Been requested to build chairs - never tried before, can I get some advice?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by mcg1990 posted 05-14-2015 03:49 PM 828 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View mcg1990's profile


159 posts in 1254 days

05-14-2015 03:49 PM

Hi all,

Up until now my skills have been progressing at a pretty comfortable/slow rate. Nothing that I’ve been commissioned for has yet truly challenged me.

Having said that, I’ve just been requested to build a table and chairs. Now, the table I’m comfortable with, but chairs.. Not so sure about that.

Now, I believe I understand that basic principles here. Curves are cut by taking my flat stock and drawing the profile, alomg with mortise locations, and then cutting on a bandsaw/scroll saw/jig saw. I can then go about making my mortise and tenons. Hey presto, ish.

So, the advice I need is this:

What is the most appropriate and cost effective wood to use, considering it will be painted. Is pine able to hold strong enough tenons in those thin rails? If not, poplar? Something harder?

Do you suggest that I turn down this work?

This second question is more important. I have faith in my skills, or rather, faith in my ability to learn the required skills. I also want to push myself out of my comfort zone, and I’m comfortable with risk of failing and wasting time and money on materials/labor. I will only take my fee if I’ve provided a quality product. Anything less and I’ll just have to humbly apologize.

Lastly, if you think I should go for it, would you advise buying a bandsaw or simply a good jigsaw? I’m willing to invest in a good machine, and currently only have a totally crappy cheap jigsaw.

Thanks so much

Actually, I have two pending orders for dining chairs. Which would make the investment in a quality bandsaw all the more worthwhile.

9 replies so far

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 1176 days

#1 posted 05-14-2015 04:08 PM

Those joint look pretty straightforward and if you are painting it, that ups the margin of error quite a bit. for a chair with curved and tapered parts, I’d stay away from pine. Poplar, Butternut, and Oak are all good woods thought you might hate having to actually paint the, after you are done. I’m a yes on the bandsaw, it will increase your output and accuracy so much, you’ll wonder what you did without it, and you can get a decent one without taking out a second mortgage.

I say go for it! You never grow if you never try something hard.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View TheFridge's profile


9249 posts in 1448 days

#2 posted 05-14-2015 04:30 PM


-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View mcg1990's profile


159 posts in 1254 days

#3 posted 05-14-2015 04:57 PM

Thanks for the advice, and words of encouragement.

Can I ask – what’s a durable paint for chairs like this? I’ve used Sherwin Williams all purpose enamel on two pieces in the past. One was a bench, and it turned out excellent. Smooth, hard surface. The second time, using the same product, it peeled and bubbled and was an absolute nightmare. I’m scared to use it again.

I can either brush it on, or use my Wagner airless sprayer.

View jmartel's profile


7798 posts in 2112 days

#4 posted 05-14-2015 05:01 PM

On your order of operations, cut the joinery before doing any sort of shaping. So, cut your M&T, and THEN cut the curves in the legs. If you cut curves first, then you just make it more difficult on yourself to cut the joinery. I haven’t done chairs, but I’ve done a few curved things.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View RogerM's profile


792 posts in 2361 days

#5 posted 05-14-2015 05:09 PM

Buy a good bandsaw and forget the jigsaw for making chairs.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View bondogaposis's profile


4680 posts in 2313 days

#6 posted 05-14-2015 06:20 PM

Chairs are very different from most other types of woodworking. I suggest you build one before you take on a commission as you may find them to be unprofitable and it will also give you feel for how much to charge. A band saw is essential, even the best jig saw will be woefully inadequate especially if you are making a set. For painted chairs I would go w/ soft maple. Generally I favor poplar for painted furniture but chairs are subject to a lot more abuse and stress than any other type of furniture, so my vote goes to soft maple.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 1176 days

#7 posted 05-14-2015 06:25 PM

I generally stay away from painting my wood so take this with a grain of salt, but milk paint is a popular choice and is durable. I’ve had mixed results with non-furniture related painting projects using sherwin williams before as well.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View DrDirt's profile


4423 posts in 3704 days

#8 posted 05-14-2015 06:35 PM

Bandsaw not Jigsaw

Poplar or maple, not pine. Stay with a hardwood.

The chairs are available from many outlets in that design for ~125 bucks from Wayfair, and 149 from Crate and barrel

So the net result is What do you want to accomplish.
You don’t currently own the tools to make this chair , so question becomes…

1 – - will you make something Better – Worse or About the same as the commercial version?
2 – - Pricing…. I cannot make money selling 150 dollar chairs unless i work for a about 2 bucks an hour.
3 – - is this planning for a business, or are you using it as a learning experience, to build your skills, and get enough comission to pay for the bandsaw.

4 – - do you like production work… making multiples that need to be EXACTLY the same every time?

It is really what you are after – - Money Skill Experience – and can you do a good enough quality job, that they won’t just wish they ordered 6 chairs with free 2 day delivery from somewhere else.

I built several tables as commissions, and because of costs, suggested the customer buy the chairs, and I matched the finish.

Also you have more liability with chairs…. if the customers 400 pound uncle crushes your chair and claims a back/neck injury you are screwed.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View BroncoBrian's profile


438 posts in 1920 days

#9 posted 05-14-2015 06:42 PM

There is no way I would try to build the chair pictured. Those can be bought in pairs for $300 easily and in many finishes. I might start with a pair, and make my own seat for it. Painted chair, wood seat, then match the table colors to that. If that works, maybe venture into a chair. Good dining chair are about $700 and up. I cannot imagine building one for that price if I paid myself $5/hour.

-- Bigfoot tries to take pictures of me

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics