Refined Rustic Dining Chairs, Lessons Learned from my First Side Chair Project

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 2565 days ago 4654 views 3 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here is a Refined Rustic Dining Table Set of Chairs I built to go with the Table that is posted in another project. If you would like something similiar, please email me at

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Project Story:
The chairs are an original design of mine, utilizing one solid slab of wood 1.75” thick for the sculpted seats, and carving the back of the seats with different scenes from the Kansas Flinthill’s Prairie. I used the natural edge on the backside of the chair seat bottom, so that it would be visible below the carved scenes.

To add some depth and color contrast that Oak doesn’t naturally provide, I air brushed tinted lacquer to highlight and shadow the carvings, and also to tint the natural edges. In the first photo, the table edge is shown with this colorizing technique.

In the second photo from the customer’s home, the coloring is gone. The customer’s wife didn’t like the color on the edge of the table, so I carved it back off and finished it again with clear finish, no stain. Oh, I forgot to mention, all of this work on this commission is without wood stain.

The bumpy edges on the table are carved. There were one or two of those bumps on the natural edge, and I liked them, so I just carved them all the way around. It gives it a texture that makes the edge prettier than it was naturally, at least in my opinion.

After building my Maloof-Inspired Rocking chair, I learned how important stiff lumbar support is to the comfort of a chair. If it flexes, or isn’t provided at all, the lower back sags outward, and the “tiring” starts.

The wood is White Oak with walnut pegs for accents. The carvings on the back include 6 scenes I photographed around the area in which the customer lives. I carved a name for each scene and signed each back to make each chair an original piece of artwork.

The titles are:
“Rain On The Prairie”
“Oasis On The Prairie”
“Stone Barn On The Prairie”
“Windmill On The Prairie”
“Sunflower On The Prairie”
“Cone Flower On The Prairie”

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Here is the posting with the Table:

Click for details

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Here is the posting with the China Hutch:

Click for details

Here is my Prototype Chair:

Click for details

The customer rejected this concept, wanting instead for the carving to be smaller, with no color, more muted in style and more impressionistic, and the surface of the chair wood to be smooth, not sculpted/textured like the prototype that I proposed.

After I delivered the commissioned work to the customer, I stopped by one day to show them the prototype chair that I had ready for the Western Design Conference exhibit. The husband looked at the wife, and the wife looked at the husband, and they both looked at the chair, then looked at me, and then looked at each other again. The husband said, “See I told you to let him do what he wanted to do…....” (paraphrased a little).

Thanks for looking,
Mark DeCou

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Update for the morning of 8-15-2007:
I was reading the nice comments to this project and thinking through what people said, and then last night, I happened to remember that I should have mentioned that this was my first attempt at building a chair to sit in, other than the Maloof-Inspired Rocking Chair. I can tell you though, after you put one of those rocking chairs together, not much scares you after that.

Click for details

To get things rolling with the chairs, I took some pine construction 2×4’s and made up a chair prototype with no joinery, just screws holding it together. I took the pine prototype over to the customer’s house and left it for a month for them to try it out and tell me what to change. A month later they said, “Don’t change anything, keep it just like it is.” It was sort of an ergonomic challenge, because the wife is about 5’-0” tall, while the husband is about 6’-2”, and they only wanted one chair to fit everyone.

I had no other experience to help me, nor special tools. I did this chair, just like any other woodworker would with a table saw to cut the tenons, even the angled ones, and a bench top Hollow Chisel Mortiser. I’m hoping that telling you all this will encourage you to try building original designed chairs also. They are time consuming and will make you scratch your head, “think, think, think….” When I was complete with them I did the math and found that I had used about 40 board foot of wood, and 70 hours of work per chair.

I just found out this week that I get to do another “Art-Chair” for a project that I am starting on next. Because I have built carved-scene chairs in the past, this new project commission liked that detail.

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If you would like to see my other posted projects please visit here:
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To visit my Blog listings, go here:

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You can also visit my website

Thanks for reading,
Mark DeCou
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Want to See More of my Furniture Work?:
If you go to my Mark DeCou Website you will find that I have not updated my website in quite some time. I realize that I need to invest in improving my website, but until that is accomplished, here are some more Lumberjocks related lilnks with updated postings of my furniture work, sorted into categories. Thanks for your interest in my work, and your patience with my website.

