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Barber Chair Restoration Problems & Solutions

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We weren't able to completely untwist this convoluted thread, but we've tried to generally divide it into these categories:

p.1 Plating & Belmont Chairs

p.2 Paidar Chairs & Koken Chairs

p.3 Koch Chairs & Misc. Chairs / Misc. Problems

Plating issues

barber chair barber chair 2

(to help readers better understand the Q&A's)

Readers who are interested in trying to follow along through this section, but who are not experienced in plating, may wish to start with our "Introduction to Chrome Plating" before continuing.

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 it's 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 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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - 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 Specialty Products / Ronatec
supporting advertiser
Fallbrook, California

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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
February 18, 2012

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)


- Forsyth, Illinois, USA
March 8, 2012

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)

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 18, 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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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 1, 2012

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)

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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

"Theo a. Kochs 1880 Catalog"

on AbeBooks

or Amazon

(affil links)

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
March 11, 2013

(to help readers better understand the Q&A's)

"LCD" is an acronym for "low current density". When parts are immersed in the plating tank, the electricity takes the path of least resistance, so edges and corners get high current density, and recesses get low current density. The plating deposits differently depending on the current density.

Chrome plating will not occur unless there is sufficient current density in that area, and unless there is a small & carefully controlled amount of "catalyst" in the solution; the 100:1 ratio of chromic acid to sulfuric acid that Tom is using is the most conventional approach for the catalyst.

As discussed in the "Introduction to Chrome Plating", chrome fumes are toxic and carcinogenic, and we do not feel that hobbyists should attempt chrome plating. But those who cannot be dissuaded should at least realize the necessity of the "fume blanket" -- a floating layer of oily specialty fluorine-based chemicals that catches most of the "champagne bubbles" generated by the plating process. (Update Feb. 2023: there is now tremendous concern about the safety of those PFAS/PFOS fluorine-based chemicals).

Decorative chrome plating is always preceded by bright nickel plating, and the most common formulation is called Watts Nickel.

The usual temperature of the chrome plating solution is 110 ° F.

Q. Hello all:
I appreciate any help given....
I am having a problem with my chrome giving off a haze in the LCD areas.
It is a standard Hex bath with no additives
33 oz chromic acid
.33 sulfuric
Fume blanket
Chrome plating is preceded by standard bright Watts Nickel.
I have tried varying the temp from 110 to 120 °F, and get the same results. When I turn up the power to the point of making the haze disappear I start to get a slight burning on the edges. It does not matter the base metal as it happens with everything from steel to zinc die castings.
I have sent samples out of both the nickel and chrome and am awaiting analysis.

Thank you,

Tom Haltmeyer
hobby plating - Peoria, Arizona

thumbs up signTom, sorry I can't be of any help with your question, but the texture on the part shown in the photo is interesting, did you make the part?


Lawrence Duckworth
- Cleveland, Georgia, USA

The parts are from a early 1900s KOKER barber chair.
They are the "legs" that go from the arms down to the footplate.

Tom Haltmeyer
hobby plating - Peoria, Arizona

A. Just a shot in the dark but have you checked for any zinc contamination in your chrome AND nickel bath in ppm?

gary joseph
Gary Joseph
South Africa


Other metals can get dissolved in the chrome plating tank from the parts themselves, earlier plating steps, or acids dissolving the copper wiring; that wreaks havoc on the chrome plating.

In production plating, numerous parts are hung on a single plating rack and carried from tank to tank. It is possible for a part to fall off the rack and sit on the bottom of the tank slowly dissolving.

A. I have had High Iron in my chrome bath lower my efficiency of my chrome bath and cause the same problem. One source of either Zn, Cu, or Fe could be parts in the bottom of your tank.

Chris Snyder
- Charlotte, North Carolina

The earlier layer of nickel plating, if old rather than freshly plated, can oxidize to where it is very difficult to chrome plate. Rudolf is suggesting that a different catalyst (fluoride based instead of sulfuric acid) might help address the problems.

A. Hello,
It looks like you have some passive nickel or your chrome bath doesn't activate enough. Try a mixed catalyst bath.

Rudolf Kempf
- Haan, Germany

thumbs up signI finally got it all fixed. :)
My leveler was very low in one bath and gone in the other in my nickel. I has also learned that I should use a ratio of 5:1 brightener/leveler when making adds to the nickel bath. (I use a lot of auxiliary anodes for restoration work and it was killing my leveler)
I also needed more current in the chrome.
So ... all is well now.

Tom Haltmeyer [returning]
- Peoria, Arizona, USA

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
May 29, 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.

Perhaps the easiest way to see the difference between nickel-only and nickel-chrome is to take one of the parts and put it next to a part which you know is chrome. If a friend has a Harley it will have lots of chrome. Nickel can look fine when standing alone, but it will look yellowish when next to nickel-chrome, which will then look blue-ish compared to the nickel.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 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

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).

barber chair -27a   barber chair -27b  
barber chair -27c

Denny Cardona
- Sierra Vista, Arizona
February 23, 2021

thumbs up sign Thank you for the suggestion, Denny Cardona! 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

barber chair -7

Belmont Barber Chairs

Q. I have purchased an old Belmont barber chair. I want to restore it; it reclines but does not swivel or raise lower. I can't find parts or manuals. It appears to be a Koken classic design.


