Stuff I thought of over Memorial Day Weekend

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Blog entry by BenchDawg posted 06-04-2011 02:16 AM 1721 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve spent the last three days in my workshop building another doggone chair. The second of two chairs I’ve built in the last four weeks. That makes six so far. It’s sort of like my church. I get lost in it and find myself completely relaxed, even though the work is hard. I seem to learn something new each and every time I build one, and each chair is unique, despite the fact that they are all made from the same pattern.

Lord knows I don’t need any more chairs. It really doesn’t matter. I’ll keep building them because something tells me I’m not finished building them. Lots of well-meaning people, with plenty of advice, eagerly nudge me to sell them and perhaps generate some revenue.

If I tally up the materials and the time and factor in a small profit, my chairs would retail for about $800. Ask me; they are worth it. Each board starts out as rough-cut lumber and is planed to the perfect thickness. Each piece has edges that are “hand-sanded” and the screws are all “hand-turned.”

I avoid power tools whenever possible. I do things by hand because “touch” gets me closer to the wood. I have this belief that the closer I am to the wood the more magic and eccentricity flows into the final product.

Each chair gets four coats of boat varnish, in precise mixtures and formulas, with a “hand-sand” between each coat. It takes five days just to varnish a chair. My chairs cannot be found anywhere else in the country. My pattern is unique and I have custom tailored it to my tastes and needs.

I could economize on materials and create an assembly line process to cut time and material costs but rob the chair of the love and attention to detail. You can get those chairs at the big box stores for $199. There are many buyers of chairs at $199. There are few buyers at $800.

I can easily justify why my chairs are worth $800. I just can’t make my process pencil out to a price anyone would reasonable spend. I suppose, if someone really took an interest in my chair and loved it for what it was and just had to have one, I would let it go for $199, but I’ve pretty much made up my mind that I am in the business of chair building and not in the business of chair selling.

Everything has a price and everyone has an opinion on what something is worth. The question is; what is something worth to you? For my sanity and well-being, I know that I cannot compromise on my building processes, therefore, if I choose to sell a chair, it is because it met my emotional needs to do so. I have profited from my pleasure.

I’ve chosen to let my heart lead me in my craft. I may end up looking like a kooky old man with 53 chairs in his backyard. On the other hand, the process of discovery may take me in new directions. Who knows? That is the magic of it all, isn’t it?

Some people may think I’m wasting my time. Loosing money. I’m not looking back on any decisions I’ve made. I’m just doing what feels right and I’m pretty doggone happy about the path I’m on. If other folks delight in my journey, they are free “pull up a chair”.

I am convinced that the greatest artistic creation comes from a drive and an idea that I am passionate about. Right now it’s chairs. If someone wanted me to build a cabinet or a ladder, I could do it, but it won’t have the magic the chair has. I may someday spin into other areas. I’ll just wait and see what speaks to me.

5 comments so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

20244 posts in 3852 days

#1 posted 06-04-2011 02:31 AM

I would love to make a couple of comments if its ok, all meant with a love for woodworking.
First, it seems you may think way to much.
Second, if chairs do it for you, then do chairs. I’ve done chairs, they scare me.
Third, we’re all wasting our time, unless we’re doing what we love, even if its building chairs.

I have a different technique. Its the same as yours only different. I build things I enjoy. I’ve built or rebuilt everything from rifles to houses, whole condo projects, decks, hand planes, and computer systems. Its my life, my living and my being.

Nice chairs by the way.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 4268 days

#2 posted 06-04-2011 06:36 AM

Here I thought you were going to get into the pleasures of hand tools and the wood. Turns out its your love affair with chairs. Very inspirational about the passion of your wood working. I tend to enjoy the journey of my woodworking projects as well, no matter the project. I hate to put a cost to projects other than materials, as it takes something out of the journey of the project for me. Good article and nice chairs.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5690 days

#3 posted 06-07-2012 05:46 PM

I understand completely what you are saying. I posted an Adirondack Chair project one time on LJ, coming up with 25 reasons I wouldn't build any more of them. Mainly I get tired of repetitive work, and I couldn’t sell them for what I had in them with the competition being SAM’s and Harbor Freight, and other retail stores selling nice looking chairs for $50 or less. Your chairs are very nicely done, if you want to keep from frustrating yourself, don’t worry about selling them, just enjoy the build, you never know where the journey will take you.


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View a1Jim's profile


118296 posts in 4862 days

#4 posted 06-07-2012 06:23 PM

I think the others have it right either enjoy the journey or process of making chairs or think of it as a business and work more efficiently with at least the toughest and or most time consuming parts of your chairs done with power tools. Charles Neil comes to mind where he makes a bombe highboy in three weeks where others like Tommy MacDonald takes 12 months or more. Both Make beautiful furniture but Charles has higher output because he works in a more efficient manner using power tools to expedite the process. If it were me and I didn’t have to make a living at making chairs I would make them the way I enjoy doing them the most.


View nashranch's profile


46 posts in 3343 days

#5 posted 12-28-2012 11:09 PM

Amen Bob…Do what you Love and Love what ya do

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