Monday, October 1, 2018

2018 Danish Chair Building Extravaganza

For several years there's been a group of guys that get together and build chairs bi-annually in Denmark. It's a great event because while it's not a "class" official, each of the participants brings their own ideas and experience, all benefit, build different chairs and get to spend time hanging out with people that enjoy making stuff while trying new things. (if you are not familiar, check out Brian and Jonas' blogs) Once again, I have not been a part of that group doing that thing in anything other than spirit, Still, I realize that many of my recently undocumented projects mimic the experience that they have been creating, mixing chair making and working along like-minded individuals. Here's what's been going on in my shop since my last post.

  • Clam Chair Build
    • I've built a few of these in recent years, one by myself and another with a cousin. (and only now realize I haven't blogged about it.) This is based on a design by Ceasar Sherrard often called the Belize Clam Chair. (Or with 2x material the Kentucky Stick Chair) the folding design is clean and simple but it provides astonishing comfort by nature of the curved seat back formed during assembly. Back in winter '17-18,  I had the itch to host a group of new woodworkers to make one of these chairs, since they are pretty straight forward to make and we could finish it in "one" day and make good gaming or back porch chairs. The idea was that since spring would be here, we could have a fair number out building chairs spreading out into the drive. As it turned out, it was absolutely freezing mid-April and we all had to huddle in the garage and be constantly tripping over each other. Regardless, we were able to get one chair finished each in a VERY LONG day. I think we all enjoyed the process, and everyone has a comfy chair and got to try something new (+burn something). For me this was the opportunity to host and to share my passion of woodworking and have a good time doing so. I hope I've started some fires burning on this path, if nothing else we all learned how much better MAP gas torches are than propane for this endeavor.
  • Leaf Stool(s)
    • For some time I've been
      needing stools in the "recently" remodeled kitchen to get rid of the terrible stool shaped objects that have inhabited my home for ages. I've been through various iterations in the design but had finally settled on building an eclectic mix of stool designs that I admire (like Maloof or Wegner) or wanted to try out (some sort of stacking webbed type). I may still get to making that mix, but after building a simple stool that was inspired by Bern Chandley's leaf stool, I've decided that I'm going to knock out a set of these first. The seat is stolen from Bern's profile with some of the seat carving techniques I've learned from Pete' Galbert's Perch seats albeit with kutzall carving disks. The undercarriage was based largely on the availability of material and tapered tenon joinery. Finish was the red oak shoushugiban I've now done on numerous projects, maybe I'll tire of it someday, but at least until I run out of red oak, it'll stay the go-to.
  • CH25 Build
    • The final chapter in my 2018 DCBE for me was visiting the Shop of Caleb James for a week and building an actual danish chair... a reproduction of the Hans Wegner CH25 lounge chair. While Mid-century mod is all the rage, I've not been deep down the hole of this like Caleb has. Though now I think I understand what all the excitement is about. This chair is an incredible design, subtle yet complex; and it sits really nicely for all sorts of relaxed activities like conversing with friends or playing chess with the boy. Again, this experience let me come away with a new chair (well after I finished the weaving at home) I was able to spend time working in another shop with new methods and tools. (I NEED a slot mortiser now...) I also learned of the wonders of weaving and Danish cord. I was previously ambivalent about woven seats, but now I'll be looking for ways to incorporate into future designs as well. Of course, I couldn't resist the urge to char this chair as well (prior to the black paper cord, naturally) I think it turned out really well and is a unique look and texture for sure.
  • Takeaways
    • There was a lot of wasted time goofing off throughout, talking, sharing a drink and going off on tangents, talking about tools. but that is what made these events so productive and refreshing. If you think such an event should be about heads down woodworking and getting things done, then by all means get a factory job, that's what it would be. instead this was all about hanging out sharing different things with friends and staying/getting energized about making stuff, which in the end makes you more productive.
Hopefully I will get to more Chairs/stools yet this year, I do have another large project with my son with a looming deadline so likely that will take priority, Still I'm really pleased with my chair building efforts thus far. If you get a chance to work with someone else either in your shop or theirs, do so, you'll come away wiser and likely more excited than ever to get to work.


  1. Wow, great story and great looking chairs. Watch out for the slope on the Wegner arm - looks like that whiskey could slide right off of there. BTW, is the "shoushugiban" finish that you referred to the same thing / similar to ebonizing?

    1. it is similar to ebonizing, though I think of ebonizing as a color application, not really effecting the surface other than color, even at some depth. The charring shousugiban, especially in open pored woods, alters the texture of the surface and and for my purposes eliminates a lot of the surface prep sanding.

  2. Hey, Jeremy! Nice post. Thanks for the nod to our DCBE. It sounds like you have the spirit of it. Everytime I work with others, I'm amazed how much I learn just from watching how they work. Woodworking is usually such a solitary activity. It really is a great thing to get out, push your boundaries (as usually we build something completely new to us), and open your minds to different ways of working and doing things.

    BTW, all of your chairs are beautiful.


    1. Thanks Brian, totally agree with your points. just fiddling with someone else's tools can be eye opening.

  3. Hi Jeremy

    Kudos for making your own chairbuilding extravaganza!
    Like Brian said, all your chairs look beautiful!

    I couldn't agree more on the claim that it is not all about heads down woodworking, but more about the social aspect of the event that will make you productive in the long run.
    The chatting and tool nerding is what makes those events so great.


    1. Jonas,
      Absolutely agree that social woodworking is great. Even if we are not 100% as productive as we theoretically could be alone, the social aspect provides motivation well beyond the lost productivity. Had I not had the calendar date, would I have accomplished all these things? very likely not. If we had more informal clubs/classes, what have you, I think more work would get done. Much of what is appealing about social media/forums is that social aspect, unfortunately it's easy to spend time there with like minded folks and forget you aren't actually woodworking.