Antique Chair Casters to Restore Your Older Pieces

Louis Philippe style clear wood Voltaire armchair on casters

Even antique furniture isn't exempt from looking great from its head down to its toes. You might take the wheels on your office chair for granted, but making sure your older seats have the proper antique chair casters is giving them the TLC they deserve. Like a piece of jewelry on a little black dress, these antique casters add that elegant finishing touch to a chair.

What Is a Caster?

A caster is a small wheel that has the ability to swivel. It gets attached to the bottom of a furniture leg, making the pieces of furniture (often chairs) easier to move around. Traditional period styles include casters with brass, porcelain, and wood wheels. Aesthetically, brass casters and claw feet provide a graceful and sophisticated end point to any chair or table legs.

Detail with a casters

Casters are a great addition to antique chairs because they help protect the chair legs and keep them in good shape. When chairs are dragged across the floor, it can cause the joints between the legs and the seats to become loose, further putting your chairs in danger with every time you take a seat. But wheeled casters eliminate this problem. The added height and swivel mobility also adds extra flexibility to otherwise resolute pieces of furniture. Dragging chair legs can scrape hardwood floors, but wheeled casters won't, meaning that not only can you protect your chairs from damage, but your floors as well.

How to Date Antique Chair Casters

Many antique chair casters were made during the Georgian period, although some have been dated back to the earlier Queen Anne period. While it can be difficult to date antique chair casters, here are a few tips to give you an upper hand:

  • Leather rollers - An early form of casters, leather rollers indicate that the piece was made around 1714 to 1725.
  • Wood and iron - Wood and iron castors were usually made between 1720 to 1760.
  • Cast iron - Cast iron castors were possibly made between 1760 and 1770.
  • Brass and laminated leather - Castors with brass and laminated leather have been created between 1770 and 1780.
  • Solid brass - Solid brass castors were probably made between 1780 and 1790.

Even with these guidelines, it can be difficult to date casters because there're so many reproductions on the market, and they're often done in an authentic antique style, so they end up looking very similar to the real thing. Also, furniture casters frequently get replaced, so a period antique chair might have a newer caster attached to it. Thus, the age of the chair isn't necessarily indicative of the caster's age.

Armchair known as an officer's chair with removable seat

Where to Find Antique Casters

If you're looking for casters to add to an antique chair, finding ones that match can be essential to completing the style and décor of the piece, and thus the room. Putting a modern caster on an antique office chair will look odd and out-of-place. Check out stores that sell antique hardware to see if you can find something that complements the piece. Sometimes, you can find beautiful old brass casters at vintage and secondhand stores.

Of course, the quickest way to find an antique caster is to peruse the many shops and sellers listing their wares online. From specialized retailers to casual collectors, there're a ton of different places for you to get your antique casters from.

  • Historic Houseparts - This popular company is known for its antique home-related goods, and they have a large selection of genuine antique casters for sale.
  • eBay - If you're looking for genuine antique casters, then eBay is a solid place to start your search. What they lack in sophisticated search capability, they make up for in their amount of inventory.
  • Iron Anarchy - Iron Anarchy has a small selection of antique casters available ranging the mid-19th century to the early 20th century.
  • Paxton Hardware Ltd. - This hardware company offers a number of reproduction stem casters in various sizes, finishes, and metals.
  • Vintage Hardware and Lighting - Since 1978, this company has been providing home hardware to people like you. In terms of casters, they have a ton of reproduction casters from stems, to paw foots, to ferrules.

How to Replace Antique Casters

Finding a replacement caster can turn a defunct chair collecting dust into a working antique. However, locating the casters is only half of the trouble because as soon as you get them, you've got to actually take the old casters out and put the new (old) ones in. Depending on which type of caster you have, the steps you follow will slightly vary. Yet, these are some guiding steps you should take to replace your antique casters.

Stem Casters

Replacing stem casters is pretty easy thanks to their straightforward mechanisms.

  1. The first step when replacing any caster is to tip the chair onto its side to expose its legs and wheels.
  2. Using a screwdriver, gently separate the wheel & stem from the caster plate and the chair's leg.
  3. Once the wheel's stem is showing, you can try to gingerly pull the wheel out of the leg. If there's a lot of resistance, try spraying the stem with some lubricant.
  4. If you have a new socket to install, you can use a flat head screw driver to remove the socket that's pressed into the bottom of the leg, and then you can gently press in the new socket into the leg.
  5. Once the new socket's been installed (if there was one), you should be able to slip the stem of the new wheel into the socket until it's fully secure and put the chair right-side-up again.

Ferrule Casters

Ferrule casters are easily identified by the round or square casings that the legs sit into. Imagine the ferrule (metal piece) that holds the eraser onto a wooden pencil and apply it to a chair's legs when you're going about replacing these simple casters.

  1. The first step when replacing any caster is to tip the chair onto its side to expose its legs and wheels.
  2. Locate all of the screws that hold the ferrule into place, and using a screwdriver, remove them.
  3. Once the screws have been removed, the ferrule should easily come free of the leg.
  4. If the new ferrule has different sized screws or the original screws are stripped beyond future use, then you can use a newer set of screws to attach the new (old) ferrule.
  5. Once you've secured the screws on the new ferrule, your wheels are ready to go.

Get Your Roll On

The wheels on the bus go round and round and without the wheels on your desk chair firmly secure, you're not going anywhere; but you don't have to completely trash your grandfather's wonky desk chair just yet. Upgrading your favorite antique or vintage chairs with new (old) casters can add a couple of decades-worth of milage onto their lifespans. You can buy either reproduction or authentic chair casters, but these minute details can bring any movable furniture back to life.

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Antique Chair Casters to Restore Your Older Pieces