A "Z" chair

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Project by rowdy posted 06-28-2010 02:45 AM 12104 views 17 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Years ago when I was getting started in woodworking I ran across an advertisement in a woodworking magazine for the Kehoe jig, which is used to make dovetail splines. In the ad was a photo of a “Z” chair that was constructed with this type of spline. My wife learned of my interest in the jig and later gave it to me for a birthday present. Since then I have used the jig many times, but, alas, I forgot about the Z chair. Then a few months ago while surfing the web I ran across the site: and there was a picture of the Z chair again! So I decided that now was the time to make one of them. It turns out that Larry Kehoe, the designer of the jig, had died in 2007 and the business was then taken over by Kevin and Terry Jaynes, the current owners of the dovetail spline business. So now the deed is done and I have completed a Z chair.

This project offered several challenges, not the least of which was controlling (with less than 100% success) tear out in the 3/4 inch “big orange box” birch/maple plywood that I used. The veneer is so thin that it tears like paper, as I am sure most LJs know. Cutting the acute angles required, figuring out how to clamp sharply angled pieces together while glue dried, and so on made this a learning experience. The first picture shows the completed chair (finished with a home brewed wiping varnish), the second picture shows another view of the chair before it was finished, the third picture shows some detail of the splines, and last picture shows some old 170 lb guy sitting on the chair to show its strength. The strength, of course, derives from the splines.

Finally, I must acknowledge the assistance and advice I received from Kevin and Terry. They could not have been more helpful. They are GREAT folks and no one could have offered more encouragement. They are the most customer oriented merchants I have ever known. I recommend them and their product heartily.

-- Rowdy in Kechi, Kansas

30 comments so far

View Bureaucrat's profile


18341 posts in 4871 days

#1 posted 06-28-2010 02:58 AM

That is an interesting piece. I’m glad you posted the 3rd pic, it took me by surprise. I don’t know what I was thinking but I wasn’t thinking it would be assembled like that. Good work and thanks for posting.

-- Gary D.

View dakremer's profile


2771 posts in 4311 days

#2 posted 06-28-2010 03:21 AM

do splines really make things THAT strong? It doesnt seem like that would hold up to the weight!! Awesome chair though – I want to try something like this!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4868 days

#3 posted 06-28-2010 03:28 AM

very cool chair! I would not have guessed that those were splines without seeing it in person, or – seeing the 3rd pic :)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View OttoH's profile


891 posts in 4229 days

#4 posted 06-28-2010 03:32 AM

Dang Rowdy, that is a great chair. Now I have yet another project to my never ending list of things I want to build.

-- I am responsible for how I respond to everything in my life - - Deadwood SD

View NewPickeringWdWrkr's profile


338 posts in 4232 days

#5 posted 06-28-2010 03:42 AM

Awesome, I could see myself trying that. But then the mental picture of Mel Gibson in ‘The Patriot’ trying to build the spindle rocker comes to mind with my face instead! lol

Nicely done

-- Mike - Antero's Urban Wood Designs

View WoodyWoodWrecker's profile


171 posts in 4470 days

#6 posted 06-28-2010 03:45 AM

I love the looks of the chair but I don’t think I would trust it. Of course, I am about a hundred pounds heavier than you. I like it but I would want to put supports in the angles.

-- You always have tomorrow to stop procrastinating.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 4205 days

#7 posted 06-28-2010 03:46 AM

This is so cool! I have to echo the others – I was not expecting quite that.. thank you for posting the spline-in-progress picture. Amazing that it can actually hold a person… lots of math involved in how that works!!

Yours looks great. I love, love, loooooooooove plywood furniture and this is another example why.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5125 days

#8 posted 06-28-2010 03:55 AM

Yea, now I want to make a Z chair. Nice job. I have and use the Kehoe jig often, just used it last week on a box.

View a1Jim's profile


118200 posts in 4796 days

#9 posted 06-28-2010 03:59 AM

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 5026 days

#10 posted 06-28-2010 04:19 AM

There is actually an older “original of this chair” which I am assuming was Larry Kehoe’s inspiration.

The original Zig Zag chair is a modernist classic done in 1934 by Gerrit Reitveld and is in the NY Museum of Modern Art.


What I like about your version is the dovetail spline eliminates the need for the wedge.

View ianlee74's profile


153 posts in 4167 days

#11 posted 06-28-2010 04:23 AM

That is amazing. I would have never guessed plywood at that kind of angle could support that much weight. Now I’d really like to know what the weight limit is. I haven’t weighed 175# since high school. If it didn’t look like so much work, I’d be tempted to build one just to find out. Have Kevin & Terry tested the breaking point of the Z chair?

-- Ian, Tennessee

View LittlePaw's profile


1572 posts in 4297 days

#12 posted 06-28-2010 06:11 AM

Wow, I didn’t think it would hold much weight, but after seeing your siting pic, I am a believer! Nicely done!

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View degoose's profile


7284 posts in 4574 days

#13 posted 06-28-2010 11:19 AM

I have this jig and must try the chair…

-- Be safe.

View 4thumbs's profile


153 posts in 4366 days

#14 posted 06-28-2010 01:54 PM

Amazing engineering – just the thing for those guests you’d like to get rid of quickly…’here, have a seat in this chair’... almost guaranteed to keep their visit short! Looks like it was a real challenging build, so congrats!

-- 4thumbs in MO

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5101 days

#15 posted 06-28-2010 02:25 PM

I am just dumb struck. That is fantastic. Who would’a thought?


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

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