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methods of work #34: 2 curvy dining chair prototypes

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Blog entry by Loren posted 06-20-2014 03:12 AM 1267 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 33: Through tenons for a dining chair Part 34 of methods of work series Part 35: Wedging through tenons »

Here’s the recent chair prototype on the right shown in relation an older prototype where I used laminations rather than steam bending to form the curves.

-- http://lawoodworking.com



14 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112525 posts in 2299 days


#1 posted 06-20-2014 04:04 AM

Looks good Loren ,pretty cool design. What kind of slant do you have on the backs?

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Loren's profile

Loren

7809 posts in 2370 days


#2 posted 06-20-2014 04:58 AM

Honestly I don’t know. I’m finding as I mess around with
dining chairs more that it’s not that critical for comfort relatively
speaking. Obviously with some dining chair designs you would
not slouch against the back for long… it’s more there to
move the chair around. Only a low back is required to
prevent falling off the chair backwards… for some reason
the higher back is nice to have even though it’s not
necessary. I don’t care much for the way a straight vertical
chair back looks but plenty of designers have done them
successfully.

The chair on the left has a bulging back splat. Without it
leaning back against the back would feel a little odd. You
wouldn’t do that much anyway because the back splat
hitting your lower back reminds to sit up straight.

The chair on the left is from a book. A nice enough design
and a good practice chair to make that demands attention
to joinery and making forms for the laminations, both good
skills for interesting and tough furniture pieces. On having
it hanging around for awhile, I currently consider it a bit
clunky and it looks a bit like Gumby. I may reconsider
or change things around and make a finer one in some
nice wood sometime. Maybe I should paint it green.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112525 posts in 2299 days


#3 posted 06-20-2014 05:12 AM

Some backs have lumbar support that can be very comfortable ,but like you say Loren many dining room chairs backs are very straight .I feel this is the case because folks actually lean forward while dining unlike a chair you lounge in.
What’s your plan for the seats ?

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Loren's profile

Loren

7809 posts in 2370 days


#4 posted 06-20-2014 05:23 AM

Well the one on the left has a curved laminated seat that
I haven’t done anything more with. It would be
upholstered. The chair is more flawed up close than
it looks in a picture so I’m not that motivated to
try to make it into a finished piece.

The one on the right I’m going to do a slip seat after
Michael Fortune’s article. I did a couple of those
before and they look good. I’ll have to make a frame
I think so the seat can flex. That may turn out to
be an interesting design flourish. I considered cane
which I’m fond of but I think I’d like to do a chair
with a cane back so I’ll just probably get into the
cane seat concept then.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View Loren's profile

Loren

7809 posts in 2370 days


#5 posted 06-20-2014 05:54 AM

Some chairs I did a few months back are about as comfortable
as a high back wood dining chair can be I think. The crest rail
cradles the shoulders. Still, it’s wood and it’s hard material to
slouch against. Nothing beats upholstery for comfort.

Having got that out of my system, I’m doing some starker
more modernist things like the oak chair above to get more
chairs in my portfolio.

http://lumberjocks.com/projects/99769

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View stefang's profile

stefang

13530 posts in 2057 days


#6 posted 06-20-2014 07:55 AM

Dining chairs with high backs look better around the table because the chairs are visually separated from the table top, while low chair backs give a more cluttered appearance. I can understand your frustration because chair design is a real challenge, especially the appearance part. It seems to me that you are in the R&D stage and that it won’t be so long before you come up with something you are totally satisfied with. To me, the ones you’ve done so far mostly look good.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Loren's profile

Loren

7809 posts in 2370 days


#7 posted 06-20-2014 08:18 AM

That’s a good insight, Mike. Frank L. Wright designed some
high backed chairs to create an insular environment for
his family because he had apprentices and house help
all around and wanted to relate to his children.

I’m not looking for one perfect chair. I sell work, after all.
On some level if we do that we have to pander to buyer
tastes. Some people like this or that. They may prioritize
geometric appeal over comfort in a chair. I want to
have a range.

The perfect chair will probably give most clients
sticker shock too. I live in So. Cal too and you might
be surprised at how easily sticker shock can be induced.
My chair designs make pragmatic compromises to
hit price points. I have little interest in making elaborate
and pricey sculpted stuff. Selling it is akin to hunting
big game. Some people make a go of it and do well
I suppose.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112525 posts in 2299 days


#8 posted 06-20-2014 02:58 PM

I guess I missed your steam bent walnut chairs before,Very nice! Your designing with the economic impact makes a lot of sense. Although I guess it’s a world wide challenge for woodworkers it makes me feel a little less concerned to know that you fight the price point challenges with your furniture also, even though your located in a much more populated area than I am in my little town. I know selling furniture(chairs in particular) takes more than just a larger customer base, but it also includes good design,quality workmanship,a source of reasonably priced material ,shop overhead cost and good marketing skills . From what I’ve seen on line you have a good grasp of all of those areas Loren.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Planeman40's profile

Planeman40

503 posts in 1483 days


#9 posted 06-20-2014 03:54 PM

Nice designs Loren! Please keep us in the loop with photos as you work your way to a final design. Back in the 1970s I used to build for money as a sideline to finance my basement workshop, but I don’t do it any more. One architectural firm kept me busy for quite a while. Now I am retired and want my time all to myself!

