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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/age and information about finish/refinishing


Phoenix Chair Co. chair
Phoenix Chair Co. chai  
I know this chair was mfg by Phoenix Chair as there is a label attached underneath the seat.  Can you tell me approximately when?  It is oak (Tiger?)  The finish is bubbled, possibly from sun or heat.  I have six in very good condition, except for the finish.  Would you leave the finish alone, or what would you recommend?  Were they in a Sears catalogue?  Any information would be appreciated.  Thanks!

Sandra - Your oak chair is from the early 20th century, 1910-1925. The style is a variation of Queen Anne with the rounded shoulders, subtlely shaped splat and a hint of cabriole legs. Phoenix chairs were not carried by Sears. Phoenix was a manufacturer in Sheboygan, WI who sold wholesale to retail dealers. Similar but earlier versions of the chair can be seen in"American Wooden Chairs 1895-1908" published by Schiffer. It is a reprint of the Phoenix catalogs of the period. It can be found on at

Tiger eye oak or cat's eye oak is the colloquial name used for white oak (Quercus alba) that has been quarter sawn. Quarter sawing is a method of cutting an oak log that produces the distinctive grain pattern seen in the wood of your chair. Quarter sawing is further explained and illustrated in my book “HOW TO BE A FURNITURE DETECTIVE” (

The chairs were factory made and the finish was applied in an assembly line so it has no antique value. The bubbling in the finish was not caused by the sun. The original finish was shellac. Shellac is an organic finish made from the wings of the lac beetle dissolved in denatured alcohol. Like all organics, over time it deteriorates as it oxidizes. The best solution now is to chemically strip the finish and apply the finish of your choice.

Thanks for writing.

Fred Taylor

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

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Fred Taylor


I will attempt to answer questions about American antique furniture, including construction details, style, period, manufacturers, care, repair and storage. I do not have any background in appliances, musical instruments, sewing machines, trunks, lighting, clocks or children's and baby furniture and will not respond to questions about those items.


I ran an antique furniture restoration business for twenty years. I am a nationally syndicated columnist on the subject of antique furniture for such publications as Antique Week and New England Antiques Journal. I have produced one video on the subject of furniture identification and my book "HOW TO BE A FURNITURE DETECTIVE" is now available.I have also published articles in Antique Trader, Chicago Art Deco Society, Northeast Magazine, Victorian Decorating and Lifestyles, Professional Refinishing, Antiques and Art Around Florida and Antique Shoppe. You can visit my website at

BSBA Finance, University of Florida, MBA Finance, University of Florida

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