he sold a bunch and they can be found with a little looking today. They seldom are located in such poor condition as to make them no longer useful. On the contrary, spring metal lawn chairs tend to be found in quite serviceable condition and pretty much ready for duty as is. Their frames are not as prone to rusting as the tube models and I think their owners may have taken a little better care of them probably owing to their purchase cost and wanting to see to their life a little better. Today, a spring frame chair either made by Shott or others will warrant a rather higher price than a similar example in tube frame. Depending on where the find is made, you might expect the asking price to be again, about double. It is not unusual to locate a nice vintage piece for $100 or more with a tube frame chair next to it going for about $50.00. Many of the antique dealers have come to recognize the attractiveness of spring frame chairs and also their limited numbers is becoming well understood. If you run onto a nice one, you might try to haggle a bit but in the end if it’s in good shape and sits right, you’ll have it for a very long time and can most likely pass it on!

If you have any questions about collecting the old metal lawn chairs, please drop me a line!

Until later y’all! And please remember – “Save’m, don’t crush’m!”

Skip

Oh yes it is!……Summer that is!

Well hiddy hi there Lawn Chair Nation!

Yes, I know it’s been like forever since the last post but we’ve been building our new and improved web site and the web gurus asked me to stay off here until it ran ok. Well it’s up and running just fine and I’ll be talking with y’all a little more often hopefully.

Like I said, it’s summertime…..way summertime here in good ole East Texas! July 4th generally marks the beginning of hot weather for us but this 4th was so extraordinary cool there were folks at the fireworks display wearing sweaters and wrapping up! Not so much now. High 90’s for as far out as the weather dudes can predict. Perfect Lawn Chair weather don’t you know!

If you’re seeing more and more old chairs around it may just be your local hangout is partly responsible. Sales in vintage style all steel lawn chairs is really doing well. Seems that lots of the new and hip restaurants and bars are requesting our retro chairs for their seating! It’s so cool that these places are inspired to include the old furniture in their seating. And, it appears their customers are having a great time with them too. Most of these places have tricked out a semi outdoor area that is covered but otherwise open to some degree with great looking brick, old wood, funky finds and all sorts of retro flavored decor and fittings. You gotta love going into a classic styled bar or restaurant and find old steel lawn furniture for your seating pleasure!

We began making our “Heavy Duty” frames several years ago due to many requests from our commercial clients needing something a little more stronger. Although our normal chairs are weight rated to 275 lbs, the commercial guys needed them a bit heavier made. So, we developed our line of Heavy Duty frames. This chair is comfortable with a weight rating of 325 lbs.

Should you have need of these Heavy Duty frames for some of your “larger” friends or relatives then let us help you. They’re really affordable and look just like our normal frames. Then you won’t have to worry who is sitting in your chair and you can avoid that odd cringe on your face when the brother-in-lawn heads for your lawn chairs with his heaping plate of barbecue.

 

If you’re patronizing one of these places that is sporting old lawn chairs, we’d love to have a picture of you and your crew enjoying y’all’s selves! Try to be nice in the picture because we’d like to post this on our web site. Also include all the names and other particulars you’d like to note!

Until next time…..party on Lawn Chair Nation!!

Skip

 

Happy New Year! Com’on Spring!

Happy 2015 all y’all lawn chair fans!

Well, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Years Holiday season! Here in East Texas we’re getting ready for Mardi Gras which is the first week of February. If y’all are anywhere near Jefferson the weekend of Feb. 6, 7 & 8th you owe it to yourself to drop by and see how we celebrate with Mardi Gras Upriver! It’s way cool!!

As I write this, steady rain is coming down and it’s darn cold! However, we had a drop dead beautiful weekend this last week and this cold spell isn’t supposed to last past Friday afternoon. Actually, our winter hasn’t been too bad and just between y’all and me, I’m bet’n on an early spring. Then I read where February might make up for all the easy weather we’ve had but with the way these weather prognosticators have been dropping the ball I figure my guess is just as good as theirs.

Spring with all its venerated preparation rituals generally includes either bringing out the lawn furniture or cleaning up what’s been left out all season. This also means folks begin thinking about taking on a rebuild project for their recent flea market score or garage sale find. Let me tell you about the most useful little tool to have on hand for such work. It’s an electric Dremel Tool which is nothing more than a little high speed motor that accepts itty bitty rotary tools. These handy little things can make quick work of taking down rusted screws or cutting off a rounded nut or other such potential catastrophe. BTW. When you buy one these tools please remember to pickup a good pair of safety glasses and remember to wear them!

There are numerous tools, bits, sanders, grinders and other accessories available both as Dremel brand or from other sources that fit into the tool’s chuck. These little attachments can do grinding, sanding, polishing and my favorite, cutting off stuff. All you have to do is slip the new tool into the tiny chuck, power up the motor and the Dremel tool is ready for work. The little tool runs with very little vibration and they generally fit into a woman’s hand easily. The working is pretty straight forward but it’s always a good idea to read over the instruction manual to become familiar. You’ll be amazed at all the little reasons you’ll find to have one close by!

