Project Reading Chair: It's all in the sitting

Image Here are a few images of the reading chair in its new home. After a few hours of re-arranging furniture to make way for this most generous chair we have settled on a space; close to a window for natural light and next to a fabulous vintage pub table to pop down a cup of tea and the current read.

After a week the chairs settled well, a few creaks - from the cord I hope! It is super comfortable and excellent to while away a few hours with a book or laptop. In fact I write this entry from the comfort of the chair, delightful.

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The Walnut oil finish was an experiment and I am delighted with the finish, it has worked so well.  The chair has a soft sheen and given a warmth to the grain, over time the wood will depend and take on a rich orange colour.

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- Shaping back into the arm was tricky, no room to hide here.

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- Check out that cord. My hands a still aching from this challenging weave, it took three days to complete, apparently trained hands can race through this in half a day!

Image- The curve around the arms and seat give an elegant relaxed feel to the design.

If you could see a similar reading chair sitting in your home, I would be most delighted to make another one so please get in touch.

I complete my training in July and have decided to stay on at the school renting bench space whilst I make the transition to a professional maker. I am thrilled to have a few requests for furniture from friends and colleagues of old, this should keep me busy for the next couple of months and hopefully make the step into a commercial world easier.

Talking of next projects here's some terrific news, I have agreed my first commission for a piece of furniture, a rather substantial linen press. Here is a snap of the wood samples sent out to the client, a selection of English hard woods and some Cedar of Lebanon for the drawer linings.

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Project Reading Chair: Danish Cord

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After many hours at the bench I am delighted to have nearly finished the reading chair. It is quite an incredible experience seeing something you have dreamt up materialise into a functional form.

Chairs are notoriously difficult beasts to get right, if it's not the proportion it might be the geometry, if not the geometry it might be the material - there is so much that can go wrong.

Before embarking on this challenge I kept hearing the comment "you really need to make a chair to make a chair" I never really got it until now. As the reading chair nears completion I am able to appreciate the consequences of my design decisions, the compromises made at the bench to make parts work together and the technical challenges of getting the right quality of finish.

Commercial considerations also need to be made, the choice of hand cut veneer which was laminated and pressed for the rear 'ladder back' of the chair took five days to get right, yes five solid days!. Sure, I am delighted with the end product but I would certainly change a few things if I were to start again, who know's it may end up being part of the core product range in the future. Anyway, let's save this retrospective analysis for a later post, yes the one with glossy pics of the chair in situ...and a coffee and cake road test under its belt. 

Before the finale I wanted to share with you a few images of the Danish Cord process. This was pioneered by the Danish School of makers and featured heavily in the designs and work of the great Hans Wegner. Many of Wegner's pieces have become design classics and Danish cord is still used today as a neat way of creating a seat within a chair. 

The essence of the practice is very simple, three cord lengths are used to weave around the frame of the chair to create a robust elegant seat. The cord is made from wrapped paper and fixed to the frame with little 'L' shaped nails, it is natural and organic and a wonderful challenge for the novice. So, without further ado here are some images: 

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The chair frame, glued up and ready for some oil and the cord. 

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Start by wrapping cord around the front rail and taking a looped pair to the back of the chair where it is fastened underneath by hooking over a spacial 'L' shaped nail.

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Here's a clearing image of the front to back section which is now complete. 

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Next weave across the frame taking the cord over and under the front to rear weaves, alternate weaves give a great pattern.

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The underside of the chair showing the weave pattern and nail arrangement, my fingers are shot and blistered tonight! 

I hope this was interesting, next post I will share some nice glossy pics of the chair at home, I hope I won't be too nervous to sit in it.

 

 

Project Reading Chair: A sweet milestone

Image Blood, sweat and tears and we nearly have a chair... OK not so many tears but a good few eye watering cuts along the way.

This project has been super challenging, working with curved surfaces was always going to be tough but my word I had no idea how demanding. Days have whistled by without much material progress whilst I got my head around how to handle marking, cutting and generally dealing with so many curved components which need to fit accurately together.

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- Marking up the rear legs to ensure the tenon holes are cut accurately on both legs, oh at a 20degree angle! -

Over the last couple of days I feel like I have reached a milestone, not only do I now have something that looks pretty much like a chair but my overall approach and understanding has matured. For the first time since starting this new career I actually felt competent and able to handle the material and tools without constant questioning. In many ways I feel like a professional; a cabinet maker if I may be so bold...Sure I have a long way to go before I have the depth of knowledge and experience to really call myself a craftsman but the signs of life are certainly there.

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- Tricky joints on the chair back slats, curved at every angle -

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- Fitting the rails has been a nightmare, the first one took me over two days! -

The next steps are rather fun, shaping the arms and legs into a gentle curve with a spokeshave and rasp and glueing up the frame before finishing with oil. I am trying to different oils, I wonder if walnut oil would work?

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- What a lovely arm and through tenon, it is going to a joy shaping this by hand -

Project Reading Chair: The catch-up

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OK, so how about we play a little catch-up? Here is a series of in progress pictures on my latest project a fine reading chair in English walnut. 

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Here's the board before marking out and cutting, stunning pattern hey. 


After the flurry of activity at the end of the second term - which culminated in the delivery of the auctioned console table to its magnificently grand new home and the completion of my first commission, a lovely keepsake box with feather inlay - I took advantage of a three week break to switch off from hand tools and catch up with friends, we also managed to fit in a well deserved break in the Scottish Borders. We stayed in a renovated potting shed cum pig sty, I highly recommend if you want a cosy bolt hole away for two - breathtaking scenery and walks right on the doorstep. 

Well it's back into the workshop with gusto, term three is all about taking my skills to the next level - think carving and curvy things -before that though I have a chair to finish; so let me bring you up to speed. 

During our second term we were all given the task of designing and making a chair, the more difficult the better after all this is about learning, so no harm in making the route steep and challenging. I wanted to make a chair comfortable enough to read and let the hours pass by perhaps even cosy enough to nod off on a Sunday afternoon. The design phase involved many drawings and mock up prototypes, chairs have tricky angles and many individual parts which need to be accurate to ensure a solid fit and a lifetime of use - Cardboard and selotape have become dear friends. 

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Here's a mock up with cardboard rear slats and a cushion, this is a quick and easy way to play around with form and proportion. 

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Arm: Mock-up fitted with cut out tenon to secure the arm to the front leg. 

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Arm: From mock-up to solid wood, notice the cut mortise to fit into the front leg. Next to shaping and fitting. 

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Rear Slat: From technical drawing to the actual thing. The rear slats are made up of hand-cut veneer planed smooth and vacuum pressed against a curved template. 

 

I have decided that this chair will not be sold as I want something at home to remind me of my craft and journey in becoming a furniture maker. I will use the design as a basis for Petrel's first product range, so if you think you would like something comfortable to sit on to while away an afternoon you may be in luck. 

Keep posted for the next stage - fitting the rear slats to the legs, Danish cord seat frame and home-made cushion oh and lets see if it all fits together.