Prototyping a Replica Chair

It seems like years ago that we embarked on a tough assignment replicating a chair to spec for a new client. Not only is the client new and big and exciting given the possibilities of the relationship itself but building a chair to spec with the implications of a vast production run layered on the suspense and stress. 

 A charming Mid-Modern assignment.

A charming Mid-Modern assignment.

Many things were immediately expected by me. The largest and most apparent, prototyping = failure. It's always hard to put a time and price on the unexpected and to this end, writing an estimate to aforementioned new/exciting client that doesn't completely strip the shirt off my back and does not scare them off. I expected to lose my shirt (which isn't hard to do nor is it much of a surprise when one does in this business). I guess my play was not to lose the rest of my clothes and have nothing to show at the end but a pile of firewood and spent band-aids. 

Armed with a full set of plans, I set out trying to find a CNC fabricator that would be patient enough to come along for the ride, build some trust and stand beside me as we cast our gaze into the future towards a production run. I found these boys in Williamsburg. Look up Rush Design if you are serious about doing something all the way. This project goes nowhere without their fastidiousness. Thank you guys...

baseproto.JPG

First step, develop the seat plate. Everything step of this project needed to well planned with an eye towards the future and speediness in production. I was thinking Model T's rolling out before we had the first stages in line ready. So how to do that? The flat cut shape is easy enough but the tricky part was the groove in the back for the curvilinear seat back. The groove needed to be beveled in order to create the rake of the back and this is something I wanted no part of creating in the shop. Everything about this process continually made my think about how these guys made this thing in the first place, decades ago before any of these modern conveniences we have today. I tried not to cut my abilities down in this regard, different times, different measures, different circumstances. 

The first go-round was successful. a quick and dirty fit of a stand-in for the back looked like the original. But our first failure....

 The back tore out of a sample screw standing in for a peg. 

The back tore out of a sample screw standing in for a peg. 

No problem. Dial up the boys. "We need a deeper groove." "No problem." New seat plate proves successful with deeper groove, cue the first unexpected failure and unforeseeable cost. Keep it moving.....