Skip to main content

Search form


Replacing Danish Cord on Poul Volther Chairs

- 09 Nov 2017 -
26 posts / 0 new

So there's a lot of good information here about replacing the danish cord on chairs - mostly Mollers - and, while I was originally going to go the jute-padding-vinyl route, reading all of the information on here convinced me that I could redo the cord. So thank you all - that was ultimately what I wanted, but thought it was going to be too hard for a first-timer.

The issue, however, is that these chairs have interlocking corner blocks and I haven't come across to much detail about how to replace the cording in that area. On top of that, these pictures indicate that no L nails were used on these chairs originally.

So my questions are: 1.) how do I work around the corner blocks; and 2.) can i use L nails as described in the other threads?

Thanks in advance!

Replacing Danish Cord on Poul Volther Chairs
United States


- 10 Nov 2017

I've never redone one of these but what I would do is to use L-nails. You can install them with the same spacing on Moller chairs (1" to 1 1/8" apart on the front and back rails with the nail on each end placed 1/4" in; 1/2" apart on the side rails---but when you get to the corner blocks, place the nails just 1/4" apart (or the width of two strands of cord). That will give you just enough room for 1 loop of cord on each nail and with one loop they will lie nice and flat and not ruin the smooth line at the low angle side view.

Always do an odd number of nails on front and back rails (same number on each); side rails don't matter.

That's how I'd do it, anyway. Purists might say to get a narrow crown stapler and redo them exactly like the original but I think the L-nail system is far superior in that it's very easy to redo the seat when it gets worn out or damaged, requiring just a few common, inexpensive tools. Can't say that about the Volther chair, unless someone knows something I don't. Which is quite possible.

- 10 Nov 2017

With the blocks, it is going to be difficult to do the L nails. Furthermore, you would still have to do some stapling on the front/back rail, because you wont be able to wrap around it where the blocks are. I have 6 of these chairs right now, and fortunately the cord is in good shape, but I have thought about how I would re-cord if I found some that needed it. I always came back to stapling, as they are out of the factory.

I agree with everything Spanky says about L nail superiority, but I just dont see how you work around those corner blocks, and get a reasonably good result. I feel like these really need to be done with crown staples. Of course, I am always open to someone proving me wrong, as it would make it more likely that I might pick some of these up and take a stab at refinishing.

- 10 Nov 2017

The block is very short grain so sinking L nails into it is risky. It would require pre-drilling. One of the risks is that the stresses on the seat combined with the nails split the block down the road. Probably not, but maybe. Some boards of Beech really like to split, others don't. Russian Roulette.

Possibly a row of finish head screws (much smaller diameter head) could be put into the frame at a 45 degree angle just below the block, leaving the head proud enough to hang cord on it. You couldn't do this with L nails because they would pull out at that angle. The threads on the screws would solve the problem. And this would require pre-drilling too.

Or you use a stapler like the factory did. I always prefer to duplicate the factory's techniques. I prefer to avoid pieces where I look down on how the factory did it, so I don't have to fight with the desire to "do it right." Of course, it is hard to be certain the factory did not know more than I did, and my idea of how to improve something is wrong. That is the challenge. I don't think that is the case here though. Frem's technique here was all about time savings.

- 10 Nov 2017

In fact, I wonder if Frem could have purchased pre-woven seats held together temporarily in some manner and just stapled it on, basically like stapling on a very heavy weave fabric? The "upholsterer" would only have to wrap the front and rear rails leaving gaps for the warp strands. That would certainly be faster.

- 10 Nov 2017

I think the L-nails could work with the corner blocks, with pre-drilling and staggering the line of nails. Tapped down all the way with just one loop of cord each, they would be just as flat against the wood as the stapled cord. The wraps of the front and back rails at the corners would be tricky--I'd probably just tack the loops in place with small wire nails rather than do all L-nails. I dunno. I just really don't like how these were done originally because they're not easy to redo the same way. Weaving wears out. Were they assuming the chair would be tossed when the seat was shot? Or did they think they'd be around forever and chair owners could have them redo the seats in the future? I don't get it.

The seats may well have been pre-woven and stapled on. Who knows!

