Posts Tagged ‘Furniture design’

Naturally, they took me longer to build than expected. I suppose that’s a perk of starting my small furniture company, Wessinger Woodworks LLC, as a side project while continuing to teach. Regardless, the first 5 of my Hilltop Side Chair are completed and available to purchase.

These chairs are built in Oregon White Oak that I purchased from Zena Forest Products, and finished with Osmo Polyx- Oil, which I like for its durability, low toxicity and its feel. I would compare its feel to hand rubbed oil finishes with wax on top, but I am able to get the feel and look I want with much less work using Osmo. Four of them were upholstered in blue fabric while one was done in black leather. The upholstery was done by a local upholsterer who works out of ADX with 40 years experience. His name is Johnathan and without his input during the design stages and his experienced hands at the upholstery these chairs could not be what they have become.

That list point is one I would like to pause on. Though I am starting this furniture without any employees, I rely on a wide variety of people and the relationships I have developed while working on these chairs is likely the most rewarding part of building them. Over the coming weeks I would like to introduce some of these folks. In the mean time, I’d like to ask for the assistance of my readers. If you like these chairs and especially if you know of anyone who might enjoy them, please help me get the word out. My goal is to sell these chairs directly to those who will use them, which will allow me to keep the price much lower than if I was to offer them through stores in the area.

For more pictures of the finished chairs, visit WessingerWoodworks.com.




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I think the time has come to make my big announcement:

I am starting a small furniture business called Wessinger Woodworks!

I’ve had an operating agreement written up, I’ve registered the business with the secretary of state as an LLC, I’ve opened a business bank account, had a logo designed, and created a website. The first run of chairs is nearing completion. I’ve thought about whether I should wait for the first run of chairs to be completed, but I’m excited about it and I decided to share the news now. The first chairs should be completed within the week, and with some final details complete out on the website, they will be available for purchase there. I am planning to upholster 4 of them in the same blue color as the prototype (pictured below), but one will be upholstered in black leather. I’m excited to see that one completed. Its going to look sharp. Stay tuned for updates.

Visit the website here:


The first run of chairs as of last night:


As I launch this business, my goal at least initially is to market the pieces through word of mouth. Posting this announcement here is one small part of that effort. By marketing through word of mouth and selling directly to consumers, my hope is to keep the as low as possible. To that end, if you know of anyone who might be interested in these chairs, please share this link.

Creating this first set of chairs has been quite a journey. I was joking with someone here at ADX last week about how my next design needs to be easier to build. As I continue to teach with the Wind and Oar Boat School, and working occasionally with the ADX fabrication team this business serves in part to fill in the gaps between classes and other work, but it is also a chance for me to push myself to develop my technical skills and my to challenge myself creatively. This chair has served both those needs. Despite the minimal number of pieces, it is one of the most technically challenging pieces I have ever created, and I am very pleased with the result.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from the build process.

One of the most challenging aspects is found where the rails meet the legs. The shoulders are cut to match the radius of the legs.


Every curve was carefully evaluated and revised from the prototype. The cutouts below the sides of the seat were enlarged, the curve on the outside of the arms was filled out, and the point where the arms curve to meet the piece across the back was brought forward slightly. Though subtle, these changes make a big difference.


Much of the furniture being built today is angular but without many curves. I set out to create a piece of furniture that has curves along with enough splay and rake to the legs to create some angularity. The interplay between all these angles and curves means that from every angle you will find something different and perhaps unexpected to admire.


Along the way I discovered that without the seat and seatback, the chairs are stackable at least 5 high. I’m working to keep my overhead and foot print low initially.


The prototype in its delightfully bold livery (please note that the curves on all pieces have been revised from this iteration). This is a chair that will lend a light and airy feeling to your spaces in the summer, and which will be cheerful in the winter.IMG_1447 IMG_1443

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Over the weekend I took my Shearwater out to explore a new spot. Too often, I have taken my kayak or even the Shearwater out to familiar spots. There is nothing wrong with revisiting favorite spots, but its important to cover new ground, especially in a boat where there always seems to be some promise of adventure.

After spending some time on google maps and looking for boat ramps I decided to check out the Chinook Landing Marine Park. It is located about a mile west of where the Sandy river enters the Columbia. The put in was quiet and I got underway quickly under oars. The weather reports predicted light and variable winds so I had not even bothered to bring my sailing rig along. It would also have been a hindrance for parts of my intended journey. I had never checked out the spot where the Sandy river hits the Columbia and while looking at google maps, I had discovered a small channel running that split off from from about a mile up the Sandy to the Columbia well east of where most of the rivers meet. Seemed like a worth while channel to investigate.

The initial row upriver went well, working against the current, but with lovely weather and few other boats to contend with. The entrance to the Sandy lived up to its name. The mouth of the river was braided with various shallow islands interspersed. I ducked into the first channel I came to as much to get out of the current as anything, and promptly grounded. I proceeded to form and test a wide variety of conjectures as to which bank or sandy island I was too close to and where I would find deeper water, but the moral of the story is that I ended up walking my boat through shallow water much of the way over the mouth of the river before finding what could be called the main channel. The water was cold on my bare feet, but not unbearable. I found myself wondering how much time Lewis and Clark spent wading through water while dragging their various boats.

After finding the main channel I was able to row perhaps a quarter or half mile before grounding again. This time I didn’t have to walk my boat quite as far before finding deeper water. By this time I was definitely beginning to feel like a proper part-time adventurer by this point. After another 15 minutes of rowing up river, always keeping an eye on the depth of the sandy bottom I spotted a narrow side channel that led into the woods.

