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1006 Navy Chair
January 1, 2011 12:37 PM   Subscribe

"The design brief had at least one interesting bulletpoint: The chair had to be 'torpedo-proof.'" Making, testing, more testing, history, design, redesign. posted by Paragon (26 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Starts at $415. Heh. "Design Within Reach" has a store in Boulder near where I live – as always, biggest fucking misnomer on the planet.

Why not make your own damned chair?
posted by koeselitz at 1:46 PM on January 1, 2011


Why not make your own damned chair?

I'm planning to, but saving up for all the metal stamping machines is taking a long time.
posted by fatbird at 1:49 PM on January 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


Aw, I'm starting the new year on a bad foot. Sorry, Paragon. This is a good post – interesting stuff.
posted by koeselitz at 1:52 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "within reach" part of Design Within Reach has more to do with the fact that you can buy these pieces retail, without going through an interior designer or other nonsense.
posted by device55 at 1:53 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nevertheless, koeselitz, you make a good point - when on occasion I follow a link and wind up at DWR, I'm astounded by the hubristic prices. I make good scratch, but the only way I could afford a footstool from DWR is if I were to commit to ramen for a year and trade the house in for his'n'hers appliance crates, with perhaps a couple dehumidifier boxes for the cats. And then, only maybe.

Damn fine looking chair, though.
posted by notsnot at 1:58 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know why the chair was supposed to be "torpedo-proof"? I mean, I'm sure it's not just "We'll need somewhere to sit for a breather after we've taken a direct hit by a torpedo".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:01 PM on January 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Indeed, that is a fantastic chair. It's crazy – seems like there must be a cheaper way to manufacture it... I wonder if you really could make your own. I'll bet there's a way.
posted by koeselitz at 2:04 PM on January 1, 2011


The TIG welding, grinding, and polishing you could do yourself. I'm not so sure about the stamping and heat treating.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:13 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn fine looking chair, though.

As well as being easy to clean and remarkably comfortable.
posted by Haruspex at 2:48 PM on January 1, 2011


Does anyone know why the chair was supposed to be "torpedo-proof"?

I'm guessing that it has something to do with preventing fragmentation and shrapnel. There was a scene once on the West Wing in which someone is talking to a Navy guy about his fancy old ashtray -- a prized gift from an retired submariner -- and makes a crack about the military's proverbial $400 hammers. The Navy guy indignantly picks up his prized ashtray and drops it to the floor. It breaks into exactly 3 blunted pieces, and he says something about things being expensive because they are designed for a wholly different set of circumstances -- in that case, to break in a predictably non-lethal way.
posted by JohnFredra at 2:50 PM on January 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, considering the amount of labor and materials in those chairs, their asking prices strike me as pretty reasonable. The $150 chairs you buy at Home Depot will last maybe five years; a tilt-and-swivel from these folks costs $865, and will last several working lifetimes.

The hand-polished ones are wildly more expensive, but that's the usual luxury markup... you can get the actual functionality and a nice-looking chair without spending oodles of money.

An Aeron chair costs somewhere around the same amount, and they'll last maybe twenty years, with some care. Probably more comfortable, but if you're focused on longevity in your furniture, DWR is charging fair prices.

There aren't very many products anymore that will last for the rest of your life. We often decry the crap manufacturing of most modern goods. This is a company making useful things that last, and I admire that a great deal. "You will die before this chair does," is about as good as it gets.
posted by Malor at 4:04 PM on January 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


It looks like something that arrestees would be handcuffed to.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:07 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funny, I swear I've seen those chairs in movies set in the Art Deco era.
posted by dhartung at 4:32 PM on January 1, 2011


This chair is so good looking and practical. I've tested this model a couple of times at the local DWR and I love it. I just can't justify to myself spending $500 on a chair, even though I know that $450 divided by an expected 150 years of use is not that expensive.

When I moved here 3 years ago I bought four $60 wooden chairs. 3 have broken beyond repair in that time. I ended up paying $240 to have one usable chair after 3 years, one that is not likely to last another year.

There is a chair in my mother's house that has been in the family for more than 100 years. We don't treat it delicately, it is a daily use chair. Looks like it can last another 100 years. It is clear from all the woodwork and the finish that it took many hours of very skilled labor to build this chair, I don't think you can get equivalent quality now for less than three of four hundred dollars.

If anyone knows where to get a well built chair that gets the ergonomics right and will last for a lifetime, like the 1066 chair does, please let me know.
posted by Dr. Curare at 4:42 PM on January 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


By the way, polished aluminum looks beautiful, but it takes a lot of manual labor to get there making it very expensive.

For bicycle components, I get the non polished version, strip the anodizing, if any, with oven cleaner, then polish by hand with sandpaper, all the way to 1,500 grit, then finish with Simichrome and some rim wax. I find polishing to be a very good meditative activity, you may not.

For my last project I got a scratched and spray painted Nitto stem for $10 from the used parts bin and after 2 hours had it down to a mirror finish. I resold it for $60 on Craigslist. I'd love to get my hands on one of these navy chairs and make it shine.
posted by Dr. Curare at 4:47 PM on January 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Am I the only one to notice they didnt actually shoot it with a torpedo?
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:23 PM on January 1, 2011


Burhanistan, I've seen them so often on cop shows that I've wondered if it was just a TV trope or an actual convention in police interrogation rooms. (My theory is that they're so light, a bad guy could try swinging it around without doing much damage.) I dunno.
posted by kimota at 5:27 PM on January 1, 2011


The 1006 in the Matrix

The director of the '77 steps' video is Eames Demetrios, grandson of the Eames.
posted by Paragon at 5:39 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funny, I swear I've seen those chairs in movies set in the Art Deco era.

