Starting around 1940, the Columbus, Indiana based Columbus Supply Company (COSCO) started manufacturing a combination chair/step ladder. Production of this product continues through today and can be purchased at big box retailers.
I was fortunate enough to inherit a COSCO step-chair that was part of my father in law’s family for many years. When he and his two brothers were young enough for their dad to give them haircuts, it received quite a bit of use. Each of the boys would try to be first in line for two reasons. First, they knew that as the evening progressed, dad’s patience with wiggles and squirms slowly eroded. Second, the last person up had to sweep up all of the hair strewn around the floor. When not engaged in barber duties, the step-chair served its intended role in the kitchen and alternatively as a paint ladder and play gym.
In our house, my wife continues the haircut tradition and provides me with regular haircuts. Based on this history, the nostalgic value of the chair is very high. Predictably, after a life of use the chair was wobbly and held together with an assortment of ad hoc hardware. The original chair was fire engine red and chrome. I hope to restore the chair to its former glory and prepare it for another life of use, specifically for providing a solid base for many more haircuts.
While disassembling the chair, I found the use of a four bar mechanism to extend the steps to be a very elegant mechanical design. The chair was well designed from a manufacturing engineering viewpoint and would have been easy to assemble at the factory. Many of the duplicate parts were identical and would have needed only a single die to manufacture them saving time and complexity. At no point was the access to the bolt that held the chair together awkward or difficult, a trademark of a good design.
At this point in the process the only thing left to do was re-upholster the cushions. It turns out that high quality vinyl (marine or automotive grade) is expensive. After some looking around on the internet, I ultimately purchased a yard of vinyl from an upholstery shop in town. I got the vinyl for half price because all they had left in stock was a scrap piece! My mother was visiting in town and helped me pull the project together. I am thankful for her help because I would have never finished the seat without her. In the end, we had to modify the seat to get everything to go together. This took some time in the wood shop and a trip to the hardware store. In the end, I was very happy with the result.