Vintage motorcycles are the cornerstone of my passion to find, preserve and tell stories of the past. Over the course of a few bike builds, though, I slowly transitioned away from the specific café racer niche into all things vintage motorcycle and my appreciation for all things old grew tremendously.
Discovering cool pieces in Alaska required I broaden my network to identify and track down people who had these treasures tucked away. And of course, networking and building relationships is what I enjoy; both in my desk job and away from the office. My vintage motorcycle hobby evolved into a relationship-based hobby.
One of the things I love most about this hobby is getting to hang out with the people that have a vintage piece, getting to know them, the cool things they have, the story behind them, and then capturing that history for generations to come.
Because of these relationships, my collection of vintage finds evolved from motorcycles to just about anything worth preserving: pieces of furniture, sports memorabilia, barber shop accessories - not just motorcycles. All kinds of items started to surface as my network grew and people started reaching out. They knew I would welcome a chance to take a look at a vintage piece, learn its history and possibly add it to my ever-growing collection where it would be preserved and its history documented.
Relationship, and a little luck, are how the late 1890s barber chair came to be in my rather eclectic vintage collection. I doubt the average person considers a barber chair as cool as I do, but then, I grew up surrounded by my dad’s 1950s barber chairs.
We made contact with a gentleman who owned the barber chair used on the steamship Nenana, a double paddle steamship from the 1920s in the Fairbanks area. This chair was likely 20 or 30 years old by the time it went on the boat in the 1920s. We're still researching its history but there are rumors that it may not have been used solely as the barber chair. It may have also been used as a dental chair and there are markings that indicate the possibility of shackles, so maybe it was used to restrain drunks during the long river voyages. Who knows? In our research we’re hoping to come across old photos that might give some clues as to the exact purpose of this chair on the Nenana.
Taking ownership of this chair took time. The previous owner wasn’t thrilled to sell and so we waited. . . Thankfully, his desire to preserve this piece of history outweighed pride and he was gracious enough to allow us to preserve it.
We finally secured the chair and discovered that it’s an 1890 to 1902 Kochs barber chair. This restoration, or as a friend calls it, “Cleaning, not restoring,” has brought us into the world of wood working. As with the vintage motorcycles, we're meeting people with very specific talents and specialties. People experienced not just in wood working, but guys experienced with how to treat and handle a 100-year-old piece of oak; how to rehydrate and re-induce it before repairing. This project is a nice break from the motorcycles and is helping us expand our network of people, knowledge of restoration and how to treat a piece of history so that it endures for generations to come. We hope to have the project completed by the winter of 2016. In the meantime, it’s yet another opportunity to include my family in this ever-growing hobby by working side-by-side with my dad and my son on a worthy restoration.
No doubt this will be our “legacy” chair.