As I neared the channel I watched the river bottom become much more rocky and carefully maneuvered myself to where the current pulled me down into the side channel I had seen in the maps. It was narrow and I could see riffles in the surface down stream just before it ducked around a bend. I pointed my stern down the channel so that I could see where I was going and wondered what I would find.

I carefully watched the riffles and worked to stay in what seemed like the deepest portions while avoiding fallen trees as the narrow channel wound its way through bend after bend. Eventually it slowed and I found myself among a collection of low islands. I pulled my grandfathers binoculars out of their case to see what birds were around as I continued drifting stern down flow. I spotted a kingfisher which I always enjoy, but didn’t see too much else.

While I was drifting backwards, I found myself musing about the parallels between exploring new areas by boat and starting new endeavors in your life. I didn’t expect to find myself grounded so many times, and I didn’t know what would happen around each bend of the small channel I drifted backwards down. As I start a small business with an initial run of the chair I recently designed, there are so many unknowns. I’m not sure where it will lead or what all the challenges are that I will face. Thankfully, at the moment I am still doing a lot of teaching for the fabrication team at ADX and teaching with the boat school, so my current risk is limited. I’m also excited that with a bit of luck I will have a bit of space to keep more tools and chair parts at ADX which will help my productivity. At the moment, I am excited about my future prospects and proud of the work it has taken to get where I’m at. I’m excited to see what’s around the next bend. Along the way I’ll try to enjoy the view.

IMG_1489 IMG_1490 IMG_1493Look! Aquatic mammal!

Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge in the distance. If you zoom in, you can see the Vista House.IMG_1496 My grandfathers binoculars.IMG_1491 All the rails, arm parts, and legs roughed out for 5 chairs.IMG_1499

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Here are some better pictures of my three legged side chair. At some point I will get some help from someone who knows more about photography than I do, but here they are all the same. In particular I wanted to share some of the details I have enjoyed figuring out on this piece. Every piece is curved or turned. Every piece has both tenons that fit into a adjoining pieces and a mortise to accept another piece. The legs are canted and splay out for stability. The seat and seat back are laminated. All these details make the chair both challenging and satisfying to build.

Perhaps most challenging parts to cut well are the shoulders of the tenons where the rails meet the legs. I decided that for a clean aesthetic the shoulders had to fit the radius of the legs. Cutting the shoulders takes several steps and utilizes both carefully made jigs for my router and hand work with a chisel. IMG_1455

The holes that the let tenons fit through on the arms must be precisely cut to match the angles of the legs which are all canted out for stability. This picture also highlights what seems to be becoming my signature detail: The tenons with black walnut wedges.
IMG_1462The sweep of each curve must gracefully lead into the next. Though I liked the curves on the prototype, every curve has been tweaked for the revised set of patterns that I will use on the next 5 chairs. The final chairs will have plugs covering the screw holes for mounting the seat back.


The design has the minimal number of pieces needed for an upholstered chair with arms, but there is plenty to draw the eyes in for a second look. It is both light weight and elegant. IMG_1442 IMG_1444


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The chair that may launch a furniture business! Though I continue to enjoy the teaching I do with the boat school, there are often gaps between those classes or times when there are simply fewer classes running. Those gaps must be filled! After finishing the Shearwater, furniture became the focus of my personal woodworking and it’s been a productive couple of months. Among other pieces, I finished a Tage Frid designed Three-Legged Stool, a chair inspired by a Wharton Esherick, and I designed and built a chair which drew much of its inspiration from several of the greats in danish modern design including Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl.

With the completion of a prototype for my most recent chair design, I have decided to start a small furniture business. My plan is to design and build small runs of furniture. I am starting with a light-weight side chair. The next design I have in the works is a lower lounge chair in a similar style. I will start work on a website dedicated to this side of my woodworking soon, but I’d like to introduce my first design here now.

The design brief that I set for myself was fairly simple: a light weight side chair for use in a living room. After finishing my Tage Frid three-legged stool, I was struck by how much my housemates moved it around. I would find it in a different part of the living room every few days after it was finished. Its light weight allowed for a much more flexible use of the space in the living room, which also led to the space being used more. This design was conceived as a way to continue what began as an inadvertent experiment exploring how people use communal spaces. I wanted to design the sort of chair that friends could pull up to a coffee table for playing games, or which could be used as additional seating in the dining room. At the end of the day it can be quickly returned to wherever it typically lives. Throughout these uses, the chair had to be comfortable. I began collaborating with my upholsterer early in the process to ensure that the final stages of the project went smoothly. In addition, I wanted to design a chair that was elegant, distinctive and fun.

You can see the result below. I finished it a little over a week ago and so far the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone comments on how comfortable it is. One part of the chair that continues to elicit positive feedback is the backrest which people find to to be at just the right height and angle to support their lumbar without being large.

I am gearing up to produce a small run of these chairs. I have worked to better organize my shop for chair making, and after getting feedback from a wide range of people, I will be making a range of minor adjustments to improve the aesthetics and the comfort of this initial design. Last week I visited Zena Forest Products and purchased enough Oregon White Oak to produce 5 more of these chairs. I expect the price to come in at between $600 and $800 dollars upholstered. I will be able to offer a more solid price as I near completion of this initial run.

If you are interested in purchasing one of these chairs, please let me know.


Even cats find it comfortable.

IMG_1417The set of rolling cubbies I built earlier this week to keep chair parts, jigs, and patterns organized. Organization is one of the keys to an efficient shop.IMG_1434 

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