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 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

In Which We Build a Ridiculously Simple Chair.  


A couple of blogs ago I wrote about Playatech furniture, which is made of interlocking sheets of plywood. Here is another approach to simple furniture that is tons of fun to make. We recently added this book to our catalog. The projects in it are as the book suggests ridiculously simple, especially for someone such as myself with a full shop. The chair I am building is made from 1 piece of 3/4" plywood, 2' x3'. That's right two feet by 3 feet. We actually made two chairs by just lopping off three feet from a sheet of plywood and then splitting that in two. By we I mean Toby, my local Festool rep and myself. The truth is we both get a lot of time do to partial demos and single operations all the time but Toby jumped on the project when he saw that we could get something done pretty quickly, with very little effort, that was actually a real useful piece of furniture. Basically we just cut two sheets of plywood out, screwed them together and cut out both chairs at once. In the first picture you can see me try up the edges of the pieces with a TS75. Most of the time I am using a TS55 which would have been fine for this but a TS75 was handy. It's the first time I have ever done serious plunge cutting and the stops for the guide rail made it a snap. It was also the first time I every actually built an entire project using the multifunction table. Sometimes the cuts over hung the table, sometimes we plunged over the table into the expendable MDF table top, which gave a cleaner cut and much simpler setup. We used a jigsaw on the curves. Which we screwed up a little. More on that in another blog. And then we did a little sanding. This was the first time I ever clamped anything vertically using the side slots of the MFT table. It worked like a charm. Actually building furniture, even simple stuff, really gives you a sense of what you can do with the Festool system, much more so than a demo because you have to set up for specific operations and hit specific dimensions so you have to do what's needed, not just what's easy to do. The project went very quickly, most quickly once we got into the swing of things. Cutting out the parts of both chairs, and assembling one of them, including tea breaks, took only a few hours to make but it was spread over a bunch of days and would take a lot less if we weren't working in a showroom and could just get it done.
This chair is screwed and glued together. It's pretty comfortable. The back is a little high, It feels a little better but makes the chair look very narrow. It feels pretty solid to me and I think is a great design. The book shows the chair all painted, which can be a fun project in itself, but I used pre-finished plywood which I had around. I will varnish the edges darker and I think it will look great. On the second chair I'm going to pre-drill the holes and then me and my six year old son can put it together when he next visits the shop. I think if the parts are pre-cut, it's a great kid project with a lot of bang for the buck at the end.

I should mention that while this project didn't push my skill level, it did get me making something, and these days, since I am so swamped, I am loath to take on a real classic woodworking project. The finished piece is real furniture and very useful. When I make the second chair with my son he will have the satisfaction of making something real, not a toy. All of these things are good. Please don't condemn me because there are no fancy joints on this piece. Not everything anyone does needs to be classic, and the simplest way to not build anything, and not go down to the shop to have the satisfaction of making something with your hands, and to paralyze yourself, is to determine that the only projects worth doing must be really really hard.

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Comments: 3
07/28/2011Shawn Nichols 
Amen Joel! I can't stand people thumbing their noses when someone just wants to get something accomplished. Not everything has to be destined for the Smithsonian. Great chair and good luck building its mate with your son.

08/15/2011Ari Z
That's a great looking chair considering it was so simple to create! It sounds like a fun project to get friends and family involved with because it isn't too complex and they get to walk away having created something real and useful! Must look great painted/stained.
09/07/2011Mark Hunt
Nice solid piece, and practical too. I could do with a couple of these for my children's room.
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