Restoring a vintage 1920's Koken Barber's Chair

Discussion in 'The Barber Shop' started by LittleStropper, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. Hello!
    I noticed a good many posting about old Koken barbers chairs on this forum. I just got one and had some questions. First Here are some pictures of the chair:

    As you can see, the chair is in REALLY good condition already. It made a gurgling noise when I cranked it halfway up, so I added some 30 weight oil and that works now (although I initially overfilled it and it started leaking oil). The chair itself is rock solid with little corrosion. But I did have some questions which the pictures will hopefully be helpful to you in answering:

    • There does not seem to be any "brake" on the chair as far as stopping sideways spin is concerned. Pulling back on the handle does nothing and looking at it, it doesn't seem like it ever did. Does this model come with a braking or locking mechanism?
    • Some of the porcellain is worn dull, it there anything short of getting it recoated to making it shine again?
    • The green fabric is in excellent condition. So good, I can't imagine it's original - but it doesn't seem to be recent. Does anyone know if the original fabric was leather or a type of vinyl?
    • As with most old chairs, the part that received the most abuse - the footrests, have had most of the nickel plating wear off. Has anyone tried using something like Dupli-Color Silver Engine Paint on it as a stopgap measure? I would think it would display OK and would stop rust. And if you wanted to have it re-nickeled, removing the paint would be the least difficult part of the job? I would not think it would reduce the collectible value as it is reversible. Thoughts?
    • Note the uniform dull grey color of the sides of the headrest. What was the original color and texture? It doesn't seem like it was ever nickeled. Is that original?
    • You might be able to see in the photo that the material on the wooden dowel used to provide friction to feed the headrest covers is cracked. It seems somewhat rubbery. Does anyone know exactly what that material is? What would be a suitable replacement? Does anyone know if the towel "cartridge" used in these units is still made?
    • There does not appear to be any mechanism that controls the tilt of the chair. Seems like the person has to lean back or forward and that the movement is just controlled by friction of the bar inside a clamp. Is that the case or am I missing something?
    • Last do you remove the pad from the back of the top footrest? I don't see any screws to remove it.
    I know that I have asked a LOT of questions. Anyone who can answer even one of them has my sincere appreciation.
  2. A few thoughts...

    The fluid in the lift mechanism is most likely hydraulic fluid, not oil. You can probably use the same stuff that is used for a garage floor jack.

    This next bit may sound a bit screwy. I often wax the shower surround above the tub with Turtle Wax. Makes it shine and it needs less cleaning that way. It should work just as well with porcelain, as long as you don't use the variety that contains any sort of rubbing compound.

    Getting the metal parts replated will most likely increase the value of the chair.
  3. Thanks for the input and ideas - particularly the "turtle wax" thing. After a good bit of research, I arrived at the 30 weight oil. I would love to have had the original user manual and service manual (if such things existed at the time). I believe you are correct about the replating, which would set me back roughly $200 on top of what I already spent on the chair. Since I am a reseller, I have to consider if doing so will generate more $$$ than it costs. There are minor pinpoint rust dots throughout the chrome on the chair - but you have to get up really close to see them. I already have a fair amount of money invested in having bought and shipped it (as well as in the crap I got from my wife when it showed up). Also, plating does not always go as planned - particularly in the case of something intricate like the footrests on these chairs.
  4. If it does exist I wonder if they can be found online? Must be worth a look.
  5. Wow, i cant wait to see you fully restore this. My advice would be take alot of pictures like on "Rick's Restoration", tare it all apart, get it re-chromed, or as seen on B&B boil a caldron full of water to de-rust it, and get it re-painted and lubricate every nook and cranny.
  6. You may have sold the chair by now or know what I'm about to tell you, but this chair does have a brake mechanism and it looks like a metal brake pad. It is usually located toward the front of the chair, between the pump piston and the stationary sleeve in the base. The motion of pulling the hande back pulls the pump piston up and a lobe on the piston comes into contact with the pad which is then driven into the side of the stationary sleeve that houses the up-down cylinder, effectively locking the chair in place. The pad may be worn out or it may have fallen out when (over the years) was moved by someone not familiar with these chairs. They may have tried to pull the cylinder out of the base to make it easier to move and the pad fell out (maybe you can find one on ebay). Or it may have fallen into the oil on top of the pump piston. Take the chair apart and look inside. I was surprised to find the brake pad on a chair I bought that had the same problem, in the oil. Pump the handle up and down until the oil disapears and have a look.
  7. I have a VERY Old and VERY rusted Kokan barber chair. We have taken it completely apart and am having all the steel parts sandblasted and re-plated (I think it is nickel plated). However, then we have to put it back together and there may be some parts missing. Can you suggest any place I might go to find a catalog of parts and/or a manual for putting it back together again. Have never done anything like this before and don't really know where to start. I did take pictures of the chair as we were dis-assembling it so hopefully we could follow what we had done. Will appreciate any help......

    Thanks - Barbara Chong - Kaneohe Hawaii
  8. J Tischler:
    I can't wait :drool: when you post the 'restored' pics! [​IMG]

    [​IMG]"[Shaving is] like a barbers chair...that fits all buttocks". William Shakespeare
  9. Considering we haven't seen ol' J since April 2012, I'm afraid we will just have to use our imaginations.
  10. I'm not experienced in using web forums so I hope I'm doing this right. Is this the right thread, or do I need to start new one?

    I'm assisting my barber (Chuck the Barber) in restoring some vintage Kokan chairs. Not just any chairs. These are the originals from the Battle Ship Missouri. Mostly they just need nickle plating which is easy enough. We had the porcelain back piece restored to mint condition by a fellow who does claw foot tubs. That was not easy due to the quality of the old cast iron. One pump handle was broken in two. That we welded that and restored it. It looks great. The roller bearings inside handle joint were completely shot so I reconstructed them with modern roller bearings. That was easier than you might expect.

    Now we're ready for major nickle plating and reassembly.

    My question is simple, and it concerns the bright metal ring at the floor. How is that ring attached and what's the easiest way to remove it. These bases are heavy and filled with hydraulic oil. Do I need to lift it and crawl under like doing a clutch job? Do I need to drain the oil and turn it upside down? Some advice on this could save us some trouble and mess.

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