Friday, October 2, 2009

Slow, steady progress

The Maloof inspired chair is basically assembled, but there's going to be a lot of shaping to do.

The process so far has inspired a lot of note-taking, and most of it reads the same. "Did this today. Need to do it differently next time." The recipe has been pretty simple: Add one poorly thought out solution to a dumb mistake, and top off with an awkward fix. Repeat as necessary. None of it is really brain surgery, but all of it is pretty necessary, really. I have to work through all of the obvious mistakes, so I can streamline the process for next time. Then I get to tackle the really insidious, not-so obvious mistakes.

BUT, the note-taking has been pretty productive, I have a much clearer idea of what the process will look like next time, which is very helpful. And I think it's going to lead to a lot of design evolutions as I play with new ideas. Once the chair is done, I'll be able to write up a procedure for the next one, including all of the proposed changes, which will hopefully make the next build a lot smoother.

The other problem I've had so far is that I really under-shaped things before gluing up. It's the first version, and that's one good reason, but the truth is, I got ahead of myself with the glue-up. I could have done a simple dry-fit, marked things to be pared away on the band saw, and glued everything up when it was a lot closer to the desired final shape. But, I didn't. I wanted to see how the joinery worked, and have an assembled chair that I could sit in. All things considered, it's not the end of the world. But it is going to slow me down a bit, because I'm going to have to fight tooth and nail through the rest of the work I have to do; chiseling, rasping, filing, and scraping, followed by a crapload of sanding. It's proving to be a good exercise in sculpting, but it's also one I'd like to avoid when I start working with maple, which will be a lot harder to shape than poplar. So, next time, I'll spend a lot more time getting the shape right before I put it together.

Then, after all the sanding, I get to try to put a decent finish on the finished product... which means it'll probably be paint of some kind. For the un-initiated, poplar's not so good at presenting smooth surfaces, so a varnish will probably look horrible. Paint is just thick enough that I might be able to make it work. That, or a skim coat of bondo, and a some auto body touch up paint. Maybe a little bit of metal flake thrown in for good measure... or maybe a flame job...


boxochoc said...

What keeps the seat together? It looks like its a butcher block, pieces glued side by side, and I wonder if that's strong enough for someone sitting on it. On the other hand, you've told me that glue is stronger than wood, so is it enough to glue the seat together without extra support cross-wise?

James Watriss said...

They are glued together side by side. There are some dowels inside to help with alignment when it's being glued up, but basically, it's just glue joints.

And yes, it should be strong enough. It holds me up pretty well, anyway.

It might be different if the weight was distributed differently, say if I was standing on one foot in the middle of the seat. But I've done that with your old dining chairs before, and I'm pretty sure they're made the same way.

But even still, the middle of the seat has to hold a lot less weight than you'd think. The weight of the legs will actually be supported by the person's feet, (or, most of the weight, anwyay) and the rest of their body weight will be spread across the chair, meaning some of it will be supported right next to the legs, which will offer more solid support. So the middle of the seat is really only holding up a portion of the weight of the torso.