Arts and Crafts, Mission Style Related Projects:
  1. Arts & Crafts Entry Table; with Carved Oak Leaves
  2. Arts & Crafts Orchid Stand w/ Wine Bottle Storage
  3. Arts & Crafts Style Morris Inspired Chairs
  4. Arts & Crafts Display Top Coffee Table
  5. Arts & Crafts Style Inspired End Table Set
  6. Arts & Crafts Style Inspired Prairie Couch
  7. Table Lamps
  8. Arts & Crafts Carved Entertainment Center
  9. Mission Entertainment Center
Church & Worship-Art Related Projects:
  1. Carved Communion Table
  2. Carved Roll Top Sound Equipment Cabinet
  3. Fancy Church Side Altars
  4. Processional Cross
  5. Fancy Speaker's Lectern
  6. Church Hymn Number Board
  7. Communion Chalice (Cup) and Paten
Art-Furniture Related Projects:
  1. Sam Maloof Inspired Walnut Rocker
  2. Original Art Carved Tilt Front Desk, inspired by Birger Sandzen
  3. Natural Edge; Nakashima Inspired Coffee Table
  4. Decoratively Painted Box End Tables
  5. Birch China Cabinet for Cut Glass Collection
Rustic, Western, Cedar Log, and Cowboy Related Projects:
  1. Naughty (Knotty) Refined Rustic White Oak & Black Walnut China Hutch
  2. A Kansa Indian and Buffalo Accent Art-Chair
  3. Refined Rustic Dining Chairs
  4. Refined Rustic Dining Table
  5. Cowboy-Western Style Suitcase/Luggage Support Racks
  6. Fun With Cedar Logs #1; Sitting Stool
  7. Fun With Cedar Logs #2; Coat/Hat/Spur Rack
  8. Fun With Cedar Logs #3; Western Style Hat/Coat Rack
  9. Fun With Cedar Logs #4; Entryway Stool
Outdoor Furniture Related:
  1. Kennebunkport Style Adirondack Chair
  2. Outdoor Garden Wedding Arbor
  3. Outdoor Project: Cedar Wood Double Settee

(These photos, text, and project design are protected by copyright, M.A. DeCou 4-28-2008, all rights and privelidges reserved)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

13 comments so far

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 2862 days

#1 posted 2565 days ago

I can see it now… “You’re sitting in MY chair” Very nicely done. I just started on a chair made from Hickory. After I complete it, I’ll post it. I’m still working on the cabriole legs.

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1979 posts in 3031 days

#2 posted 2565 days ago

It is funny, how many projects of mine, look like yours, and neither of us have seen the other’s work before. We just think a lot alike…..........who is that more scary for?

love you man, thanks for looking,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View TomFran's profile


2942 posts in 2620 days

#3 posted 2565 days ago

Outstanding work, Mark. I wish we had some of your chairs in our church!

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1979 posts in 3031 days

#4 posted 2565 days ago

we could work something out Tom. I can show you how to build them yourself, or do it for you. I think I just got the order to make another chair to go with a tilt front desk/bookshelf system I quoted. This new chair would have wheels on the legs, and have a back that is carved with a Kansas Prairie scene of a Limestone Home and Windblown trees, inspired by the work of the Late-Kansas artist Birger Sandzen. I’ll know later today whether the new chair is included in the commission.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View CharlieM1958's profile


15684 posts in 2844 days

#5 posted 2565 days ago

Beautiful work, Mark, as usual.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 2786 days

#6 posted 2565 days ago

lovely—and the carvings… oh yah.
oh how I’d love to show this set off in my dining room!!! :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View TonyWard's profile


748 posts in 2953 days

#7 posted 2565 days ago

Well done Mark, thank you for posting these images ~ not only eye candy but an inspiration, thank you.

-- Bandsawn Box Plans available at ~

View john's profile


2293 posts in 3007 days

#8 posted 2564 days ago

It,s a beautiful looking set Mark. I love it
It has a royal look to it. I,m not worthy

-- John in Belgrave (Website) ,

View dewoodwork's profile


148 posts in 2581 days

#9 posted 2564 days ago

beautiful work!! Some day I’ll attempt my first chair but for now I’ll just oogle at yours.

-- Express creativity with wood, Dewayne. Vacaville CA.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4435 posts in 2588 days

#10 posted 2561 days ago

Thanks Mark, I’ve never built a chair and intend to correct that. I’’ be thinking of you.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Karson's profile


34870 posts in 3026 days

#11 posted 2561 days ago

I can attest to the view of the chairs and the seating comfort. The chair scenes and seating are great. The customer sure liked the look in their home.

Great job Mark.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware †

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 2662 days

#12 posted 2561 days ago

Always a great read and wonderful project, Mark.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 2872 days

#13 posted 2558 days ago

I like this better than the old set Mark, it is a lot classier. I don’t know, but don’t you think Tom looked better as a spider. LOL. Just kididling. mike, I can’t spell either..

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

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