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I am trying to restore an old oak chair that was given to me by my mother. It was my great grandfather's and is probably 120-140 yrs old. At the front of the chair seat there is a long ~3/8ths slit, like a long dado that runs about 5 inches from the front of the seat. Much of whatever had been put into the slit has disintegrated but some of it remains. It looks to be some sort of fabric or material that has long since hardened. I was thinking about chiseling out what remains and then routing a 3/8ths piece of oak to put into the open gap. Has anyone come across anything like this or any recommendations? Pictures attached.

Thank you - Brian

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  • Hi, welcome to StackExchange. What exactly is the query here? Just a "has anyone seen this before?" type of thing isn't a good fit for the format here, please see What types of questions should I avoid asking?
    – Graphus
    Dec 17 '20 at 9:32
  • Hi, the question was two fold. First, other than my initial thought of routing out a template of the seat and using that to fill the slit did anyone have a better suggestion. The second question was has anyone seen this in an antique chair. The reason why I asked this is that while I am fully comfortable refinishing the chair I didn't want to do something inaccurate if there was a historical reason for the slit. I don't want to just restore the chair but to make it as close to what it would have been 120 yrs ago when my great grandfather used it. Dec 17 '20 at 14:46
  • I think the real reason for the question is the the OP has himself a brand new toy, er, Bosch router that he's itching to use! (Congrats!!!)
    – FreeMan
    Dec 18 '20 at 18:48
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It looks to be some sort of fabric or material that has long since hardened.

Check the chair for markings that could tell you who manufactured the chair. That could help you find other examples that in turn might help you figure out what the groove was for. There were probably a lot of companies that made chairs like yours a century or more ago. Two that seem iconic are Sikes Chair Company and Gunlocke.

To me, it looks like the groove might have been used to secure some trim, like a leather-wrapped chord, or a full leather or cloth seat. Here's Gunlocke's modern version of a swivel chair that looks like yours:

Bank of England chair

You can see how the leather cover seems to be held in place by a bead that's likely pushed into a groove in the seat.

I was thinking about chiseling out what remains and then routing a 3/8ths piece of oak to put into the open gap.

I don't know if your chair has any value as is; you might want to check that out before you attempt any restoration or modification. Aside from preserving value, it's your chair and you should do what you like. I think I'd probably remove the remaining material and hope to figure out what it is, and then try to replicate the original.

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    Thank you for your response. I wasn't able to find any markings as to the manufacturer anywhere on the chair. I added an additional picture to the post. What you say about a leather wrapped cord makes sense from the additional picture where you can see that some type of rod or long dowel was holding the fabric or leather in place. I'll check out the manufacturers you mentioned and I'm going to hit some of the antique store in CT. Thank you - Brian Dec 21 '20 at 22:47

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