Chair stories: Bending Day (plus a Class Opening)

Velda's Arm Chair

Last month Leo bought a Velda’s Arm chair, a chair I made at Anderson Ranch with the class I was teaching there.  Here’s a story about his chair:

Imagine spending a hard day’s work shaping a single piece of walnut, then putting it in a piping hot steam chamber. You spend an hour waiting for it to heat, wondering if it will bend or break. For students, steam bending is a stressful process in the best of circumstances.

Pulling your crest rail out of the steam chamber, hands encumbered by big heat-shielding gloves, you rush to where fellow students hold an unwieldy piece of sheet metal fitted with wooden handles: a bending strap.

How the dickens did Elia say to do this? “Put the crest in the bending strap with the bevel…” Oh dear, which way? Got to rush! “The bending strap makes your crest less likely to break…” Great! But which way does the pencil line go?

“Flip the piece end-for-end,” Elia says just in the nick of time, and you slam it into the strap. Fellow students, shouting and jostling, start wrestle the bending strap into posit on top of the bending form. The crest falls out of the strap and onto the floor. Beginning again with more success, bending starts.

pop, Pop, CRACK! Oh no! Several splinters project from the wood’s surface.
“My fault,” says Elia. “the bending strap needed tightening. Here, I’ll give you a fresh start — take my crest. Another day, I’ll make your crest better than new and use it in another chair.”

Such is the amalgamating nature of classes. Bits of my work end up in the student’s chairs and, on a rare occasion, transformed bits of a student’s work end up in my chair. Because, for the duration of the class at least, we are a community of chairmakers working towards a common goal. We are all just trying to make a nice place to sit.


Chair class

I had a cancellation in my March 19-24th Continuous Arm class. First person to respond gets the spot. More info on my teaching page.

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Posted in Chair Stories, Classes
3 comments on “Chair stories: Bending Day (plus a Class Opening)
  1. Peter Follansbee says:

    Nicely put, Elia.

  2. Mike King says:

    It was a great class, Elia.

  3. Kyle Barton says:

    I remember that technique…And Mike’s right it was great and fun class!

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