Typical (& Frightening) Chair Construction
Most modern, factory-made furniture is poorly constructed – most woodworkers agree on that point. But would you ever call it dangerous?
This fall while teaching at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, I got a moment to peek in at the upholstery class being run by Mike Mascelli, a New York-based professional who does some really incredible work. One of his students had brought in the wooden frame underlying a fairly typical commercial side chair for people to see.
At first I laughed when I saw the joinery. Then I thought: Wait, people sat in this? Frightening.
The frame was constructed using a variety of softwoods, some of which were spray-painted, suggesting it was made from pallet or crate wood. I’m not knocking crate wood – that is actually the nicest thing I can say about this chair-shaped object.
Most of the joints in the chair were made with a commercial adhesive – something akin to liquid nails – and then reinforced with staples or thin steel mending plate. At the most critical joint – where the back leg intersects the seat – the maker added two screws.
And take a look at how they made the chair’s back tilt back: They scarfed the back leg and simply flipped the frame. Clever, actually. It might be the best joint in the whole thing.
I hope the upholstery on this chair was wicked good because it would be the only thing holding the chair together.
— Christopher Schwarz
If you want to learn how to make a chair that will last generations (instead of hours), definitely check out this new DVD from Elia Bizzarri “Build a Traditional Windsor Rocker.” Elia makes fantastic chairs.