Shop Chair

Michael Perry, in his humbly humorous Truck: A Love Story, includes a discussion of the “shop chair”, or, perhaps “the shop chair”.  As he points out, every shop has a chair, likely a refugee from an unfortunate styling era (harvest gold!) or a now-attenuated dining room set, that acts as a welcome respite from standing on a hard floor.

I have no shop, but I now have a shop chair, appropriately salvaged from below a “free table” at work.

front view of ALCOA chair
An ALCOA secretary’s chair, solid aluminum and steel, as befits a product of the Aluminum Company of America.  It probably dates to the original furnishing of the building I work in – 1928 or so.  I have unfortunately found no way to accurately guage the date.  Please note that the sum total of the padding is a 1/4″ thick piece of leather across the back, though there may have been some upholstery on the seat at some point.


Further indication that this chair is from a different era.  Few office managers now would be equipped to follow the upholstery care instructions: “Clean leather with castile soap and warm water.  Clean fabric with gasoline.”  Such a simple phrase, “clean fabric with gasoline” is.  Redolent of different sensibilities, and of course hydrocarbon fumes.  Note:  No warnings.

As a testament to its durability, the only real work it needed was the replacement of 3 casters, which are still made in the same size with the same diameter (though slightly differently profiled) axle.  I also wiped off most surfaces to avoid contact with whatever chemicals it had attracted over the years in the lab it sat in.

old caster

The casters were made by The Colson Company, Elyria, Ohio, U.S.A.  Still in business, I’m pleased to note.
This only narrows down the date of the chair’s manufacture to post-1910.  Not much help there.

Manifestly, I now need a shop to put the chair in.  Bare metal doesn’t precisely say “hospitality” to visitors to my apartment.  The most likely reaction is “what’s that chemical stain on the seat?”

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