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DCM, Stain or dye ??

- 05 Nov 2017 -
31 posts / 0 new

The seat and back of my early production DCM were originally red. But time and neglect had rendered them too shabby and faded to simply clean, wax and call good. Fortunately there was no mechanical damage. I have carefully sanded to remove almost all of the red stain or dye from the birch veneer. Now I must make a decision about refinishing and would like to try to reproduce the original red color if possible. I suspect that the original color may have been a dye but would like confirmation on this. Advice and comments welcome.

DCM,  Stain or dye ??
United States
chairs & stools
1950 - 1959


- 05 Nov 2017

I don’t know much about Eames things, but based on the fact that the color had faded and the fact that it had not soaked into the wood, we can make certain deductions about the process. The wood was sealed before color was applied. And the colorant was a dye because it has faded. I am guessing that it was sealed with spray lacquer and then the subsequent coats of lacquer were tinted with dye.

There are lots of wood dyes available a specialty woodworking places. Here is an example;

There are lots of colors there. Maybe you could do stripes?

- 05 Nov 2017

Enough to make a grown man cry.


Aunt Patina

- 05 Nov 2017

At the passing we must all go through the 5 stages of grief. For this is where we pass from speaking of what it is, to what it was. What are the appropriate funeral rites for a DCM?

- 05 Nov 2017

I guess I have nobody but myself to blame as I DID ask for advice and comments. But I had no idea that they would be a vapid, stupid, unhelpful, flippant and useless as they have tended to be so far.

To restate my question re. refinishing: "I suspect that the original color may have been a dye but would like confirmation on this."

Is there anyone out there who has knowledge regarding the original seat and back finish process on the DCM?

- 05 Nov 2017

Pico, do you happen to have any "before" photos of the chair?

Birch is notorious for taking stain unevenly often with splotchy results. I'd go with a dye. I've had good luck with TransTint brand that Leif linked to above. What might have been used originally is, um, kinda moot at this point.

- 05 Nov 2017

Second TransTints. Are you equipped to spray?

- 05 Nov 2017

The only "before" photos I have are posted above. The bottom surface of the seat was in better shape than the top. The back of the back likewise.

I've never tried spraying a dye. What I know of dyes is that they are generally easier to apply evenly to woods like birch and maple which tend to "tiger stripe" with stain. Pre-stain conditioner can be helpful but not foolproof.

My question re. the original finish method was simple curiosity, not intending to imply that knowing about the original finish method would be helpful to refinishing decisionmaking.

The veneer on the seat of my chair has a defect which appears to be in the original veneer lay-up, not the result of delamination or other later damage. The seat veneers are not bookmatched or centered and one leaf has very dark mineral streaking which detracts from the appearance. The back of my chair has perfectly centered bookmatched veneers on the front side. (see photos). This seems a bit odd. The ugly seat veneers have me thinking of black dye.

Pursuing the "simple curiosity' theme further; I have run across mention of routed recesses for the shock mounts in the backs of some DCMs. My chair does not have these. Were the recesses a later modification?

- 05 Nov 2017

Yes, the later backs are recessed. I don't know when they started doing that.

HM was never too picky about matching leaves of veneer on these. The asymmetrical areas of darker grain on your seat panel doesn't bother me in the least.

If historical accuracy is important (since integrity is already out of the question), I"m pretty sure it was an aniline dye in or followed with nitrocellulose lacquer. And, I think the square-edged replacement shock mounts rather than the later style that you've purchased might be the more appropriate choice.

- 05 Nov 2017

While looking back over my posted photos, I just now noticed that the veneers on the underside of my seat appear to be centered and bookmatched. Is it possible that this seat was put into the press upside-down ??? Coupling this observation with my earlier discovery that the legs seemed to have been welded on backwards, I'm wondering if this chair was put together as some sort of "second".

- 05 Nov 2017

Pico, best to look forward and not back, IMO. The chair is what it is. What it was has passed under the bridge.

- 05 Nov 2017

The original dye was red aniline. I would bet that they were probably sealed with shellac before dying.

The comments are because you should have left them as is, the chairs were worth far more in their previous condition. The patina is more desirable to collectors, otherwise they would just buy a new one from HM. To make it worse, these are early Evans production, red aniline, DCMs, which are probably one of the most valuable versions of this design. By doing what you did, you just slashed their value to 1/3 -1/4 (hundreds of dollars of lost value I would guess) of what they were before you took the sander to them. That is why people are commenting. But, it is your chair so you can do what you like with it ...... especially now, since all that really matters is how you feel about it, not value or preservation.

- 05 Nov 2017

Keep in mind also that a future readers will find this thread in their search to find information on how to restore these. Even if this chair's original condition is gone forever, others might learn something valuable from this discussion.

- 05 Nov 2017

I thank you, Zepyr, for confirming my aniline dye theory. Thank you also for cluing me in to the import of the snarky and unhelpful comments by others. I suppose I should have intuited what was driving them. Also, thank you for observing that " it is your chair so you can do what you like with it ...... especially now." Perhaps a bit of damning with faint praise, but nevertheless nice to have on record.

Knowing what I do of the original condition of my chair, ("patina" had nothing to do with it), I will leave the heartbreak over the supposed desecration of a museum piece to others I am confident that I will end up with a DCM which will provide an enjoyable sitting experience, be a source of visual pleasure and also a respectable example of a truly timeless design.......but not a museum piece.

Further comments and advice not encouraged.

- 05 Nov 2017

As spanky has correctly noted, this thread will be read by future users who may have similar questions.