The Dremel tool as been around since the 1940s. Today, you can buy them either corded or cordless. I prefer the plug in version but I’ve been made aware the new battery powered models are a great improvement over the earlier ones. A full set of tools with a multi speed motor is about $130.00. Used examples are easy to find and unless they were just totally abused they should be just fine. For taking off rusted bolts, nuts and screws, I can’t think of another tool that works as fast or as easy!

Remember to save’m and not crush ’em!

Skip Torrans

 

What you see…may be too good to be true..!

Hey all y’all up in here in the lawn chair nation!

Oh my gosh! Did the weather change or what? Shorts and tee shirts last week, boots, gloves and hats this week and it looks to be full on winter time from here on out. Sure makes it hard to think about sitting outside doesn’t it! Hey! I got a “hot” tip for all y’all. When you’re outside and have the fire pit working, take a small shovel full of the coals and make a little mound directly under your metal lawn chair. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised just how much warmth that little pile of coals generates. You won’t be warm all over but the seat of your lawn chair is going to be way nice and toasty!. Too hot? Just take away some of the coals or spread them out a little more. Only takes a couple of times before you get the right amount figured out.

Anyways, today I want tell you about a friend that has been collecting vintage lawn chairs for a pretty good while now. He is sporting a pretty nice collection and has been very fortunate to run across some of  the more hard to find pieces. So, the other day he sends me a couple of pictures of two really old clam shell shaped chairs. These chairs had lots of Art Deco embellishment and we judged them to be pre World War II.I didn’t know the maker unfortunately but he Art  Deco was in your face! They had been repainted and from a slight distance looked really pretty. The lady selling them was sort of, how you say “proud” of them and her selling price reflected it. My buddy looked them over quickly and popped a couple of quick photos to send me. I told him these had to be pre – World War II and that I don’t see them around very often. From the photos, they looked to be true barn finds and in really solid condition.

Well…about a week goes by and he checks in and the lady doesn’t want to budge on her price. But, he got a chance to take a good look and found out the repaint job wasn’t so well done and a crack had formed near the screw hole of the frame where the seat attaches. This is a point of worry because it could mean the old frame has been flexed so much the metal is becoming brittle. He showed this but still the lady is firm on her numbers. Then, just the other day after he walked away from the chairs, the lady voice mails him that she’ll now take substantially less if he’s still interested.

I don’t know if he took the deal or not but this is a classic example of how looks can be deceiving. First, the price made you think these were really hard found chairs that have been only sat in on Sunday afternoons after church and only in dry weather. All the other times they were parked in the barn and well off the ground. They certainly had what appeared to be a very nice repaint because all the Art Deco detail was sharp. So, if you were just standing there looking and merely kicking the tires you’d never notice the whole story. But, once you got down on your knees and began to handle the chairs and looking for defects, up jumps the real story! That paint job was nice but the flaws could be seen upon closer inspection. Then came the frame cracks and these were the ones you could see. The asking price suddenly became way too much! Even with the price coming down this pair of chairs was going to need some TLC. Hopefully, with a better price, these two old girls might turn into real keepers!

My friend did exactly what he was supposed to do! It’s just too bad the long distance love affair didn’t work out! So friends and neighbors, let this be a lesson for us all. Look for those tell tale signs and don’t be afraid to point them out to your seller. You don’t want to be offending, just be honest about the condition. Now. After you’ve done all your looking and if you still want to make a counter offer but the seller holds fast…just write down you contact information, thank them kindly and ask if they should change their mind to please get back with you. You never know!

Stay warm y’all!

Skip

Selling or Buying – it’s about location.

Periodically, I receive an email where the writer is asking what their vintage metal lawn chair might be worth. Then there are the ones where someone has had a great day in the flea market/garage/estate sale and run across a fine old piece and want to know if they got a good deal or not. I’m always happy to receive these emails as they allow me to see how other parts of the country are pricing their period pieces. It’s quite interesting when you know what things are selling for near you only to learn that other areas of the Nation are pricing vintage pieces differently. There has always been the “ghost” story of someone locating an especially nice piece in a yard sale at scrap iron price, which by the way is about $.05 per pound or there abouts. Or on the other side of the coin, a rather cool chair with perfect pealing paint, AKA “patina” is in the front window of a chic little off the beaten path shop and the price tag is well into three digits! It’s the old story the realtors like to say, it’s all location, location, location. Of course the other aged old thing they also like to say is “It just takes that one/right person!”. So, if this theory runs true, provided one is in the right location and if the right person happens by then your offering of a perfect example of an all steel, stamped metal, retro motel clamshell, tulip bouncer chair will bring you enough money to make a house payment! The chances of this are between slim and none and I’m betting on none!

