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Broken Wicker Chair

This chair was a broken chair, made in Yugoslavia; a standard wicker chair. Now it is a multi-century monument to "The Unknown Wicker Chair Sculptor of Yugoslavia." Was this person a wrinkled old man? Perhaps a beautiful young maiden gathering wicker as she tended her flock? Did the unknown maker survive an era of danger? Much can be wondered about an old, broken chair.

An old wicker treasure can be converted to a very comfortable ferrocement monument. It will last for many centuries.

The wicker chair is completley covered with welded wire, the wicker does not require any special treatment. The mesh is about 1.25 cm (half inch). The wire is about the same color as the wicker and didn't photograph well. U shaped tie wires go through the wicker to lasso and clamp together the welded wire on both sides using a tightly twisted knot. This is a tedious job but yields a very high quality restored chair. Inspect and then bend all tie wire knots down flat so they do not disturb the finish surface.

Trim away struts underneath which will no longer be necessary. Cover wicker completely on both sides and the legs twice, place extra reinforcement at all leg stress points.

It is often easiest to place angular pieces at all the turns first and then place larger flat pieces like the seat and back areas, this order of procedure, however, is best left open as the plan of accomplishment unfolds. The original wicker chair maker had good reason to brace the legs against the strains of continuous use, a few extra layers here and there, or some lengths of heavier wire will help ensure no cracks develop, reinforcing steel is not needed.

Allow a full day to plaster as there are surprisingly many details. If the design is more complex than this example it will be impossible to apply all the plaster and finish it well in one day. Even for this simple chair it would be a good idea to schedule the plaster work so that one does the underside of the seat one day and saves the visible surfaces for the next day. It will seem a slight amount of work to do the underside alone, however, the next day will be long enough that one may wish to have a helper to mix the plaster and keep the work area neat.

Use care handling fragile fresh plaster if the underside is plastered only one day before turning the chair is turned over to plaster the visible surfases.

Notice that the feet will be sitting on the work table when the time comes to place the plaster, there will be no way to put plaster underneath the legs where they meet the ground and rot will penetrate inward from those points. Solution for this dilemma is small, well cured plaster spacers which are 50 - 60 mm thick (3/16 - 1/4). There is nothing new to the idea of spacers like this, the sculptor must make them because they are sold only in much larger sizes at masonry supply stores.

Use a sponge float for finishing the plaster. Keep sponge float clean and brush away large grains with clean, soft, kitchen type sponge. Plaster with standard 3 dry measures of sand and one dry measure of cement, plus color. Add about half as much extra cement as color volume.

The work surface must be level and flat or the legs will not sit flat on a hard surface. If one or more legs are broken and crooked they can be held in correct position by pounding a nail into the table next to the leg to hold it in proper position.

Round the leg slightly where it meets the ground so no sharp chips break off later and create an unsightly jagged edge.

Available cushions remain unused by most who enjoy this chair. It is very comfortable. A similar result occurred during the California cement chair period of the late 1950's, on Mountain Drive, in Santa Barbara.

Summary: Some supports are removed during this process and comfort alterations can also be made. An X brace was removed between the four legs where the arch shapes meet the legs. Normal wire cutters work well on wicker. Increased elbow area will often be an improvement, approximately 6 (15 cm) were added to the horizontal arm rest by cutting away the sweeping wicker curve and adding a new angular shape to the union of arm rest and back with welded wire.

Movement is possible with one person but a hand cart makes it easy. Wood under the legs is because the cart is too narrow, wood behind the legs keeps the chair from sliding backward when the cart is tilted. Padding keeps the chair from grinding paint from the cart. A tie rope keeps both hands free and makes moving around even easier.