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topic 24359

Barber Chair Restoration Problems & Solutions

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Current questions and answers:

May 29, 2020

Q. I purchased an old Koken Barber chair and am going to start restoring it. How can I tell if it was Nickel or Chrome plated? Or is it easier to take one of the parts, once I have it polished to a plater and they can tell me.

Don Weatherly
- Smyrna, Georgia
^- Reply to this post -^

May 2020

A. Hi Don. Certainly not just chrome, and probably not just nickel. Most likely nickel-chrome plating. Please see our Intro to Chrome Plating for a full explanation.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 5, 2020

thumbs up sign Thanks for the reply. Once I get the chair disassembled, I will contact a couple of area companies on plating options. First, I was thinking that it was nickel plated and then changed my mind to chrome. And now it sounds like it is probably both!! grin

Don Weatherly [returning]
- Smyrna, Georgia

February 23, 2021

A. Don,
Chrome plating was invented in 1924, so I'd say if your chair was made prior to 1925, have it nickel plated. If it was made 1925 or later, you could get away with chrome.
Find the cleanest piece of material you have and polish it up. If it looks like it has a yellowish color to it, then that's nickel plate. If the piece has a silver/white color, then it's probably chrome.
If you know you're going to refinish your metal, and your plater is nearby and does both nickel and chrome, take all of the pieces in and have them plate it in whatever material they determine the original was.
My nearest plater didn't do chrome, so I had to do some research to find out the material of origin. Turns out mine was nickel (1914 Theo A. Kochs).

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Denny Cardona
- Sierra Vista, Arizona

February 23, 2021

thumbs up sign Denny Cardona
- Sierra Vista, Arizona

Thank you for the suggestion! I will give it a try and see. I am pretty sure it is not as old as yours!! But I think it is pretty cool looking!!

Don Weatherly [returning]
- Smyrna, Georgia

May 1, 2020

Q. Hey guys I am re-assembling a 1910-20's Theo a Koch barber chair and I forgot how I took apart the reclining assembly. I have pictures of parts and all that of the space but I just can't figure out which direction to put the pieces. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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Nathan McDonald
Barber - oneonta New York usa
^- Reply to this post -^

February 24, 2021

A. Nathan - Did you ever figure this out? Getting the pieces in there is easy. Getting the cover/cap back on is difficult.
The round end with the through-hole near it goes to the back of the chair. The flat, tab-like end goes toward the front. The two keys go on the rod with the holes closet to the edge, toward the inside of the base.
Start the rod into one side of the base (front to rear worked best for me). Push it in enough to get on one key. Push the rod in a bit more to get the spring and then the second key. Push the rod in so it's at the midway point. Put cotter pins through the two holes (the one near the round end and the one about halfway down the rod). You should have a cotter pin to the front of the opening and one on the other side of the opening. Connect the flat end of the rod to the bracket on the back of the leg rest.

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That's the easy part. Because the keys are spread apart by the spring, you need to compress them to fit into the space on the back of the cover. I found it best to set the cap onto one of the keys, move the cover to center of the opening, and then use a stiff-blade putty knife/scraper to push the other key. The cover will fall into place over both keys - do not let up on the cover. Keeping the cover firmly in place, thread in and tighten down the screws.
Good luck!

Denny Cardona
- Sierra Vista, Arizona

August 30, 2020

Q. HELP! THE HYDRAULICS won't budge, so I can't get it apart. Also I need the brackets and calf rest. Anyone help?

Stogie Mavs
- Avondale, Arizona
^- Reply to this post -^

1940s Belmont Barber Chair

October 13, 2020

Q. Looking for the metal base rings for a chair with a base diameter of 23". Also tips on cleaning up/painting porcelain.

James sin
- Nova Scotia
^- Reply to this post -^

Previous closely related Q&A's starting in:

March 22, 2008

Q. I have a Koken Barber Chair form the 1890s to 1930s. It's in many pieces and I have full intent to restore it in time. I need some metal parts for the chair and I am having difficulty locating them (can't understand that, it's only around a hundred years old!) I do have some pictures of my dismantled chair and would appreciate any help anyone out there can provide. What I'm looking for are the metal parts from the wooden leg rest down. I don't need all the parts but I am willing to buy the complete bottom part of the chair if necessary.

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I desperately need help with this project. Any help or references you can provide will be very much appreciated.

Norman Stephenson
Norman's Barber Shop - Raytown, Missouri

June 5, 2009

A. Norman:

There is a seller on ebay that has many of the parts I see in your photo...

This guy helped me a ton with my barber chair.. I'm the guy with the chair right below yours on this site.

Bobby Farmer
machinist - Grand Coulee, Washington

barber chair -6
May 23, 2009

Q. I have been working on this barber chair for two years, plating, leather upholstery, wood carving and sanding... it's come a long way... from what I have seen of other chairs, my chair is early 1900's no metal on the arms, all oak.. I need the parts that will lock it in the recline position, the rod that goes to the leg bracket, and the bracket as well...

Willing to pay any reasonable asking price plus a large token of my appreciation..! Thanks for reading..!

Bobby Farmer
machinist - Grand Coulee, Washington

Ed. note: General hints about obtaining parts are welcome, but No offers please! This is a technical site about metal finishing, not a free ebay, and we'd be swamped overnight if we tried to be. Thanks.

