Is It Cheating at Chairmaking?

Where is the craftsmanship line crossed between between handwork, machine work, and machine work driven by computers? Or, is there a line at all? I certainly don’t know the answer. But I was thinking about the question recently after my son sent an e-mail to me with a link to a video. The message was short: “Fancy equipment including copy lathe, cnc mill etc.  CHEATING!”

My son’s “cheating” remark was born of frustration from the many hours he recently spent making and remaking many complex chair parts. Think mortise-and-tenon joints in compound angles where seat rails, chair arms, legs and crest rail all come together.

The video was fascinating. It shows how PP Mobler, a Danish joinery shop, makes under license one of the most famous chairs ever, often called “The Chair,” designed by renowned furniture designer Hans Wegner. The Mobler shop is, in my view, more a craft shop than a factory. It produces about 200 copies of this Wegner chair a year, as well as other Wegner furniture. It uses some very high-tech computer-driven machinery to make some very complex parts. The shop, which employs 25 woodworkers, also relies on the skills of real craftsmen to create the chair as well. It’s a wonderful blend of human and machine skills to make a beautiful object.

This is not hobby woodworking, it’s a furniture-making business. But it’s a furniture-making business working at an extremely high level of quality, producing products without compromise. If you like Danish modern furniture or want to learn more about the company and how it operates, check out the Mobler web site. Click on the image below to play the video.

–Steve Shanesy

4 thoughts on “Is It Cheating at Chairmaking?

  1. RWL

    Triva question: whose voice is that narrating? If you have shopped for a 14+” bandsaw, or other small-to-medium shop power equipment, then you probably know.

    Also, no dust masks during all of that sanding?

    Yes, IMHO this counts as cabinetmaking.

    Now, over to ebay to search…

    –RWL

    1. Steve ShanesySteve Shanesy Post author

      You think that’s Torben? I’m not totally convinced, but it could be. Maybe I’ll send him a note and see what he says.

      Steve

      1. Steve ShanesySteve Shanesy Post author

        I heard back from Torben Helshoj, owner of Laguna Tools. He said he is quite familiar with the Mobler shop as it’s only a few miles from the shop where he apprenticed. He also confirmed that it is not his voice narrating the video.

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