Planeman (Rufus Carswell, Atlanta, GA)

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Loren's profile

Loren

7809 posts in 2370 days


#10 posted 06-20-2014 04:18 PM

I’ve started saying that I have to target people who don’t
have to give up a vacation to buy my work.

A lot of people here are “house poor”. Even (perhaps especially)
in the more affluent areas. Some people aren’t of course,
but I don’t often run into people who are like “we want to
throw away our furniture and buy yours.” Ha-ha, you know?
They have to give up stuff they’re used to having around,
spend a bunch of money they could spend on a vacation
or whatever, wait for the work to be done… etc. It’s a
situation that’s not exactly compatible with the instant
gratification society and the retail buying experience most
people have had, where you go into a store or a website
and get to compare all the different things you might buy
and then when you give over your money you get the
thing then and there and it’s often at a price point
that’s not too painful.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View Planeman40's profile

Planeman40

503 posts in 1483 days


#11 posted 06-20-2014 07:00 PM

I would recommend you target interior designers of commercial office space, architects, both residential and commercial, decorators, etc. These are the people who are commissioned by those who are looking for new space or re-doing old space to develop interesting new looks for their homes and businesses. Their clients are the people and businesses that can afford the type of things you would build.

I would prepare a presentation – digital on a laptop, scrapbook type in a very nice binder, or a website – and try to make one business presentation a week, more in slack periods. Invite them to your shop. Call them by phone about every other month to see if they might have a new project you could take a look at. Keep all of the names, phone numbers and addresses on your computer and note what was said by the client when you spoke to them. When calling them back, it impresses them that you remembered the last call or meeting so well. Try to go by and see them as reasonably often as you can, better potential clients more often, others less. If they seem to always be busy, ask them go go for a brief lunch. Everybody eats lunch and a free lunch, even a modest one, is a lure to get some time with them. Many of these people are good at visual design. But often these same people are not so good at designing what can be efficiently be built. Ask to take a look at what they are presently designing and offer to advise them on how a small design change can save money. They are looking at avoiding “sticker shock” with their clients too. Take good photos of your work, preferably in its new owner’s setting and have a good looking presentation. If a really nice presentation is beyond your design capabilities, swap some of your working time to them for their time and design abilities.

I spent my lifetime working as a sales rep in the printing, graphic design, and advertising field and ended as vice president of a nice ad agency in charge of getting new business. The above and persistence is what works.

Good luck,

Rufus

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Loren's profile

Loren

7809 posts in 2370 days


#12 posted 06-20-2014 07:48 PM

I marketed to interior designers in the past. I’m more
focused on my own stuff right now but I’ll get back
to it sooner or later. I prefer architects because many
of them have shop experience where most of the
interior designers I’ve met do not.

One issue I’ve had in dealing with the interior designers
is getting beat down on price and build quality in order
for the designer to mark the work up 100% and still
be able to close the sale. I’ve also been stiffed.

I am also trying to not do as much casework. I don’t
like doing it much and prefer to do furniture.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View Planeman40's profile

Planeman40

503 posts in 1483 days


#13 posted 06-21-2014 02:00 AM

I marketed to interior designers in the past. I’m more focused on my own stuff right now but I’ll get back to it sooner or later. I prefer architects because many of them have shop experience where most of the interior designers I’ve met do not.

Most of my work was done for a couple of very large architectural firms who kept me busier than I really wanted to be. I didn’t work with interior decorators. But your observation matches mine. However often even the large architectural firms often needed guidance in the construction of their designs. I recall one design they worked on a good while and it turned out it was impossible to build as it was designed without going to the sizable expense of making large solid brass investment castings which were beyond the cost target. My competition couldn’t do it either so I felt vindicated.

One issue I’ve had in dealing with the interior designers is getting beat down on price and build quality in order
for the designer to mark the work up 100% and still be able to close the sale. I’ve also been stiffed.

In all of the businesses I have been involved in getting all of the money in the end was often a small battle. The little guys are usually working on a shoe string and, like you say, want to maximize their profit. It was always customary to get the cost of materials up front. If that was resisted, the other option was to have the materials ordered by and billed to either them or their client. I would only have materials billed to me when I knew a client well and had a long successful paying relationship with them. If I felt uneasy about payment I would require payment immediately upon completion and delivery. A couple took issue with these terms and I let the job go by. Ofter I would later get the word they had stiffed some other people.

I am also trying to not do as much casework. I don’t like doing it much and prefer to do furniture.

Yeah, casework can be bland and boring work. And unless it has some special construction or finishing needs, a large cabinet shop set up especially for that kind of thing can about always beat your price.

Good luck on expanding your business!

Rufus

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Loren's profile

Loren

7809 posts in 2370 days


#14 posted 06-21-2014 02:53 AM

Thanks. It’s taken me many years of trial and error to
get to where I am now, finally getting around to
doing proprietary chair designs.

I’ve got the stuff to do marquetry and that’s something
I intend to get around to. Then it’s putting work
in county fairs and stuff like that.

I’m also working through a maddening back/shoulder problem and
it’s getting better. In part this physical issue makes
general casework a turn-off and doing such work led to
cycles of exhaustion in the past.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

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