To minimize search efforts and to offer multiple viewpoints, we combined previously separate threads onto this page. Please forgive any resultant repetition, failures of chronological order, or what may look like readers disrespecting previous responses -- those other responses may not have been on the page at the time :-)

Nickel / chrome plating issues


Q. Does anyone know the best way to refinish the metal parts of an antique barber chair? Also, if plating is the solution what would be the appropriate finish?

Chuck Holman
hobbyist - Walnut Creek, California


A. I replated parts of barber chairs at my shop in Berkeley. If its an real old it's Nickel plated, If late 40's and on, Chrome. If the plating isn't completely shot you can use a chrome rouge.

Jon Diamond
silver plater - Berkeley, California


Q. I work on barber chairs. I would like to know how to nickel some items. Do you have a nickel plating kit, or any advise.


Victor Sepulveda
I restore antiques for my use. - Natalita, Texas


A. For your use, consider "brush plating". Check out the vendor lists at this site. This procedure is extremely operator sensitive. If you want a lot less pain, attend the free school from the folks that you think that you want to buy the equipment and solutions from. Typical is 3-5 days of lecture and hands on. Good equipment makes a huge amount of difference, so look at more than one vendor.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


Q. I am restoring a barber chair and have had all the metal chrome parts replated. However, now some of the parts don't fit; the new plating is too thick. What's the best way to remove some of the plating. File, wet sandpaper, or ?


Brian Lamb
- Pullman, Washington

A. Hi Brian. I think you'll find that chrome plating is harder than a file, in which case a file won't work, of course. Sandpaper [affil. link to info/product at Rockler] on a power tool will probably work -- if you are talking about functional hard chrome plating on shafts, bearings, etc.

The shiny decorative "chrome" plated items are actually a few millionths of an inch of chrome over a nickel plating layer which is thousandths of an inch thick -- so you will lose corrosion resistance and there will be an appearance difference where you sand anything. Hopefully the sanded areas are not visible.

You may wish to look over our "Introduction to Chrome Plating" page. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. Question about stripping Chrome Plating I have 3 old (1940's) barber chairs that I would like to strip and refinish. They are a combination of Chrome plated cast iron, aluminum, and stainless steel. I don't want to re-chrome the chromed parts but I do want to strip them of the old bubbling and flaking chrome. I would like to powdercoat and/or use automotive paint on the parts once stripped.

The problem I have is the local shops (Sacramento, Calif) are telling me that you can't just strip the chrome because the stripping process/chemicals can't be neutralized. Therefore you must re-chrome them. I'm no chemist but this seems odd to me because one can usually neutralize a chemical reaction with another chemical. Right? What is the real answer. Can I have the parts stripped and neutralized or what? If yes, then what is the process?

I attempted to sandblast a part with no luck . If this can be done I would then be able to fill and prep the parts before coating with powdercoat or automotive paints.

Thanks in advance for your feedback. I would really like to restore these because they are from a family members shop.

Doug Gale
-Sacramento, California


A. Dear Doug,

The "bubbling and flaking chrome" on your barber chairs is probably nickel rather than chrome. Chrome is usually a very thin coating that protects the nickel and prevents discoloration. Stripping process/chemicals can't be neutralized? You're right, that's ridiculous.

If you would like, I will refer you to companies in your area that distribute our nickel strippers and may be able to give you the names of plating shops that can help you. Note: Since these chairs were manufactured in the 40's they may not have a nickel/chrome finish. During WWII many manufacturers suspended the use of chrome for commercial products, reserving their chrome supplies for the war effort. If the chair parts do have the nickel/chrome combination, the chrome is easily removed by submersion in an electrocleaning tank and applying reverse current for a few minutes. The nickel can then be removed by immersing the parts in the nickel stripper. Hope this helps.

Gayle Coffey
Metalx, Inc.
supporting advertiser
Lenoir, North Carolina
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February 18, 2012

RFQ: I am in the process of restoring my Grandfather's 1908 Koken Barber Chair and am searching for a company to re-plate the metal parts with Nickel. Does anyone have a recommendation in the Philadelphia, PA area?

Paul DeLaurentis
- Doylestown, Pennsylvania USA

March 8, 2012


- Forsyth, Illinois, USA

April 18, 2012

Q. I have a 1935 Barber chair. I am trying to either bring it up to a high polish or chrome it. I would like to know how I do it?

Michael Williams
- Atlanta, Georgia

April 19, 2012

A. Hi Michael.

The items in questions are almost surely steel or cast iron so they cannot be polished to high reflectivity. But there are plating shops, probably right in your area, which can nickel-chrome plate these items for you. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 1, 2012

RFQ: I like to restore a lot of things and I recently picked up a 1940s barber chair. This will be the first barber chair I have ever restored and being in college I am on a budget. How much would it cost to nickel plate an antique barber chair?

Connor K [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Auburn, New York, USA

May 2012

A. Hi Connor.

It would depend mostly on how much prep work is required and how big an area must be plated, but probably a couple hundred to several hundred dollars, maybe even more.

The cost of plating can be a shock, but restoration plating is time-consuming handwork, and platers don't survive who charge less for their time than a plumber or mechanic. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 11, 2013

Q. Hi,
Am restoring an early Theo. Koch chair. All of the original nickel plating is shot, and the estimates for replating are astronomical. Has anyone had acceptable results with any type of paint?

Ron Bedard
- Seabrook, New Hampshire

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