I have been busy designing and building a side chair to go with our new kitchen table. The plan was to build one prototype out of poplar, and a 2nd chair out of poplar. Both of these chairs will be either painted black or sprayed with black lacquer. Then, the plan is to build four chairs from cherry and maple.
The prototype chair was completed this week. The 2nd poplar chair is moving along and the material for the cherry chairs has been purchased, acclimated to my shop environment, cut, jointed, and planned to rough dimensions. The seat blanks for the cherry chairs have a few additional steps complete.
My wife wanted (6) new chairs (side chairs) for our kitchen. Designing/making chairs is a challenging task. The design needs to look pleasing to the eye, structural, and functional. There are a few chair “builds” on the internet, but they did not meet my needs. Many of the side chair designs today either have a cushion seat or have Maloof joinery. When a chair has a cushion, the seat does not have a cant, allowing the design/construction to be simplified (eliminates six compound joints). A chair with the Maloof joinery does incorporate a wooden seat, but I did not want to mimic someone else’s design.
This chair design will attempt to pull design features from the kitchen cabinets, kitchen table, and from the bar stools. My wife would like the chairs to have a short back (36”), a wooden seat, and have a short seat depth, so that she will be able to sit in it comfortably. The chair construction will utilize mortise & tenon joinery, mortise & loose tenon joinery, and dowel joinery.
While searching for information, I found a book written by Jeff Miller, (from Chicago). Jeff is a known chair craftsman/designer/builder. His book gives much insight into the “what, why, and how” different things are done and the jigs he uses for the needed joints. This book is a good read. I also reviewed Mike Dunbar’s (from New Hampshire) work. He is known for his Windsor chair. I did not what to mimic a Windsor chair. I was able to purchase the plan for a dining chair designed by Kevin Rodel. Mr. Rodel’s chair was published in a Fine Woodworking 2007 magazine and has a cushion seat. This plan did give me insight into his chair’s construction.
I started the design/prototype build process by making hand sketches on paper, and then latter I made sketches using SketchUp. I determined the chairs overall dimension, including the seat cant, back support cant, and the chair’s line-of-sight. Then I started to sketch the seat blank. There were many sketch iterations using SketchUp. I wanted the seat to completely cover the chair front and side rails and I wanted stretchers between the front and rear legs to help make for a more robust design.
This chair seat will not swivel (like the bar stools), so the tilt will have to be built into the structure. The tilt allows for a more comfortable sit. There is a need to have the seat and structure taper from the front to the back to allow the line-of-sight to be pleasing to the eye.
Poplar wood was selected for the prototype material. After making detail sketches, I made a parts list and a plan for execution. The plan included a design selection for each joint and documenting what was need for templates and jigs. The side chair design/build utilized more than 16 different “shop made” tools. I can provide more information and pics as time allows. Thank you for looking. Danl