How to Lock (Prav) the Back of your Humanscale Freedom Chair

I’ve really enjoyed my Freedom Chair ever since buying it. Yeah, they’re freakin’ expensive, but what is the cost of your back worth to you? My back happens to be worth about $850 in a good chair to me.

The only really big catch with these chairs is that you can’t lock the back to prevent reclining and in turn, slouching. This has all kinds of side effects that aren’t good. The shoulders get messed up and if you already have bad posture like I do, things only get worse. I tried and tried to find a solution out there, but none seemed to exist, which is strange given that other models from Humanscale do allow the back to be locked.

So entered the prav. At first I came up with the crazy idea of drilling a hole on each side of the support and sticking a pin in these holes to allow the reclining back to be both locked and unlocked as they should have done in the original design. Quickly, I realized that this solution was too elegant (ie time consuming). Instead, I discovered that there are two plates on either side of the bar under the seat that are just above the recline pivot point. If you take a strand of two of bailing wire and wrap it through one of these holes on each side and then loop it around the bottom, it effectively stops the chair from reclining.

Keeping true to my praving roots, I made sure just to twist the wire ends together and leave some nice sharp edges that I’ll undoubtedly curse myself for creating whenever I go to move this chair some day. Because these are just three strands of 1.6mm wire under there, they’ll undoubtedly break eventually, thus requiring more wire to be added. Thankfully, the wire is cheap and of course if I ever want the recline back, I can just cut the wire. Overall, a prav well done.

Oh, in case you’re wondering why I didn’t use proxy bailing wire–a coat hanger, it’s because there was no way that I get the coat hanger to bend enough to pull it through. That and bailing wire is too soft. If one is out praving, there is a careful balance to be maintained which is to fix the thing just well enough to make sure that you won’t have to fix it again for a long time, although it will indeed need fixing again down the road because hey, you praved it.

Update: In 2011, I sold my soul to get paid very well and work at a very large pharmaceutical company. Everyone was given one of these chairs and again, they all reclined. One day, I showed up with bailing wire, flipped the thing over in my cube and “locked” it. Of course, I didn’t bother to “unlock” it when my contract was up and so this mythic, unicorn chair is probably fought over to this day.