Therefore my message to these future readers is: if you come across an Evans red aniline DCM with finish issues (as almost all of them will have), please, please, please do not sand it and try to make it better. And if you accidentally sand it before reading this thread, please go ahead and sand off the Evans label as well, because at that point, it will just be there to haunt you forever.

Now if it's Lane Acclaim, then by all means, knock yourselves out with the Black and Decker.

- 06 Nov 2017

@Pico I actually feel that your view that what you do with you furniture is your business isn't totally fair to people who value it. Unfortunately some items are more rare than others and it's an actual genuine shame when they're lost, as they are very much limited. You may intend to keep it for the rest of your life, but even that is a finite duration.

I can't say that I like DCMs, so I don't have a real interest in this particular topic and I can't say how rare these actually are either. But as a concept I hope maybe this explains some of the comments that appeared snarky.

It's also a shame that you found the right place to ask questions, but just a little too late!

And for the record, I like the non book-matched veneer on the seat.

- 06 Nov 2017

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I have this to say:

How is it that the holier-than-thou trolls have pounced upon my post, piling on with disparagement, shock,grief, horror and outrage, but left another poor pilgrim entirly alone when he posted about his "DCM in deplorable condition" ???

Replies to his post were, for the most part, friendly, civil, helpful and encouraging.

Go figure !!!

- 06 Nov 2017

Yes, well maybe I shouldn't have said anything - it's the second time in not very long I've gotten involved in a situation like this and I'd prefer not get typecast.

I was just trying to communicate that it's not personal, but given that post I suspect it's too late to convince you you're not being persecuted.

Good luck with your chair, I'm sticking to Danish threads from hereon...

- 06 Nov 2017

The person in the other thread acquired the chair after other people had damaged it with tacks and red chalk paint.

- 06 Nov 2017

And posted asking for advice *before* going at it with a power sander!

- 06 Nov 2017

Don't sweat it Pico. My comment was backhanded, but no less true ...... it is your chair, and you can do with it what you like.

Your decision is clearly not what most of us would have done, but many of the people that commented on your post are some of the most knowledgeable in mid-century design that are out there. Not one, would I consider a troll.

Of course, none of us started out with an ounce of knowledge on this subject, and the journey to understanding was no doubt paved with mistakes like yours. I expect that much of the snarkyness in the responses is rooted in regret for some of these mistakes, just as your lashing out, is. So I return to my starting advice, don't sweat it.

Now, I have refinished dozens and dozens of pieces of mid century furniture(and made plenty of mistakes), but I have little experience with aniline dye application. I have finished birch and maple with stains and dyes, but not on pieces of furniture, and often with mixed results. What I can tell you is that these woods need to be sealed first. I would go with shellac (A few coats of Zinser Seal Coat) since it is compatible with just about every top coat you put on it. There are other methods of sealing as well, but I am less clear on their compatibility with aniline dyes. I can talk all day about about how to remedy wood issues, and apply traditional finishes for Mid Century designs, based on my experience. Since I have not had much experience with what you are asking, there is not much I can give you. I think you need to visit a wood-working forum to get the best advice on how to proceed, since I suspect that this question stretches the general understanding of finishes for people around here.

- 06 Nov 2017

OK folks. Thanks for your attention to my posts. I believe that many of you are breathing a more rarefied air than would be good for my lungs.

Over and out.


- 06 Nov 2017

I still think it would look great in a sarcophagus of gold leaf, or perhaps upholstered in hair on buffalo hide (that would perhaps be more American).

I just feel that the entire idea of trying to breath life into in some semblance of the original technique is excruciating, like a Greek tragedy. Oedipus Rex maybe. It is a vain striving that can never be achieved. The tragedy is that the audience and all the other players all know this, but the lead character just can see it.

It has gone over to the other side, returned to the land of Plato’s forms. I suppose if it were mine I would just cremate it now.

- 07 Nov 2017

Just get some red dye. Like TransTints or Lockwood. Wet the wood, let it dry, then finely sand. Mix the dye up a in water. Not too strong... you can always add more. Then just apply it to the wood. Cover it evenly, quickly, and then wipe it all off. Let it dry, and you can then apply any kind of finish you want to seal/protect it.

- 07 Nov 2017

This chair is no longer a DCM, precisely as the body is no longer the animal after death. It will not be visually pleasing. It will not be a respectable example of a timeless design.

We usually find it rather awkward to have bodies lying about. Hence in the vast majority of cases burial and cremation is elected. There are exceptions though. Taxidermy is an option. There are many people who find it appalling. This chair suffers from the same. The taxidermist is a pale shadow of the creator. Slathering it in red dye and varnish at this point is poor taxidermy. Many will find it appalling. And appreciators of taxidermy will think it a farce because the hunter killed the fox with a blunderbuss and the taxidermist pickled the remains in a jar.

The ancient pharaoh’s path is an option. Sarcophagus of red gold and hide it for a few thousand years inside a large stone vault. Walls decorated with paintings of DCM frolicking through modern houses. Then maybe it will be fit for appreciation, but bear in mind that most mummies in the world were ground to powder and ingested as medication or bottled as paint. It is only the finest and luckiest of examples that escaped such a fate. And those examples in life have all been of a stature in life that it seems certain this chair never reached. With enough red gold and mausoleum painting though there may be no distinction between the king and the pauper. So there is slight hope.

I won’t even go into the Aztec option.

But really: gently set the plywood in the fire and send the metal to the recyclers (whose fire burns hotter).

- 07 Nov 2017

I have a vision.

Decoupage a facial picture of Charles Eames and his brother to the back piece..and as for the seat..perhaps (in cursive font) write the phrase "____________". It will be stunning.

I have a vision,

Aunt Mark

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