Monday, April 6, 2009

Phoenix Rocking Chair Project

Okay, first I should say that I am not in any way short on projects, or potential projects. Seriously. But, sometimes I just can't say no. Here's the latest example.

Last month, while visiting family in Oregon, I'm walking through an antique store. A real one. Which probably doesn't overly excite you, except you probably don't live in Alaska where 99.9% of "antique" stores are actually "junk" stores. So, anyway, I'm drooling all over the store. I turn a corner and there is this cute little arts and crafty rocker.

I'm about to move on, when I see the tag. $35! What? In Alaska, assuming you could find something like this, it would be at least $100 to $200 more. Now I'm interested. The tag says "as is"- hmm. I start to give it the once over.

The joints are loose. No problem. That's good really (already planning ahead). One of the metal supports that holds the seat springs has broken and someone "fixed" it by jamming a board in there. Not comfortable - true, but it is fixable. And the rockers aren't original. The holes in them don't match up with the legs. More serious, but I'm not collecting, and it still has my interest. And come on - $35!

So I buy it. I did try to resist, I mean I don't need any projects - did I mention that? But two day's later it's sitting in my Mother-In-Law's garage. Now to get it home to Alaska. I thought about checking it on the airplane. Don't laugh. Up here we check stuff that seems crazy anywhere else. If you go to the airport in Anchorage you will see various duck tape wrapped objects on the carousel: moose racks, guns, huge coolers full of salmon, guns, TVs (in boxes), fishing poles, guns, BBQ grills, a case of Tabasco, more guns, groceries etc. But after thinking about the prices they are charging these days, I opted for Old Blue. The U.S. Postal Service to the rescue!

Step one. Take the rocker apart. No problem - the joints are already loose. Except that someone has tried to hold them together by nailing through some of the joints. I dig these out with minimal damage using a tool I made from a screwdriver that I sharpened and put a "vee" notch into with a file (got both at the local hardware store - a real one! No borg!). While taking it apart, I manage to read part of the decayed sticker that tells me it is The Phoenix Chair Company's Model # 21434, from Sheboygan, WI.

Step two. Box it up. The postal service has a web site that covers pricing. If you ever find yourself in this situation (I doubt it, but who knows...)it's a very handy guide to knowing how big you can go before prices hit the roof.

Step three. Mail it. Done. I've now more than doubled my investment. I'm still happy.

Step four. Wait. Parcel Post to Alaska can take weeks. Especially when the volcano keeps messing around.

Step five. Put it back together. This will be the fun one - but it will have to wait. But one fine day, the rocker will rise from the ashes like a Phoenix...err...from the boxes...whatever. Fun.


  1. That is a cute chair. I'll be curious to see what you do with it. I've not tried to fix loose chair joints yet. I remember a set of cheap kitchen chairs we had when I was a kid that seemed to loosen if you just looked at them funny. (I'm sure the fact they had to put up with two teenage boys constantly leaning back in them had nothing to do with it). My poor dad was always trying some gizmo or "trick" he had heard about. None of it worked well or for long.

    Will you replace the rockers as well? I'm curious if the back splats are solid wood or plywood? I know by the 20's many pieces of furniture, at least the kind my ancestors could afford, used plywood somewhere on it.

    Good luck, and keep the project pictures coming.


  2. What a cool looking chair--it will fit in nicely with your other mission furniture....and what a deal! The upholstery seems to be in perfect shape. The previous owner must not have had any teenagers.

  3. AAAndrew - I think I might use this chair as an excuse to mess with hide glue. That way, if I mess anything up, I can always reverse it and try again. I don't think I will replace the runners - but they will need some repair from sheetrock screw butchery. As for the back splats, I don't recall, but I'll let you know as soon as I unpack it - which will probably not be very soon. I don't know much about the chair company, but I did find something on the web that might put this chair in mid-century, so plywood would not surprise me.

    Kari - Maybe the teenagers were too busy destroying the original rockers to mess with the upholstery? I do have a weakness for Arts & Craft / Mission furniture. There is something very "clean" about it. Shaker furniture has the same feel to me, although obviously visually different...

  4. Dan: First I would like to say Thanks for the Comment, good questions also!

    Have you had the time to assemble the Chair yet? I'm very interested in seeing the process and the repair process if you are doing such work on it.

    I've got an Antique Rocker Chair in my warehouse that I'm gonna bring home soon and do some Restoring to it, Refaberic it and check out the wood and the joints and see what needs to be done.

    Nice Chair By the way!


  5. Hi Dan...I was quite intrigued by your post. You see, my daughter purchased an old rocking chair at a yard sale...paid about $10. It's been sitting in my garage for a couple of years. I happened to be moving it around to make room in the garage and turned it over. To my surprise I see a very old sticker just like yours! It's numbered 761-44. Don't know a thing about chairs but it seems this might be a real antique. I wonder how I can have this valued? Any suggestions?

  6. Cathy H. - Cool! I'm not sure about value. I suppose you could take it to a reputable antiques dealer and talk to them about it. And $10, that sure seems like a deal!

  7. Hi Dan~
    I don't know what you have done with your chair in the past year, but I just started a refinishing job of a rocker from Phoenix Chair Company. The label is very similar, except my model is 2060HB. The company went caput during the depression, so it can't be any newer than the 1930's. I would love to learn more about my particular chair. It has a back cushion that is tacked in on all four sides, with oak still showing on each side. It's going to be a challenge to replace the upholstery, but I love challenges.


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