Three-Week Chair, Prototype #3

On June 30th, with other projects in the shop wrapping up, I realized that I had three weeks until Port Moody Celebration of Wood Woodfair.  I knew that I wanted to have some new work for the show and got the idea to design a chair. That night I started prototyping.  Previously, I posted a review of prototype #1 and #2.

While the first two prototypes each required less than a day to build, the third needed part of a second day to get to the stage where I finally understood it.  This was where I left it.


For the sake of time, I did not fully sculpt the chair, but I shaped it enough to understand how it would look completed.  Had I continued, you would have seen the following changes in this prototype:

  • all the seat slats sculpted like the front one;
  • all the backrest slats sculpted like the top one;
  • the ends of the seat slats cut so that the seat narrowed towards the back;
  • the seat stretcher trimmed where it protrudes through the spine;
  • the base and frame components rounded more at the edges and carved to flow into the ribs; and
  • the spine tapered in thickness towards the top.


This design had a lot going for it and it was a huge step in what I felt was the right direction.  This is what I learned from prototype #3:

  • I was able to successfully construct a seat using cross lap joints that was strong enough and didn’t sway side to side – even in a softwood like Douglas fir;
  • the straight backrest with ribs was comfortable;
  • the variation of bridle joint that I used allowed me to easily adjust the shape of the chair spine and also provided ample glue surface when I wanted to make its position permanent; and
  • this four-legged base was stable and more elegant than the previous version.


These are some of the changes I’m considering for the next version, which will probably be the last one I make before the show:

  • quality hardwood (likely ash), instead of Douglas fir;
  • a different base design, possibly connected to the underside of the seat which means a smooth L-shape for the seat and backrest;
  • more ribs for the backrest;
  • a slight curve in the backrest – possibly a mild S curve;
  • more curvature and taper for the ribs; and
  • completely sculpt and finish the chair.

This slideshow includes all the pictures I took during the build.  I welcome any feedback you may have.  You can follow my live updates via Twitterfacebook, or Tumblr.

12 thoughts on “Three-Week Chair, Prototype #3

  1. Looks pretty awesome Chris, I’m excited to see the next version. Also, I bet it would look interesting with contrasting woods for the spine and seat/back splats.

  2. Chris, I like #3 the best, yet I have concerns about the joint between the base and the spline. Mainly strength of the joint over time. I really think James is on to something with the contrasting woods. Thank you for allowing us to contribute in some small way to a master at work

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I don’t think that there’s anybody who can’t benefit from the idea of others, no matter how advanced they are.


    1. I was thinking about how to change the base design, and one idea that floated through my head briefly was to mount the seat on top of a skull. Nah.

      Thanks for the comment.


  3. I really like to see this chair evolving, (only recently found your blog). A couple improvement ideas.
    1.) The base has too many crooked bends and a smoother shape could be found, perhaps even a shape like a lower case “d” for the “spine” (you may be going for a more creepy vibe vs the original modern concept, then disregard)
    2.) A pedestal chair with four legs will always wobble and be annoying in use, unless the pedestal arms have a designed in “flex” to them to adjust to floor irregularities (This flex is designed into an apron based chair)

    1. Hi JMAW,

      In case it wasn’t clear, I left the spine with a segmented look rather than taking the time to smooth the curves. If this were a final version, I would have made the curves in the spine smooth, but here my intent was just to work on establishing the proportions and general shape.

      I’m not going for any specific look, other than something I like. It took me a few minutes to understand what a “d” base would look like, but I think I see it now. I like the idea. I’m envisioning the frame of the chair to be a “d” with ribs along the seat and spine and one piece cross-lapped into the midpoint of the bottom of the “d” for lateral stability. Is that what you were thinking?

      Your comment about the chair always wobbling reminded me of this five-legged oddity:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always welcome feedback.


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