Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Remarkable Sit

How do you go about designing and constructing a chair that you never want to get out of?

A few years ago, my wife and I visited a windsor chair maker in Maine and when someone gasped at the pricetag he directed everyone to a room where all of his competitors' chairs were set up. He had a Thomas Moser chair in the mix along with several other chairs of comparable price. We sat in all of them. They seemed like regular old chairs. Then we sat in his chair and one by one, we all agreed that it was by far the most comfortable chair. I remember how it slid you right back, kept your back supported and sort of hugged you in, compelling you to stay there all day. My body remembers the "sit."

Not everyone wants a reproduction of a several hundred year-old windsor chair. So, we used the same elements of comfort and updated the look with our own fingerprint. I think they turned out quite remarkably. You may have to sit in one before you have seen the light.

We spent quite a long time on the prototype. After it was roughed out, we fine-tuned some of the angles and resumed building the finished chairs.

We carved the saddle (or seat) out of a block of 1.5 inch stock. That is a lot of wood to remove and fine tune! The front and back legs all meet the saddle and the aprons at compound angles and in some cases compound curves. The spindles follow the curve of the spine. Even the radius of the backrest was held-up to several different peoples' backs to make sure it was right.

These four chairs go with the table in the post below. We are excited to build more of them.


This table is part of a breakfast nook. Two of the sides will have chairs and two of them will join a built-in bench. The client's only instructions were: "make it earthquake proof." Just joking. The base is made of cherry and is at the finisher as we speak being dressed in a rich dark finish.

The top is made of thick quartersawn oak with walnut inlays and is going to have a natural finish, making it a medium value to contrast with the dark cherry. The chairs are also cherry with a contrasting quartersawn "saddle."

The table is joined together with deep mortises and big tenons, which are locked tight with dowels. The two main parts are connected with a central runner and two aprons, which are removable for moving. Fully assembled this table probably weighs more than my car.

While I was finish-sanding the top, I had it standing on end and looked away briefly to grab a new piece of sandpaper. The massive thing fell and almost ended my life! What we have to sacrifice for art...