- 10 Nov 2017

Thanks for all of the valuable insights - exactly what I anticipated having read so many threads here!

I'm now thinking I might go back to the webbing-padding-vinyl plan. Seems like the easier route, especially for what would be a first-time corder, right?

If I go that route, does anyone have any thoughts about avoiding bulk underneath the frame? If I attach jute webbing on the top of the frame will I have enough support? Should I get some Phifertex mesh instead?

If you can't tell, you're dealing with an extreme novice - this is my first project like this. I've already refinished the teak and oiled it (it had a good amount of water damage and years of muck), but now I'm stumped by the seats. Any guidance is much appreciated!

- 10 Nov 2017

Is Phifertex mesh the same stuff as found on old Danish chairs? I have seen the Danish stuff but it's been quite awhile. I seem to remember it having some stretch. Phifertex doesn't, really---it's just polyester mesh coated with plastic. Maybe it's a suitable substitute. I just don't know one way or the other.

I also don't know how upholstered Volther chairs were done, so consider my suggestions to be general tips.

As far as jute webbing---i'd go with heavy duty burlap (10 oz per yard, sold by upholstery supply shops online, not commonly found in local fabric stores or chain fabric stores). It will have the same feel as jute strip webbing but will look nicer on the underside of the chair and I think will produce less dust over time because there are no layers rubbing together every time someone sits in the chair.

I've seen heavy duty burlap used this way on old Danish chairs--can't think which chairs, and it's not super common, but I've definitely seen it.

There's also elastic webbing but I think it wears a lot on the foam layer above. Some old Danish furniture had knit thin knit fabric over the webbing.

A webbing stretcher will help. I think they're around $12 or so--just a simple wood board shaped to fit hand, with 5-6 lethally sharp little spikes at one end. There are no doubt a lot of videos online demonstrating how to use one.

Do you have a plan for fasteners? The options are upholstery tacks & a tack hammer, a staple gun, an electric staple gun, or a pneumatic staple gun & compressor. Having used all these methods extensively, I much prefer the last one. Like, no contest. But it's also the most expensive as far as investing in the tools.

Back to the chair. I think most dining chairs with webbing seats have just 1/2" foam. Cut this big enough to wrap around the rails, then use a safety razor blade to undercut it at approximately a 45 degree angle so that it will taper down to nothing when the vinyl is pulled around the rail.

I usually stick the foam to the webbing in the center of the seat, just to tack it in place. Use a heavy duty spray adhesive. 3M makes a good one that is widely available and you can get it from craft stores using their discount coupons that they're forever issuing.

Get foam from an upholstery supplier. The stuff sold in the chain fabric stores is junk, very low density.

Vinyl: avoid the stiffer ones, they're really hard to fit around the leg posts. There is a really nice vinyl at Joann Fabrics that is soft to the touch and pretty easy to work with- it was $40 per yard last time i checked but again, use a coupon. It's the stuff that looks like suede on the underside.

Vinyl may seem tough but it will tear pretty easily if you try to manipulate it the wrong way...or something. Leather is easier to work with, in my opinion, but that's a whole other ballgame.

That'll give you an idea of what lies ahead if you go this route. If you're meticulous and methodical, you might be able to pull it off. It would be a good idea to practice on something else first, though. Just to get the hang of getting the tension of the fabric even, and the tacking or stapling---stuff like that.

- 10 Nov 2017

The Volther Frem Rojle upholstered dining chairs were over plywood (older) or MDF (newer), so no straps or mesh. I also believe both upholstery and cording options were executed on the seat frames first, then legs installed afterwards.

- 10 Nov 2017

Thanks again for all of the guidance. I'll check back in with updates or more questions.

- 11 Nov 2017

One quick question, spanky. How would you attach the foam? Staples? And when you say wrap around the frame...would you attach it to the underside of the frame or the outside?

- 11 Nov 2017

Glue the foam to the burlap or webbing in the center just to keep it from shifting around. See above for more info the adhesive to use. Oh, and spray very lightly and let it dry thoroughly, like for a day or two, before proceeding to the next step. This is because spray adhesive soaks into the foam and when the foam is only 1/2" thick, even a little is significant because when the foam is compressed, it will stick that way and not bounce back.

The foam will get mushed into place when you pull the vinyl around the sides to just inside the frame or at least covering the bottom edge of the rails. No need to fasten it down first. Smooth the leather from the center of the seat to the edges with the flat of one hand to get the most even tension, then put a few temporary tacks in. Do a few on one side, then a few on the opposite side, then front, then back, constantly checking the smoothness from different angles. When it looks good, fasten it down all the way. (You can do temporary tacking with a stapler by angling it sideways so that only one leg of the staple goes in. I use diagonal pliers to remove tacking staples quickly and easily.)

Make sure you cut the vinyl big enough that you have something to grip when stretching it---2" on each side is good.

- 05 Dec 2017

Thanks again for your help, all. As a first project, I think this turned out well - I'll certainly be back on here with more questions about future projects.

The above-promised update (but really self-congratulatory boasting):

I bought all four of these for $25 so the stakes were pretty low. They were in rough shape. Cord was obviously destroyed, but the teak also had some water damage and was pretty dry.

- 05 Dec 2017

Very nice. Did you remove the legs for the upholstering?

- 05 Dec 2017

Yes, did everything to the seats with the legs removed. When I reattached the legs I made some final adjustments to the edges where the vinyl sits up against the leg.

- 05 Dec 2017

Nice work! Yeah, might as well remove the legs on these, since it is so easy. You wont get that type of advantage on a moller chair, so take it when you can!

- 05 Dec 2017

Right, and I already had it disassembled to sand and oil.

I also think that covering these like Mollers looks much better than the more squared off vinyl that these chairs typically have - no disrespect to Mr. Volther! The rounded edges of the vinyl compliment the curves of the chair better.

Not sure if anyone knows, but in refinishing the wood I came to doubt that these were teak - seemed more like afromosia based on the color, grain and endgrain. Does anyone know this to be the case?

- 05 Dec 2017

Post a photo. I suspect the legs may be Afrormosia, and the backrest teak. These chairs were made for a budget.

And I am currently re-weaving the basketweave danish cord seats on a set of Swedish Svegards chairs. They have a similar system for bolting the seat frame to the legs, with corner blocks. And all the cord is attached to the frame with round head nails. It is original, but it does not look very professional. My point is that it can be done with nails.

- 05 Dec 2017

Leif, do your Swedish chairs have a deep routed channel into which the nails are pounded? I did some Swedish chairs for someone awhile back that had that feature. The nails were a pain to ease out of the slots because the wood was thin and prone to breaking and the nail heads would snap off very easily, too. Nice chairs, though.

- 06 Dec 2017

I currently have a set of Svegards too. Haven't decided what to do with them, but they have the upholstered inset backs so I don't think cord is an option. Could you post a photo of how you are doing the cord just for reference though, leif?

And I think you're right - the legs are definitely different than the backs.

- 06 Dec 2017

I just had a set of early Volther's and they were afromosia legs, with teak veneered plywood backs, as Leif hypothesized. There were 4 of them, and I sold them with 2 later production of the same design that were entirely teak (except the apron, that was beech on both). The later production pieces, were also slightly taller, by about a cm or two.

- 06 Dec 2017

Those legs are Afrormosia.

The Svegards chairs do have grooves routed into the inside of the seat frame. The nails are pounded into the bottoms of the grooves. It looks funny because the nails are maybe 1” long and all but the tip of the nail is in the air. It is amazing they stay in place at all. There are also nails in the gutter between the corner block and frame. And nails on top of the block. And finally the back of the seat, the weft is wrapped around the outer warp strands.

And this is all definitely factory because there is zero evidence there was ever anything else attached to the frames.

A week ago I would have said this is a crazy idea, but so far it works.

It is nice to be able to separate the seat frame from the legs.

- 06 Dec 2017

I can’t believe I still have photos of these on my phone!

- 06 Dec 2017

Yep, that is it exactly. The Svegards technique. If the company had glued in a milled strip of wood tha fit right into the slots to provide a sane surface for nailing, I would really like his way.

Log in or register to post comments