Wastelands of Suburbia

A place where the cast-off ephemera of the last four generations comes to rest, and is discussed fondly....Like junk, or the injection-molded minutiae of history? Welcome home...Junkyards, yard sales, roadside oddities, thrift stores and more-your memories are deep inside the box, so keep shaking.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Seat belt Lawn Chair...

I still like the old-style aluminum folding lawn chairs-to me, as a bigger guy, they are much more comfortable than the new collapsible camp-style chairs being sold today. However, the old plastic or vinyl replacement webbing is nearly impossible to find, and if you are lucky enough to find it, it may be in no better condtion than what you are trying to replace. I had picked up a roll of seat belt webbing at the flea market for a few bucks, and after seeing handbags woven from it in magazines, I decided I might try to re-web one of my vintage chairs. The result is better than I expected, plus the webbing is stronger and much more comfortable than the plastic stuff. No pinched leg hairs or sticking to it in hot, humid weather! My guess is it will last forever as long as i keep it out of the rain.

If you can't get a roll of this stuff, troll your local "u-pull" junkyard for seat belts. I don't think they can sell them complete for safety reasons, so just cut the webbing with EMT shears or sharp scissors. You should be able to get it for a song. Pull the belts ALL THE WAY OUT and cut as close to the retracting reel as possible so you get as much of it as you can. I would estimate about four cars worth of belts should be more than enough to cover your chair. This stuff is super useful for lots of other things as well.

Look closely at your chair-if it still has the original webbing, examine how it is put on, it's pretty simple. Take a digital photo for reference, just in case you forget. You may want to replace the often-rusty screws with new ones also. Take your time and the results will surprise you. I also took a lighter and singed the cut ends so they would not fray, and singed the holes I drilled for the same reason. You can probably use a leather punch for holes as well. DON'T BURN YOURSELF ON THE HOT, SCORCHED WEBBING! Let it cool after singeing it, it's just like melted plastic until the temperature drops, and will stick to you like napalm.

For racing fans, you can attach a set of shoulder straps, complete with buckles to strap yourself in at races and to keep someone from stealing your chair when you get up! You can also use alternating colors, I just used this blue because I had a huge amount of it. Remember there is tan, gray, maroon or burgundy in addition to good old black for mixing and matching. I also remember the Pontiac Sunfire perhaps having bright red as well as an aqua "moon rock" color in the mid 90s (?) Do your favorite team colors or match the rest of your patio furniture. Black and Tan (for beer drinkers) would look good I think, as well as blue and Maroon (looks like the Gemini space program to me somehow). I think these lawn chairs are comfortable enough to use inside if company comes and you need extra seating, at Superbowl or holiday time.

You can also use this procedure for old, Mid-Century Modern-styled folding chaises and chairs-some of them were originally slung with webbing, or woven with macrame' type patterns and twine. A cheap flea-market wooden chaise or folding chair could yield a masterpiece... Go nuts, have fun.

UPDATE: A search of Ebay yielded new webbing in every color of the rainbow...it's not as cool to buy new if you ask me, but if you need to match with colors like orange or safety yellow, this is the way to go I guess.


Blogger Zieak said...

Very nice!

11:05 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I love it. That's a good looking piece of work there. I'm going to be on the lookout for a nice aluminum chair to do this mod.

Great job!

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did you actually attach the straps? DId you sew them? Thanks.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Suburban Junkyard said...

The webbing is carefully pierced, and the same screws that hold in the original webbing are used. The webbing is carefully seared with a lighter flame to prevent fraying. I used a drill to pierce but an awl should work.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have collected the seat belts from a local junk yard with a great variety of colors. Although I am stuck on how to attach the webbing to the chair. The chair that I am working with did not come with the screws. Do you have any suggestions on where to purchase them?

12:43 PM  
Blogger Suburban Junkyard said...

As for the screws, any small sheetmetal-type screw will work, so don't worry that you need some obscure fastener. Your local big box hardware store will have plenty of options, just make sure they are not too small for any holes that are already there, or they will slip out. Take your time, and be sure to heat-seal the holes in the webbing. Good luck and let me know if you run into trouble.

8:14 PM  
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