journal entry

A greenwood style chair – this one will live with us. It’ll be tested daily as we are unforgiving with our furniture.

The chair doesn’t completely fit neatly into any one category, the base is of a windsor chair variety, the upper more a ladderback variety. What makes it interesting and challenging is the connection of the back posts to the seat. That’s where it will succeed or (hopefully not) fail. There’s a sliding dovetail in that joint for strength, reinforced by two screws on each lower post. I’m not afraid of screws for this – seemed to be the best approach to the challenge. Even so, the back will take plenth of force, so we’ll see how this chair lives.

I’d like to share a couple of thoughts on this design, mostly as reflection, that some of you might find interesting as well. I try to do this with every project I build but I keep from publicly sharing those thoughts most of the time.

On to the critique. This is a concept that I’m interested in playing out. It’s the second chair of this variety. In a previous post I wrote of Ruby’s chair. This one evolved from that one. Again, the deepest influence came from the Jan Hendzel Studio. The post-to-seat attachment got me thinking about how to make a chair with a similar detail. I’m into the faceted look on the chair components. The round seat came for two reasons: 1) easy to make and 2) a thick seat is appropriate with the round, and is needed to house the post dovetails. A shapely seat may want to be thinner, but that would weaken that connection. As is, the seat is a little over 3.5″ thick.

Alright, none of this is a critique just yet. Here we go:

Pros:

  • I like the overall form. The upper posts are shapely and interesting. It’s a simple silhouette and the shapes of each elemet work well together.
  • It’s comfortable. The slats wrap the sitter’s back nicely. I’ll need to sit in it for a few hours before deciding on the seat comfort.
  • The facetted legs, stretchers and posts all hit my target. The details show that the chair is clearly handmade. No one would confuse my work for that of robots.
  • The finish hit the target. Black milk paint over brown stain. Then oil, garnet shellac and black wax. It has a depth to it. I didn’t execute it perfectly, but the effect is there.
  • It isn’t too showy or attention grabbing. You have to look it over to take it in – it doesn’t yell at you from across the room.
  • The thick seat. It could be thicker, though it feels right with this chair
  • Materials: pine seat, all else red oak from the log. Inexpensive and readily available materials here in Berea.

Cons:

  • How will that post/seat joint hold up? This isn’t a time tested design. I’m going for a user, not an art chair.
  • Specific to this chair: The legs are too thick. They could lose around .25″ at the thickest diameter and probably feel right. I’d move the stretchers up a little as well, just to give it a little more lightness of stance. And then give the leg form a little more movement.
  • I’d like to add a little red or brown to the black, just to change it slightly, if I were to do it again. Or possibly put on a thinner coat of black, so that the depth of the brown stain can show through more.
  • An viwing angle or two feel off. The round seat causes it. From diagonal or the back, it looks rather good. The front view is the challenge. The roundness of the seat seems at odd with the shapeliness and movement of the other parts. A more graceful seat would work (possibly shovel shaped), though it needs the thickness for strength. That’s the crux.
  • It’s a heavy chair. The seat and leg mass add to the weight, both visually and in heft. I was going for a heavy chair, though there are places to take some material off those legs.

I’m happy with it. Next up is a pair of David Sawyer-inspired ladderback chairs. I hope to build trusted and iconic designs along with a few chairs ideas that I have rattling around in my mind. Thanks for reading along.

note: quality images by Justin Skeens

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