Picture of Restoring Emeco Aluminum Chairs
These are classic chairs, characterized by their cool perforated vinyl seats. Unfortunately, you've gotta know where to look to find new upholstery and old stiff foam is tough to remove. I'll show you how.
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Step 1: Set Up

You'll need:
Scissors, a sharpie, a screwdriver, pliers, a wrench, a bunch of rubber tipped clamps, a metal spackling tool, weights (dressmaker's will work),
a 2-3" paint brush, rags, some newspaper or a drop cloth (this gets messy), Barge cement, and Barge thinner and a ventilator is always a good idea when working with strong adhesives.
Purchase 24" x 24" x 1" Foam and head to your local Auto Upholstery supplier for a yard of perforated vinyl (headliner material).

Step 2: Remove the Seat

Picture of Remove the Seat
Turn the chair upsidedown and look for (4) metal clips bolting the chair frame to the seat. Sometimes these can be obscured by the upholstery, but a generally located in the corners. Loosen the bolts to release the clips. Remove any under dressing, sometimes this panel has labels which you may want to preserve, but usually this fabric is trashed. Carefully lift the screws from the seat and save all this hardware!
With your flat head screwdriver, pry up the small metal tabs around the perimeter of the metal chair pan, releasing the old upholstery.

Step 3: Remove the Old Upholstery Fabric

This is the tough part. I recommend softening the glue with the Barge thinner. Use a pair of pliers to pull the fabric away from the metal. Try not to destroy the original fabric too much, as you'll want to use this as a pattern to cut the new fabric.

Step 4: Remove the Foam

Picture of Remove the Foam
Take the metal pan and it's crumbly foam over to your newspaper or drop cloth.
Put on your respirator because it is time to get agressive with the metal spackling tool. Saturate the foam with Barge Thinner and vigorously scrape as you go. Most of the foam will come off in bug chunks. Then dampen a rag with more thinner and rub the remaining foam and adhesive away.
monkfinch5 years ago

Thanks for sharing. Here is another article about restoring aluminum GoodForm chairs with attractive results:


Phauxtoe5 years ago
 I am not a big fan of how the Fabric looks.
Is that the correct type of cloth?
mariaric8 years ago
anyone know where to find missing parts for these--such as the armchair that I have that has little upholstered armrests -- of which I am missing one. Or how could I make a substitute? It would have to hold the shape fairly well and I'll cover it with foam and fabric just like on the seat . . .
bsmif8 years ago
You might add Goodform to the title. Thats another company that made almost identical chairs that could be repaired the same way.
I have 7 ( 3 goodform, 4 emeco) of these I have been meaning to upholster but I never could find the right fabric. These tips look excellent. Headliner upholstery...who knew?
Prometheus9 years ago
A large piece of plywood or two and some c-clamps can make your press for the seat. If it's all metal with paint on it, take the time with a cupped wire brush on a portable drill and brush slightly excessively to remove the top few microns of steel, exposing fresh metal. Finish with a brass wire brush afterwards and the resultant finish will be so fine that you could use it as a mirror. Be sure to polish with a clean cloth to remove the oxides and excess metal before sitting in/painting/clearcoating it! This will take time, but if you want something that will actually strike conversation, give it a try. If you are unsure, try polishing an inconspicuous area and see for yourself. As a finishing touch, prior to upholstering, give it several coats of laquer clearcoat and cure it with a hair dryer or other heatgun. If you should choose to paint it, remove the old paint with heavy grit sandpaper prior to priming. Remeber several thin layers are stronger and better-looking that one heavy one.
Jafafa Hots9 years ago
awww rats. I thought this would be about restoing the color. I have a bunch of really old ones, the kind that just has the molded butt-print in the aluminum, no padding, and they are stained and have paint etc. on them.
karylnewman (author)  Jafafa Hots9 years ago
Have you tried wiping them down with a solvent like the Barger Thinner? That will remove the old paint.
you could just put vinyl over the seat jafafa
radiorental9 years ago
very nice, a tool you may want to consider building is a vacuum press. It will apply an even pressure over the entire surface of the parts you are glueing. I may or may not work well here with the foam but I'd guess you might find it useful for some of your other design work. Here's a version of the system I put together for board building
karylnewman (author)  radiorental9 years ago
Thanks radiorental, very useful.