First off, I would never have started a chair had it not been for Sam Maloof—his story, inspiration, and craft. I’ve had my furniture business for 4 years and have wanted to design/build a chair for years but was too intimidated. I saw Sam on TV and forced myself to take on the challenge.
To me, a great chair design that sits well is like breaking a 4 minute mile; it all has to come together. I started small, making a few miniatures to develop my ideas. The end result is what I call my ‘dana dining chair’.
The wood is 8/4 cherry, 7 pieces joined by glue, biscuits (seat) and screws. One-half inch cherry dowels cover the holes and from there it’s on with the sculpting. I use grinders, a convex spokeshave for the seat (initially), die grinders, rasps, an electric hand plane, orbital sanders, french curves, just about everything except TNT. My production time has decreased significantly since I completed the first scale chair, about 5 days per chair. The most difficult part is using the eyes to create symmetry. If the left side doesn’t mimic the right, it throws you into vertigo.
I finished the chairs with 5 coats of General Arm-R-Seal with a #00000 steel wool brush up in between and to finish, a light once-over with J.E. Moser’s paste wax. My one commission so far has been 4 of these for a guy in Florida. Huge props to Marc at thewoodwhisperer.com.