Vidar's Chair

ten Week Program — $8750
all materials provided

"He came on his bicycle, with the chair nearly finished, he had not yet decided on the back piece. He turned my shop into a disaster area. He would keep sawing blanks for the back piece. And he would put one in and he would draw on his pipe. He had a low voice and a calm way, he'd look back at that back piece and say "Ya, well, maybe, what would happen if we turn it upside down?" and we'd turn it upside down and now that wouldn't work. And then he'd saw another one and the clock was going around and around. It was one o'clock and two o'clock and finally he put a piece in there. He looked at it and then he went over to the bandsaw and he took a little bit here and a little bit there and he put it in there and he backed off and he said "Ya, well maybe it's better that way." and that was the back piece for the chair,  the way it is now and forever. And it is not to my credit but the only thing that I cherish is the memory because he did not live after that. People like it it is a very comfortable chair, I am sitting in one of them right now talking to you. The prototype was finished in Jim Krenov's shop and that he and Vidar were very close friends. That's nice for people to remember. It was around 1970." – James Krenov


The chair we will be making was designed and originally made by Vidar Malmsten, the son of Carl Malmsten with whom Jim trained from 1957-1959. Vidar finished the chair in Jim’s little shop in Bromma Sweden around 1970. The templates were derived from one of the originals, which were made of white oak and are still in use today.

Among the furniture we will make as a cabinetmaker, chairs are perhaps the most complex. Chairs are, after all, furniture which is most like us. Typically they are filled with curves and compound angled joinery. Chairs are subject to the criteria of other fine furniture including aesthetics and structural integrity; in addition they have the added criteria of ergonomics. 

In chair making, grain graphics are perhaps even more important, as the individual parts of a chair are not generally very wide or thick and often are curved. Selection of material is as important for aesthetic purposes as it is for the structural integrity of the chair.

We begin making the templates, which are made of solid wood, cut on the bandsaw and shaped using our hand tools. The templates, are then used to make our shop drawings, allowing us to better understand the process we are undertaking.

The stock is carefully laid out using negative templates. We use 8/4 stock which gives us the flexibility of rotating the cut on many of the parts to optimize grain graphics. The crest rail was traditionally done using 12/4 rifts sawn stock, which can be difficult to obtain. We use 8/4 flat sawn stock that is laminated with sacrificial blocks to achieve the same result. We want to cut all parts out oversize and allow them to rest. While the amount we leave is greatly dependent on the movement in the wood being cut, we pay attention to how the wood behaves coming off the back of the bandsaw. Remember, small parts coming out of large planks, the wood is apt to move. Pay close attention to what the wood is doing while it is coming off the saw. Does it have internal tensions? You will have a better idea of what to expect. Your dancing with the material, and your not necessarily leading.

The parts are milled to final dimension and mortise and tenon joinery completed including; offset, double offset, angled, compound angled, and compound angle with a cove. Much of the joinery requires shop made fixtures and jigs to complete. There are seventeen assemblies to complete the chair, many requiring specialized cauls. Profiles are cut on the bandsaw and all shaping, surface preparation and edge treatment are done using our hand tools. 

Vidar Malmsten (right with father Carl

Vidar Malmsten (right with father Carl

The chair is a wonderful exercise in grain graphics, increasingly complex joinery and shaping. Having made the chair myself and assisting dozens of students worldwide complete the chair, I have observed students, having completed this chair, who are filled with a deep feeling of accomplishment and confidence in their work.

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Application for this program requires completion of Upward Spiral, a consult with the Program Director & Teacher, and completion of the application package. Upon completion of the Vidar's Chair program, students may apply for entrance into our Composing program.