Curious about just what it takes to build a Danish Modern style chair?
Or how about twelve chairs?
The Anatomy of a Chair
First, a little back-story. We had recently found a gorgeous Danish Modern dining table at an estate sale. It was the table
only, with no chairs. Since making the jigs and fixtures for a project like building a Danish Modern chair represents
much of the time spent for the whole project, I decided that even though we needed only six chairs,
I would make twelve chairs and sell the other six.
Above left: How it all began. Two-inch planks of Sipo Mahogany. A few long hours later, there are twelve copies of every part of
the chairs. The parts are rough-cut at this stage, and all of the mortises and tenons have been cut. The tenons are the ends of
the side rails in the foreground, and the mortises are the rectangular holes in the legs. These holes receive the tenons, as
will be shown more clearly below. The mortises are cut with a machine called a "mortiser," that actually drills square holes!
Above left are the three components of the side frame, with the mortises and tenons pointed at their destinations but
not yet engaged. At right is the frame glued, assembled, and edges trimmed with a round-over router bit. Finish
sanding comes later. The remaining mortises will receive the tenons of the cross rails.
Above left is a pair of completed and sanded side frames, and at right, the frames assembled to the cross rails. Each step
involving glueing and clamping gets an overnight dry. Barely noticeable in the photos is the slight angle that the top of the
backrest post where the curved backrests will attach.
Above are the jigs used to create the curved backrests and seat bases. In each case, the part is made from several thin sheets of plywood. The
sheets are coated with glue and then clamped across a form of the correct shape. When the glue dries, the piece can be removed from the jig
and it will hold its shape. The backrests and seat bases are cut to their final shape after glueing. The backrests are secured to the frames
with counterbored screws, and then the holes are fitted with grain-matched mahogany plugs that when sanded smooth are neary invisible.
The chair at left has the backrest attached and has been stained to its walnut hue.
At right is the same chair with a seat base temporarily installed. (The color difference
is because the left photo was taken with a flash.)
And finally, the seats get upholstered and the set is complete. Here's what six of the chairs look like
with the vintage table they were designed to match.
Six of these chairs ended up getting shipped to Manhattan, and the remaining set still resides in Forestville, CA.
My shop and studio are located in Forestville, California, about an hour's drive
north of San Francisco. Feel free to contact me any time during working
hours by phone or email. We can deliver large pieces.