Monday, March 3, 2014

Cheap Chairs Eventually get Expensive

In the 15 years that I was  full time woodworker I repaired a lot of chairs. Most of the chairs I repaired were in need of repair for one simple reason. They weren't very well made chairs, therefore they didn't last very long. Chairs came into my shop that I refused to repair because I knew they were made from materials unsuitable for chair making and for this reason I knew they would not stay together for long. No need having that person put good money after bad because eventually they would need to buy better chairs. This is the point  when buying cheap chairs gets expensive. When I was required to repair a well made chair it was generally because of accidental damage. Nichols and Stone chairs only arrived at my shop because of a broken spindle caused by human error or carelessness or for some other similar reason. We have a Nichols and Stone rocker and it's as solid as the day it was assembled.

Somewhere in years past Julie and I acquired 6 Rex furniture ladder back chairs. These were hand me downs from other family members and they have stood us well. Rex furniture was a business that operated in Stockbridge, Ga, just south of Atlanta. They closed their doors many years ago but there is a lot of that furniture in the surrounding area. In all the years I was making and repairing furniture I never was required to repair a Rex chair. That speaks volumes.


When the fiber rush in our chairs was breaking and looking quite worn we decided to keep these chairs and perform a refurb on them. Good chairs are expensive and these Rex chairs to were too good to replace.

One by one my yougest son Marc would bring a chair into the shop, cut out the old rush, pull the staples, sand and prep them for painting. Traditionally chairs were very often painted. Turnings show up better on painted chairs and I was reminded of this when I began painting these chairs satin black. The side chair seats received a basket weave of beige Shaker tape or lasting. Now these chairs look better than they have in years and the seat is considerably more comfortable with the Shaker tape.


This was a great family project. Julie spent several nights with me in the shop weaving the seats. Everyone involved received a great sense of accomplishment from this project and we got nice chairs as well. One of the arm chairs at the ends of our table was put into service elsewhere so we needed at least one arm chair. I remembered that we had two ladder back arm chair kits from Cohasset Colonials stored in the loft of the garden house. They've only been up there for about 15 years. They are nice chairs I decided it was about time to get them out and make use of them. Now we have two matching arm chairs.


Julie and I assembled them, and I painted them. Last week we received a new order of the Shaker tape and decided to weave a 2 color pattern in the arm chairs.

All this work on chairs has sparked a new interest in making chairs. In order to get the mechanics of turning accurately sized tenons and the other processes for making leg and rung assemblies I started with making a stool. It has a red finish that I like and this two color seat combination goes well with the red frame I think.

We could actually use two more side chairs so I may cut my chair making teeth on those before progressing to a rocking chair. My friend Jeff Miller has warned me that a person can become rather obsessed with chair making. I don't know if I'll go that far.....heck I'm just having fun!


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