Saturday, October 26, 2013

We used to make things in this country. #129: Faultless-Doerner Manufacturing Company, Waterloo, Ontario

I found this old steel knob in a drawer.  The knob had originally had been used to adjust spring tension on an office chair:

It is stamped "Doerner Faultless, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

The Faultless Doerner Manufacturing Company of Waterloo, Ontario initially made furniture, particularly office furniture.  

1960's vintage Faultless Doerner office chair

They seem especially remembered for their reproduction of the famous Eames lounge, designed by husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames in the mid-1950's (although the company may have only made some of the hardware for this chair).

From what I can determine, the company started out as the Doerner Products Company in the same city. The founder, Frank Doerner, may have begun his work experience as an employee of the Sunshine Waterloo Company.  This company was founded as the Waterloo Manufacturing Company, making farm combines for the North American and Argentinian markets.  

Source:  Vintage CCM

When the depression effectively ended this market, they turned to automotive stampings, then to bed warmers, baby carriages, roller skates and industrial steel shelving.  During World War II, they changed production to bombs, land mines, army truck doors, gun mounts, airplane parts and complete nose assemblies for the Mosquito fighter-bomber.  In the process, they became Waterloo's largest employer during the war years.  Office furniture was added during the 1940's and 50's, especially after they were acquired by Massey Ferguson, when the company became Sunshine Office Equipment Limited.  In 1978, the company was bought by E.F. Hauserman Inc. of Cleveland, and folded in 1990.

If Mr. Doerner was an employee, he brought his experience to his own company.  Sometime in the ensuing decades, it became a wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary of the Faultless Caster Company of Indiana.  This company was founded in 1889 after Bernard H. Noelting had perfected a "faultless" furniture caster at his hardware store in Nebraska City, Nebraska.  

In 1913, the Faultless business was moved to Evansville, Indiana, then one of the world's major centres of furniture production. 

Faultless Caster Company c. 1920.   Source:  Historic Evansville
Following this change of ownership, Faultless-Doerner specialized in bases and control mechanisms for office chairs, rather than its former line of furniture.   At some point, the company was acquired by the Axia Holding Corporation.  In 1984, Faultless-Doerner closed its factory, putting 22 employees out of work.   In 1985, Axia sold the company to Babcock International.  After this, it looks like it was sold to  Northfield Metal Products, which was itself purchased by Leggett & Platt Inc.  (J.P. Leggett patented the spiral coil bedspring in 1885.  Photos below from their website.)

Below, an adjustment knob made by Northfield Metal Products.


Anonymous said...

I have an office chair that was discarded by an office of a university, still comfortable after 10 years. However, the 4 ball (made of hard rubber?) casters have broken. The posts are 1 and 1/4 inch, also difficult to find. I saw the label Faultless-Doerner on the under carriage.

Anonymous said...

Did you find a source? I have the same situation now in 2020

KJ said...

I too am in a similar situation in 2020 looking to source some castors from a doerner-faultless leather office chair. No luck yet.

Anonymous said...

This article may help!

Frank Doerner invented the four and five-legged office chairs that swivel and tilt. He later founded Frank Doerner & Sons Metal Products in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Frank Doerner's grandchildren became musicians; Brian Doerner drummer for Saga and Helix and Brian Doerner guitarist for Helix.

Jesse Cole said...

I recently purchased a vintage executive chair with Doerner Faultless appearing on a sticker underneath. Can anyone guide me to someone who can tell me how to adjust the height on it?

Unknown said...

My school has a black one of these so dose enyone know were to get a chair with a tilt like that

Anonymous said...

If it's like my Doerner office chair, you adjust the height by spinning it.