The Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback Chair: a potted history
The imposing CH28 is an iconic mid century chair. Designed by Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner in 1952 and manufactured by Carl Hansen & Son of Denmark, it proves as popular today as it ever has been.
Just one of a catalogue of 500-plus chairs designed by Wegner over the course of his lifetime, this is sometimes referred to as the ‘Sawback’ or ‘Sawbuck’ chair and it shares some of the styling of the CH29 dining chair. Wegner trained with fellow Scandinavian furniture designer Arne Jacobsen in the 1940s and was at the forefront of the post-war Danish design revolution. He is regarded as one of the most influential furniture designers of the 20th century.
Buying a Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback Chair: tips from mid century expert Ben Adams of Designs of Modernity
Can you tell us a bit about the design of the classic Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair?
The aesthetic of the Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair is perhaps best summed up by Wegner’s famous remark: “A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and all angles”. It features a distinctive and sculptural splayed-leg solid wood frame, which is complemented by solid wood armrests and a veneered bent plywood back and seat. These are sometimes in contrasting woods, with the frame in oak and other parts in teak, or in pure oak or pure teak.
Has the design of the Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair changed over the years?
The Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair is still in production today despite a short manufacturing hiatus; the only change now is that the original teak and teak/oak frame options are replaced with a mix of walnut and oak. Pure oak still remains, but teak has fallen out of modern usage. The overall look of the chair has been toyed with over the years, with limed oak, lacquer and occasionally paint introduced as extra finish options. Nothing quite beats the original simple coating of oil and wax though, which you can still see on vintage chairs.
It is worth noting that, as with most Danish furniture, the earlier the date of manufacture, the stronger the possibility that the grain and figuring of the wood will appear more interesting to the eye. This is due to the use of more mature trees early in the post-war period, with a wider grain or ‘crowning’, often referred to as mature stock. Later on with the accelerating worldwide appetite for Danish furniture, quickly grown ‘farmed’ trees were more frequently used. Here the grains appear much tighter and less interesting. This is often a good rule of thumb to use to roughly date pieces and gauge their overall quality.
Can you tell us about the seat pads for the Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair?
When contemplating which version of the Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair to purchase, the question of comfort should be addressed. There is plenty of choice here, with pad options available for both the seat and back, for the seat only, or, for a slightly more purist ’look’, no pads at all. This option really allows you to appreciate the true beauty of the materials, but, due to its rarity, you can expect to pay a little more for this option when buying vintage.
What should a buyer of the Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair look out for in terms of condition?
When looking at older models of the Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair, be aware of any flaws or peeling of the wooden veneers covering the curved plywood seat and backrest – these can be difficult to replace and will only get worse. If viewing a vintage chair with no pads, check that it has not at some stage had a back pad fitted. Close inspection could reveal tell-tale filled screw holes, and these will only devalue the chair. Check for cracks or separation in the frame – although this is rare in such a well-made chair, the odd screw may sometimes have been added somewhere by a careless former owner for a quick fix. Usually if all is well structurally, simply applying a coat of Danish oil or wax will do wonders. Shabby seat pads or those covered with dated patterned fabric are easy to remove and recover.
How easy is it to get hold of a Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair and what is the price structure?
Expert UK stockists Skandium feature all the Carl Hansen range currently in production, as well as specialist outlets like The Lollipop Shoppe. This will give you the full range of options to choose from, but be prepared for a lead-time of up to six weeks while it is shipped from Denmark. The list price for a new Hans Wegner CH28 Sawback chair starts at around £2100.
By comparison expect to pay between £1800 and £2300 for a good vintage example dependant on age and condition. Danish Homestore, Designs of Modernity and MCM Interiors, all specialists in Scandinavian furniture, recently stocked versions of this vintage chair. It is important to understand that imitation or ‘knock off’ versions will hold no resale value, often do not have the same attention to detail, and will more than likely be made from inferior materials that fail to show the attractive graining of the originals (often Chinese farmed oak).
If you do decide to spend big, then rest assured that, as with nearly all Wegner chairs (especially those from the 1950s), the CH28 Sawback chair is an exceptionally good mid century investment piece that will hold up well whatever the change in interior fashions. For something celebrating its 60th birthday, that is true modernity!
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