So, what to do if your selling an old metal lawn chair? First, what style is it? Is it a more common variety or rare? Is it functional, meaning can you sit in it without fear of breaking it? Common, good used chairs are on the average bringing about $35 to $65. If you bought the chair for 5 bucks then sold it for $40 you’re way ahead of the game. On the other hand, if you’re into the piece for $45 and the market is looking like the common price is $55 or $60, then you may just want to take your profits and go buy some ice cream. At last that way you’ll have some enjoyment.

Selling old pieces is rarely a good business plan. For one, supply isn’t always dependable nor is the quality. It’s always a crap shoot! But, if you can get established, then folks will bring you their old furniture and then you have a material stream to work with. I’ve seen this happen more than once. But then the problem becomes, how many of the so called “good” finds are still left our there?

 

I think by now you can see the jest of the subject. And, we haven’t covered refinishing which adds another blanket layer to the subject!

Remember. save ’em, don’t scrap ’em!

Thanks!

Louis Torrans

Caveat Emptor – “Buyer Beware”

Howdy All Y’all up in here in the lawn chair nation!

As I write this, July 17th, 2014, East Texas, as well as much of the rest of the Nation is experiencing cool temperatures, perfect for lawn chair sitt’n! Can you believe it? Mid July and it feels like fall…my oh my! It hasn’t been like this in over 100 years so it’s nothing new but it’s been awhile. And, no one apparently saw it coming. Not the weather service, who I think we’ll agree is getting worse instead of better and then the Old Farmer’s Almanac missed it too. Personally I don’t care. I’m enjoying not melting just walking to the truck!

But this blog is not about weather. Instead I want to cover a problem I’m seeing that appears to be growing. Specifically, it’s blatant embellishment in advertising of old chairs and gliders. Recently while spending a little quiet time one afternoon, I pulled up my old haunt for vintage lawn chairs on eBay. I actually use it to learn things and sometimes I run across such a unique piece that I bid on it. Like the 1947 model Ed Warmack double glider I didn’t know existed. But in my rambling around, I found a couple of listing that made me do a double take. There was a chair with the seat and back that could have been one Ed made or it could have been as late as a 1996 Lloyd Flanders piece. Just looking at the seat and back it’s too hard to tell so I use the frame as a guide. However, this chair’s frame was a little weird looking. Upon further inspection of the pictures, it turns out the frame was from a Calumet/Jr. Toy chair most folks call a clam shell chair. I didn’t even know the two would work together but there it was and it looked like it worked just fine. That is except it wasn’t what it was advertised to be. The listing made the claim the chair, I’m paraphrasing here ’cause I don’t want to name names made the bold assertion the chair was a bonafide “original” 1940’s -1950’s era piece. I took the time to contact the seller and inquire about the chair’s authenticity and I told them the frame was not a correct match to the seat and back. They further asserted they have been in the business of rebuilding these old chairs for a long time and the frame with these seats and backs was indeed original and I was all wet.

Then, during the same search I ran across a classic Flanders “C”  chair. Flanders had become Lloyd Flanders in the early 1980’s and developed their round back chair to have high rounded arms. This “C” chair as it was called came out in about 1986 and was made until Flanders stopped production in 1996. Here again the listing made claim these were the genuine articles from the 1950’s and not to be confused with other lesser, more modern copies. I asked the seller about this and told them about the chairs and they responded that the chairs were indeed very old and that the family had them for quite a long time and that I was all wet….again.

I don’t make a habit of trolling auction sites policing listings for inaccuracies but when they jump right out at you and make bodacious claims when I’m pretty sure they know better, it sort of grinds on me a little. And, I’m uncomfortable knowing some poor buyer is shelling out good money for what they’re being told is a pure product. If you can’t sell the poor thing for what it is then please don’t try and make out it’s something it isn’t. Now I know not everyone is lawn chair fluent and I respect that. But when you know it’s not what you say it is then there’s a problem. And, this is why the old Latin phrase, Caveat Emptor is important to remember. What I wish for the reader to take away from this is, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck but barks like a cat then just maybe it ain’t no duck!

On the flip side, I’ve also found pieces that were actually older than the seller said they were. I’ve found early Ed Warmack pieces from 1947 that were said to be just 50’s era. Also, some chairs in these auctions are actually early 1940’s and advertised as being 1950’s products. When I run across these, sometimes I’ll write the seller and let them know their piece is actually much older than they first thought. Oddly enough, these folks never tell me their great-grandmother had these forever and they are family heirlooms or that they’ve been buying and selling old steel lawn chairs since candy bars were two for a nickel. And, they also don’t tell me I’m all wet!

Party On Lawn Chair Army and keep’em, don’t crush’em!

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