Anachronisms, I believe. The 1006 feels like Art Deco architecture but it doesn't look like Art Deco furniture that I've seen (although there's probably a ton that I haven't seen.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:14 PM on January 1, 2011


It's crazy – seems like there must be a cheaper way to manufacture it...

I seriously doubt it -- esp. in large numbers. The reason this chair is so damn strong is it is built right. All the real work is done on fully annealed -- that is, full soft -- aluminum alloy*. Then they do all the mechanical work to build the chair, then heat treat the entire chair to bring it up to -T6 as a whole.

This is the right way. You can't form T6 tempered alloy, it's too hard and too brittle to be worked, so you need a softer temper. You can weld T6 tempered parts, but the welds will end up dead soft, so you either have a much weaker joint, or you have to redo the heat treatment.

Forming the parts by hand wouldn't be that hard, other than the seat pan -- you'd have to hand shape that, it would be a huge PITA, but with a form to work against, sure.

Welding? Well, welding aluminum isn't easy, but you can learn it -- the chair is essentially hand welded anyway, though some parts were machine welded, those were simple enough to automate.

The part that's going to be hard to do is the heat treatment and anodization, which is really what makes the chair so strong. Note the firesuit the guy wears to get the chair out of the first salt bath. You need an oven and a tank large enough to fit the chair.

Of course, the right answer here is to build the chair up, then find a shop to do the heat treatment for you.

You could probably make the chair a *little* cheaper in the factory -- I suspect a few of the steps that had to be done by hand when the line was built in the early 1940s could be automated now. But the line is fully paid for at this point. Rebuilding it means paying off the new tooling, etc.

As to the price? $410? Cheap. Seriously cheap for something that well built. You probably can't repair it -- that heat treatment problem again -- but you'll probably never need to repair it. You buy it now, your grandkids won't need to replace it.

There's just a lot of craftmanship in this chair. The welds, the work cleaning up the welds, the hand grinding of all the parts -- it's a great deal of work, and the only reason it *only* costs $415 is all the tooling and jigs built to make the chair, all of which are long paid off.

Indeed, I suspect the chairs will long outlast the line that built them.

* I'm guessing that it's 5052 alloy, but it might be 6061. 6061 would make for a stronger chair, but 5052 fights corrosion better, and this is a Navy Chair. Both are used in marine applications. 7075 doesn't resist corrosion well, 2024 isn't weldable, and 6063 is used for extrusions, which this isn't -- everything is made up from sheet. The only other commonly used alloy I know of is 5059, which isn't heat-treatable.

So: Heat treatable, weldable, corrosion resistant, strong = 5052 or 6061.
posted by eriko at 9:19 PM on January 1, 2011 [22 favorites]


Damn fine looking chair, though.

As well as being easy to clean and remarkably comfortable.


This post has some serious zeitgeist for me. My friends and I chipped in to buy four of these for another couple of friends not long ago. I spent much of NYE sitting on one, and a portion of that time talking to a bloke who was until quite recently an officer on a RAN submarine.

They do indeed look wonderful, but I'd dispute their comfort. They're just fine when you sit bolt upright. Then you scoot your ass forward or sideways so that you can slouch a bit. At that point, you get the central ridge in the seat jutting into your crack and coccyx, or into one side of your butt. And that's not comfortable at all.
posted by Ahab at 9:36 PM on January 1, 2011


Just phoned one of the friends we gave them to, to tell her about this post. She's done a bit of research herself.

It looks like something that arrestees would be handcuffed to.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:07 PM on January 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


Apparently they have actually been used in hospitals, prisons and police stations. But more pertinently, as Paragon notes in the last link of the OP, they're often used in interview room scenes in movies and television shows. The Matrix is just one example. That last link in the OP, and info from my friend, suggests that once you start looking in cop and detective shows, you'll see them popping up everywhere.

If anyone knows where to get a well built chair that gets the ergonomics right and will last for a lifetime, like the 1066 chair does, please let me know.
posted by Dr. Curare at 4:42 PM on January 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


Replicas in brushed aluminium from this shop. I'd guess that for $129 it's without the expected 150 year lifespan and lifetime guarantee. But you never know - it might be worth asking.
posted by Ahab at 10:30 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh. Just found another one - Battlestar Galactica Season 1 Ep. 8 Act of Contrition. From about 9 minutes in Starbuck interrogates the sweating Cylon with too much hair gel in his hair. They sit on emeco navy chairs.

There's some anachronism for ya.
posted by Ahab at 8:48 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not Act of Contrition, Flesh and Bone.
posted by Ahab at 9:12 AM on January 2, 2011


And, for those uncomfortable with the price, there is always the used market. Because they are so well built they last forever I've found them at dump ($10 each!) and on Craigslist for $50. They are all from the 50's or 60's if the label style on the bottom is anything to go by, but they will easily last long enough for my heirs to have to deal with them.
posted by gofargogo at 12:33 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a pair of 1006 Navy Chairs. I love them, and whenever I spy them in a movie I quietly point it out.

There is a recent edition of the design, made from recycled plastic (apologies, Pepsi-blue). The color there is brilliant, and I want one of those too. Likely that's a less frigid seat in winter.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 3:10 PM on January 2, 2011


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