Carved Chair Seats

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Forum topic by Mark A. DeCou posted 05-16-2006 02:14 AM 15108 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4400 days

05-16-2006 02:14 AM

hey folks:
I’m in the midst of making my first set of 6 dining chairs, to go with the Refined Rustic China Hutch I posted pictures of, and a large thick slabbed top dining table that I am building right now.

The chair styling will include a thick seat, carved to fit a person’s bottom, similar to a Sam Maloof Rocking chair seat. I took the Marc Adams School’s Sculptured Rocking Chair class in 2000, and we made this style of seat with a carving gouge and mallet. Then sanding with a large disc grinder, followed by an orbital sander, removing all the scratches with each grit. The end result is beautiful.

However, I don’t really want to do all the gouge carving work for 6 seats, if there is an easier way?

My question is: who out there has tried a carved chair seat bottom, and what process did you use to make the seat.

Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

9 replies so far

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Philip Edwards

245 posts in 4434 days

#1 posted 05-16-2006 06:30 AM

HI Mark
I used a tool called an “Arbortech” to shape my chair seat. It is shaped like a small disc that fits in your angle grinder but cuts like a chainsaw! An evil looking thing-but Boy, it certainly removes stock!! It is easy to use and much faster (though messier) than gouges.
There is a picture of it in use here…....
Scroll about halfway down the page.
Hope this helps

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4400 days

#2 posted 05-16-2006 01:16 PM

Thanks Philip:
I am familiar with the Arbortech. I’ve watched David Marks on T.V. use it for sculpting, and also a log furniture maker on a show called “A Piece of the Woods” on the Outdoor Network. It looks real simple to use, but I was concerned that it would be difficult to find a consistent “bottom” to the carving process using this tool. Your Maloof seat looks very smooth.

Is there a way to make a depth-stop, or something?

How did you go about laying out the curve, and the depth to stop at?

thanks for your help,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4400 days

#3 posted 05-16-2006 01:29 PM

Hey folks,
I did have one more technique I have seen before. On the “A Piece of the Woods” t.v. show, the man that does the work is a complete genius with figuring out templates, jigs, fixtures, and unique ways to do things. Unfortunately, my satellite t.v. service dropped the show. You can see the company this man, Mike Heintzman, has assembled selling some of the fixtures and tools he has developed.

He showed in one episode on making a log chair, a fixture that cuts the curve of the seat using a table saw. The fixture causes the seat to run over the saw blade in the shape of a “U”, and then he just raises the blade a little at a time, like I do when I make straight coves in wood. When he gets done, the seat bottom carving is roughed out, all consistent in depth, and he sands it smooth. Building the fixture to do this process seemed like it would take me longer than making 6 seat bottoms, so I decided not to proceed with this method unless I started getting orders for lots of seats. I don’t get orders, nor take orders, for lots of the same things repeatively built, so I doubt I will ever try this ingenius method.

Any thoughts?
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Stephen's profile


36 posts in 4434 days

#4 posted 05-16-2006 04:40 PM

Hey MArk . . .

Sounds like a fun project!

Along the boarder between North Caroliona and Tennessee, There’s a folk art school, Country Workshops where they teach several chair making classes AND an online tool store where they sell (pricey) all manner of chair making tools to include inshaves, scorps, etc. The shaving horse I built is based their design (I bought one).

Hope this helps . . . :-)

Mountains of North Carolina

p.s. – Why don’t you publish some of your more grusome ouwie pictures . . .

-- Stephen (A) Western North Carolina

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36 posts in 4434 days

#5 posted 05-18-2006 05:37 PM

Phil . . .

Is the Arbortech the chainsaw looking do-hicky that attaches to an angle grinder?

Stephen (A)
Mountains of Western North Carolina

-- Stephen (A) Western North Carolina

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4400 days

#6 posted 05-18-2006 06:24 PM

The Arbortech is a disc, that is machine ground with three teeth equally spaced, with small carbide cutting inserts soldered to it. The chainsaw “dohicky”, you mentioned is another brand of carving cutter, not sure of the brand name, but I have seen them on Rockler’s website. They look essentially like a chainsaw chain wrapped around a disc. I have read that the arbortech delivers the smoothest cutting.

I was thinking through last night whether I could make a routering jig to do the sculpting. The idea comes from a project done by the master David Marks from the DIY Network Woodworks show, demonstrating a hollowing process he developed with a router and fixture technique to sculpt a bowl inside the top of a thick maple entry-way table.

If I could put something like he did together, with a “U” Shaped template to follow, then I could sculpt out the seat and make the path around the seat in the direction I want.

Here is the downside: when making just 6 seat bottoms, is it really in my best interest to spend two, three, or four days making the fixture?

The answer rests only in the “Future” which is unknown, being that will anyone ever want a chair similar from me?

Six chairs is not enough production to warrant the time making and developing the fixture, but if I was doing a 100 piece order it would be.

I made a test seat with a router and big cove box bit (2”), and free handed it, then followed with a 40 grit wheel on a right angle grinder. Start to finish with the freehand router/ginding process I was done with the seat ready for finishing in about 2 hours.

This process worked, but it is not identically repeatable work process like the routering fixture jig would be.

If I just had a CNC, I could do it that way, once I had the programming done. But at $10,000 for an entry level CNC, it makes the 6 chair seats pretty expensive.

I’m working on the chair legs and cross ties now, so I have a couple more days to explore ideas, before starting on the seat bottoms.

Thanks for your help Stephen,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4400 days

#7 posted 08-04-2006 06:30 PM

Well: the time finally arrived that my wood was dry enough to make the seat bottoms. The process I used was a combination of a router with cove cutting bit, angle grinder, and sander. I appreciated all of the input from the “jocks”, and I was able to investigate some methods I was unfamilar with, so thanks so much for the help.

I’m hoping to post the sequence photos on my website soon, so that others can see what I learned in the process, and the techniques I developed. I ended up making a carved seat bottom in a little more than 30 minutes per chair, and about another 30 minutes smoothing and sanding it. Total is about one hour per seat bottom.

Now, add all of the overhead costs for research, tool purchase, jig/fixutre making, and head-scratching, and it came to significantly more than 6 hours to make 6 seat bottoms. BUT, I now have a process where I can easily repeat the steps in about an hour, just about as fast as I can get a new pair of glasses made somewhere.

Thanks for the help,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

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2213 posts in 4232 days

#8 posted 10-23-2006 01:24 AM

Talk to the Rocking Chair Guy

View rcs47's profile


190 posts in 3124 days

#9 posted 04-09-2018 03:21 AM


I saw this method referenced here a years ago and saved the link. I made six chairs using this method. It was easy to replicate for each chair.

Good Luck.

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

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