Tim Leslie
Hobbyist - Menlo Park, California
June 16, 2009

A. Try kicking the handle forward. Sometimes they stick when they have been pulled back too hard. I use these chairs on a regular basis. In fact one of mine I got at a discount because the arm was froze in position and I knew all I had to do is kick it forward. Unless it's just moving forward and backward and still not working.

All the way forward and down holding it there lets it down. pushing the lever forward and down and up raises it, and just halfway down/forward lets it swivel. to lock in position lightly pull back to the upright position.

Hope that works

William Farrell Stephens II
- Saint Johns, Florida
July 4, 2009

A. For the guy with the chair that does not go up or down, check the oil level and lubricate all of the parts in the handle.

Steve Hicks
- Ludlow, Massachusetts
May 20, 2010

barber chair 54281

Q. I am restoring 2 Belmont barber chairs. All good except hydraulic parts (small spring loaded valves). Can anyone help with supplier of parts & type of oil & volume of oil?

Murray Badenoch
Barber shop owner - Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
February 7, 2010

A. Hello there, greetings from Toronto, Canada. That looks like a beautiful chair! I have been doing research on Belmont barber chairs and recently purchased that exact chair but with red leather. I really love that design, and I'm interested to know how your repair went? Can you post any finished pictures? Also, it may be too late but a friend advised me most chairs will take about 2 liters of unleaded motor oil.


Jason Chong
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
February 10, 2011

RFQ: Hi all I am looking for a chrome ring for an old Belmont barbers chair pedestal.

Allen Yee
- Honolulu, Hawaii
August 10, 2012

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)

Q. My Belmont chair won't recline.

Charles Gaines
- Bellflower, California
November 13, 2013

Q. I have Belmont barber chair from the 60's and it will not recline any ideas what is the cause and how can I fix this. I loosen and tighten the springs on the side but still not reclining.

Dario Ciutti
- Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
December 3, 2013

"Barbershop: History and Antiques"
by Christian R Jones

on AbeBooks

or Amazon

(affil links)

Q. Can metal Antique barber chair parts be welded? My name is John and I'm thinking of buying two Takara Belmont barber chairs. both chairs have the long arms broken in half -- the arms that attach to the foot rest. Does anyone know if this type of metal can be welded?

I cannot find the parts to replace them. The serial numbers are 60819 and 60820 I believe; if I'm reading the serial numbers right they were made 1960 August 19th and 20th

John Ens
tattooist - Barrie Ontario Canada
March 17, 2014

A. Hi John. These parts are probably cast iron, which is difficult but not impossible to weld. If you google "weld cast iron" you'll get the picture. But you might also consider having it brazed, since this is perhaps a little easier. So also google "braze cast iron". If you find a good weld shop, I think they'll be able to do it. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

barber chair -19

Q. My dad has a 1970s era Belmont barber chair, but the fluid seems to be low and we can't figure out how, where and what type of fluid to install. We would be grateful to receive a reply with any help. Thanks.

Victor Ruiz
January 15, 2015
owner of chair - bakersfield, California USA

A. Pull the seat cushion and you should see where the hydraulic oil goes.

Fast David Cordero
- California
June 28, 2022

RFQ: Looking for a 1950's Belmont pump handle. Any help would be appreciated. Cheers.

Bill Majovsky
winter project - Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
April 12, 2015

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)

RFQ: I need to find two sets of Short Arms for 1950s Belmonts. Does anyone know where I can get them?

George Monroe
- North Carolina
July 10, 2015

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)

Q. Hi, I'm looking for a (HEADREST). For a yr. 1950 BELMONT model no.5 it has two posts 1-3/4" in. center to center any assistance please?

Michael P Murphy
- Pleasant Hill California U.S.A.
January 9, 2016

Q. I have a mid-50's (I think) Belmont barber chair. I can't lock it to stop it from rotating. It always wants to rotate away from the direction I want to face. Am I correct that rotating the pump up handle should stop the chair from rotating? Can someone point me in the right direction to fix it?

Thanks in advance

Terry Lyle
- Gainesville, Florida
October 6, 2016

Q. Hi, I just bought an old Belmont chair and it seems to be missing the break valve or stopper with a 3 in O-ring around it does anyone know where to buy parts or to have them made?

mike connell
- ontario canada
November 10, 2016

Q. Hello, I'm restoring a 1950's Tamara Belmont chair and need the hydraulic pump arm and mechanism. I'm willing to purchase the bottom half of the chair if I have to. Or if anyone might know or have used a machinist to build parts. If I could get a name or number that would be awesome! No one in my area is interested in helping a girl.

Thank you for your time.

Merina Shearing
Stache Barber Shop Trim & Shaving Co. - Dawson Creek, BC. Canada
August 17, 2017

Q. I have just purchased a Belmont barber chair from the 1950's -- it's pretty rough. I am not sure how to take the hydraulic lift apart to repair it. Can anyone please point me in any direction on how to do this? And is there any place other than eBay to find parts?

barber chair -24a   barber chair -24b   barber chair -24c

James long
FS Salon - Moore, Oklahoma
February 24, 2019

1940s Belmont Barber Chair

RFQ: 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
October 13, 2020

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)

Q. I have a 50's Belmont barber chair. All the leather is in nice shape except the back; I would like to know the minimum I have to take off to remove the back to be re-uphoistered, Thanks in Advance.

Rick Millar
hobbyist - Winnipeg Manitoba
August 13, 2023

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