Thursday, December 20, 2007

With Great Anticipation, I Start Designing the Chair

This wood is just beautiful! I am in awe and grateful of the opportunity to craft five Maloof inspired rocking chairs from this English walnut. Today's blog post concerns design and developing templates.

First a chair should provide an invitation for a safe, comfortable sitting experience. The dimensions should look and be appropriate to accomplishment of this goal. Although I am from the South where bigger is better, I have never thought canon ball bedposts and non functioning ornamentation were pleasing to my eye. I think less is more. This should be designed as a chair of lines. The chair lines should be flowing and beautiful even if (heaven forbid) it was painted black.

This chair sould be constructed of a premium hardwood variety. Walnut, figured Maple Rosewood or Zircote' are perfect for this chair. Cherry might be considered as too pedestrian for this chair. The wood doesn't have to be curly or heavily figured or to make a great chair. To create interest I have used one board seats to place a crotch and feather in the middle of a saddle (seat). One board seats are a little risky, but an artistic chance is sometimes worth taking.

When I finish the set of five rockers that I am currently commissioned to craft I want to experiment with building the seat out of 5 to 7 pieces cut at 3 to 3 degrees on their joining edges. This should yield a more inviting saddle or seat with a slight concave quality.

I am conbstantly making changes both small and large. Since this ends up being a carving or sculpting project I read the wood and many times the grain and figure will give me direction as to round off, bring to a hard line or to soften the arm or seat lines, etc.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Great Wood Safari

I am always asked, "Where do you get your wood?" Well, Columbus, Georgia does not have wood I would use for fine furniture. Red oak and yellow pine are available. This was once a major source for heart pine which makes great flooring and reproductions, but it is still pine. Once you work with great hardwoods, it's hard to settle for anything else.

When a client placed an order for two of my rockers , I asked him if he would like to have an adventure finding some beautifully figured 8/4 English or Claro Walnut. This idea appealed to him, so I planned what I called the Great Wood Safari. We flew to Baltimore and drove to visit three Pennsylvannia hardwood dealers of considerable reputation.

Our first stop was Hearne Hardwoods. What an amazing operation! Their warehouses are full of great hardwoods both domestic and exotic hardwoods. They also have a massive bandsaw mill cutting huge slabs which are inventoried and their pictures uploaded to the internet immediately. Their staff pulled a few slabs of Circassian Walnut which were very beautiful. Of course the slabs were in the rough, so we sprayed them with denatured alcohol to view the figure and make the curl pop out. I wanted a more domestic walnut, so we continued to the next yard after thanking the employees for their great service. On the way out they said, "You have got to see what Sam has at Talarico Hardwoods."

Norman and his wife at Good Hope Hardwoods, were gracious hosts. Norman lives next door to his wood yard and warehouse in a beautifully restored New England style home right out of Country Living Magazine. The furniture and paneling inside are made with the finest collection of mahogony, tiger maple and cherry I have ever seen. Norman just did not have what we wanted in stock that day, although he had tons of beautiful domestics. Good Hope Hardwoods is the home of hardwoods and great customer service. I wish he had what we were looking for that day. Before we left he said,"You have got to see the walnut that Sam Talarico has on his yard!"

By the time we found Talarico Hardwoods we had decided two things. We could not have crammed all of this into a single day without the rental car's navigation system and spraying large amounts of denatured alcohol on slabs can be intoxicating.

I had also talked to Sam in advance of the trip and with all the hoopla about his walnut we were ready to see something great. We were not dissapointed. Sam had a huge English Walnut tree which had been air dried for over five years. The largest boards from the trunk measured 17 feet long X 6 feet wide and the slabs averaged 10/4 thick. The sweeping grain, colors, crotches, feathers and curly figure were just beautiful. My customer bought three slabs from that tree. The commision grew to five rocking chairs and a dining table.

The wood was shipped by sealed container to a friend's moving and storage business so it could be received with a fork lift. This photo shows me sawing slabs into movable portions. I sized them using templates for the various chair parts.

The next post will show how to start crafting a Maloof style rocking chair.