Some time ago I was shown some pictures of a chair made by Vidar Malmsten back in the early 70’s. The chair has a minimalist elegance with a strong touch of Chippendale about it. Vidar Malmsten was a friend of James Krenov, a Swedish furniture maker and teacher who has an almost god like status amongst some makers. The chair is often made as a student project by students at krenov inspired colleges in the US.
Well, I thought, if the Americans can do it why not here in Ilkley, and set about researching the chair. Through a friend who had been to The College of the Redwoods where Krenov taught I enquired whether I could obtain some drawings of the chair. Nothing came of this, it seems you have to be a Krenov initiate to get them. However I came across a blog by an American maker (Craig Johnson) which documented his making of the chair. This has been very useful in developing this project.
To start with I drew up a full size workshop drawing using photographs of Craig’s chair. I started with sketchup but found the compound curves defeated my sketchup abilities! From the drawing I created a full size mock up of the chair in poplar. The jointing was simple, just big screws, the mock up was made to try out the seating posture and check proportions. It told me that the back swept back too far, the seat was too deep and that the legs should be a little thinner. It also highlighted the subtlety of the design, the importance of careful and nuanced shaping. I have amended the workshop drawing and adjusted the mock up until I am happy with the proportions and ergonomics.
Today I started machining up the ash for making the chair proper.
“That’s a lot of trouble you’re going to there Chris”, I hear you say. Well the reason I’m going to this trouble is that I am developing this chair for a new type of course. Making this chair will be quite a challenge, not something you can do on the short courses that I offer, so I am planning on running it as a series of “furniture making seminars”. This would be a series of one day sessions where we would get together to talk about the progress we have made on the chair and I introduce the techniques for the next stage in the making, an exchange of ideas. Students would then work on the chair in their own workshops in between seminars. Obviously this is designed for those with some furniture making experience who want to extend their skills.
Of course I need to keep a little ahead of my students, else it could get a little embarrassing! So I need to finish this chair before offering it as a “course”. I will keep you posted on my progress.
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