Lawnchair webbing

By Ray Ford

How to make an old chair new again

Lawnchair webbing

Photo by Bill Wright

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It was the classic ’70s lawn chair: aluminum frame, plastic armrests, snazzy two-tone green nylon webbing. But by the late ’80s, it was tired. The webbing was frayed. It was time for a makeover.

First, Bill Wright decided against restoring the original look. “I tried rewebbing a chair once. It was an absolute pain in the butt. You can never get the webbing tight like they do in the factory.” So he opted for 1×3 pine slats, cut to fit the chair’s seat and back, and stained. He secured them to the frame with 1″ galvanized plumber’s strapping and some #8 wood screws.

Then, to reduce the strain on the soft aluminum tubing, he ran the strapping around the chair frame and back behind the first slat, driving the screws into the slat through the doubled-over strapping. As a bonus, the strapping flexes, making the chair more comfy, and it does a better job of distributing weight across the chair frame than if he’d simply bolted or screwed slats to the tubing.

As a finishing touch, he kept the strapping from sliding up and down the frame by pinning it to the tubing with a sheet metal screw. (One warning: Look for cracks and fatigue in the aluminum before you begin your salvage project. Wright once repaired a chair only to have the frame buckle.)

In the end, Wright did such a good job, he made a second chair, and both live on as fixtures at his Huntsville place. Now in their third decade, the chairs are still going strong. “Waste not, want not,” says Wright.

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Ray Ford