This page will illustrate two very different styles of chairs and the various steps we took to make these usable and beautiful pieces. The first style of chair is a rocker designed by Sam Maloof, reproduced by a customer who was very close to getting the project done but could not master the final assembly. Creating your own chair using Maloof's design is a challenge for weekend and professional woodworkers alike. The second style of chair is an updated version of a classic American colonial style barrel, or captain's chair, sold widely in the 1950s and typically fabricated using maple wood.
To the left you see the finished rocker. It is a beauty and is a close approximation of the original Maloof design. There are no straight lines in Maloof's rocker, every line has curvature in at least one dimension. Adding to the fluidity of the design is the selection and cut of the walnut used. The result in the Maloof design and this application of it, make for a visually interesting and sensuous feeling display. The really cool thing is that this chair is also very comfortable le to sit in and rock in. For many woodworkers, crafting one of these chairs is an aspirational accomplishment.
This customer had attempted to mount the back slats and rockers but was unsuccessful. The first set of rockers he made were still usable, but he had to make a new set of back slats. The ends of the slats were not cut down or rounded, so as to give us whatever extra material we might need. It took a while to imagine a way these parts could be mounted. We eventually did, as can be seen to the left.
One of the surprising things about the design of this chair is how strong and how comfortable the seat is. From the photo above it is obvious that the seat is thin and notwithstanding that slender line, it is also scooped to create an almost padded feeling. Amazing. Beautiful too.
The simple form of the solution we came up with for mounting the slats was to bore a deep hole in the upper back, run the slat up in the hole, then drop it down into the hole in the seat. The slats were not straight, so it wasn't simple.
Mounting the rockers is so difficult that often people find ways to shortcut the process. Part of our challenge was that this customer had attempted the task without success before bringing the rocker to us. This picture hints of our solution. We won't tell the whole story, we don't want to rob you of the joy of discovery or the pride of success.
Perhaps the most famous and technically difficult part of creating a true to design Maloof Rocker, is the way the rockers are mounted.
TOP OF PAGE
Now that you have seen what we have done for others, what can we do for you? CONTACTING AND FINDING US
This photo log follows the progress of one chair from a set.
Simple, light colored, colonial style furniture became very popular in the mid-twentieth century. Almost all of it was made using simple, straight grained cuts of Maple. Maple is a very hard wood and very durable, but its weakness is that it shrinks significantly in dry climates. The industrial adhesives in use during the period these were made were not capable of holding joints together under the stresses created by shrinkage. If the joints haven't come apart already, we have found that they will when they are stressed by pressure or a direct tapping force.
We have found that gluing the obvious failures only, will quickly transfer stresses to the next weakest joint and we will have a returning customer, but for the wrong reasons. Whenever we get maple furniture in with any failed joints, we will not do any re-gluing unless we can fully disassemble the piece and reglue all joints. That makes the job expensive, but yields a result that will give long term stability and satisfaction.
Additional seat joints came apart during stripping, revealing how close to failure they were. Numerous joints appear solidly joined, but we had not started tapping or applying pressure to those joints. They eventually all came apart.
Marking the joints before disassembly is critical so that once we apply the glue and start reassembling, we know we are putting it together correctly. No one wants to waste time figuring out a furniture puzzle, and especially when you discover while regluing that you got it wrong. Then you have a nightmare.
We can't show you in a picture, but we will tell you: the enamel paint used on these chairs was extremely difficult to remove. We use the strongest stripper available and all it did was make it slightly easier to scrape off the enamel. What a chore that was. Don't even think about trying this at home!
We skipped several steps, but here is the base of the chair after the regluing is done. We actually first re-glued the seat, using biscuit joinery to add strength to the seams and high strength epoxy to ensure that the joints would remain stable even if there would be future shrinkage. After the seat was re-glued we then re-glued the legs and stretchers. Solid as a rock afterward.
When maple shrinks, the seams are rarely still straight. Before re-gluing we needed to re-joint the seat seams to ensure the bonding surfaces mate all the way along the seam. Between the jointing and the original shrinkage, there is inevitably at least a slight loss of width. We then must ensure that the holes for the back posts are still evenly spaced and fully circular before attempting to glue the back in place. You can see the measuring and marking here.