Category Archives: Seating

New table top and bench seats for old bottoms

Divanix table.jpg

Red Mahogany (recycled flooring) table top and bench seats

Somehow it seems that I have done very little so far this year.  But I have been busy – pool deck, sculptures, treen, etc have all been done and are out of the shed.  There have been disruptions – a trip to Melbourne that had unforeseen consequences followed up by a round or two with the medical profession, who then banned me from shed work for a few weeks – enforced rest!  But I haven’t made any furniture – until now!

This table and bench seats have just left my workshop.  The table top and bench seats are made from recycled hardwood flooring – I believe the timber is locally known as red mahogany – not that it has any striking resemblance to real mahogany.  The timber is hard, heavy and rather beautiful – and it works well with machine tools and hand tools too.  These particular floorboards may have been on an open veranda, as they were well weathered, especially at one end, and there was a good amount of iron stain around nail holes.  The timbers also had remains of carpet tacks and underlay staples.

Machining the timber went well – only a few odd legs of staples missed, but it did cost me a set of planer blades.

The table top and seats were made as part of a swap deal for several massive slabs of Jacaranda.

The old bottoms of the title do not belong to the owners (Pete and the Divanix).  The table and seats were installed on existing trestle bases – an upgrade from the old weather damaged chipboard table and seats.  All in all, I am quite happy with the result – as usual, I can see things I should have done better….  Maybe next time.  Maybe Pete and Di will ask me to make new bases someday?




170528 Plane Stool1-3a

Stool – London Plane and Turpentine

I needed to make a stool.  Just for the exercise – a practice piece.  Su needed a stool in her studio – a low stool, just 450 high.

I set out to make a stool with four legs and a round seat.  I had a small slab of London Plane that was big enough for a seat.  It was a pretty ugly lump of timber, but it was good enough.  I also had some clean straight Turpentine for the legs.

I trimmed the slab to get a piece to work on for the seat – flattened it and thicknessed it by hand – my planer/thicknesser lacks the width required for the job.  Cut the leg blanks out, and tapered them on the band saw.  Planed the legs straight and square.  Turpentine is hard to work, hard on tools and has lots of interlocking grain in the circumferential direction.  But I got square tapered legs, with not too much tear-out, then cut tapered tenons.

But I kept looking at a chunk that I had docked from the slab.  Long enough, but not really wide enough.  I’ve always had a weakness for primitive/African type stools, and I know Su likes them too.  What the hell – lets use it.

It was a most unlikely piece of wood – rot and termites had left a mark along one edge, the other was the live edge of the slab.  Dirty and looking decidedly manky.  But when I opened the piece up – wow!  Beneath the dirt and grime, the timber was a delicate pinkish colour, with black lines in a swirling pattern and blonde colours too.

Lesson 1 – you never know what the timber beneath is like until you open the slab.  This looked like dross, but came up diamonds!

It flattened quickly and relatively easily, and I set out to drill and ream the seat for the tapered leg tenons.  Marked out sight lines, set the bevel, and drilled from the top of the seat – drilled 1/2″ dia holes for the legs.  Set up the reamer, reamed the first taper, test fitted the leg – catastrophe!  The leg pointed the wrong way!  Then it dawned on me that I needed to ream the taper from the underside!   Damn!  I tossed the chunk of timber into the scrap bin (maybe I could turn a small bowl?).

Lesson 2 – think the process through, take your time, and double check set-ups!

Time for coffee.  I told Su that the beautiful piece for her stool seat was trash!  Su says that it’s only for her studio, she likes the timber, and I should patch it!

After coffee, back in the shed, I found the piece of Banksia that I had used to  make test taper, cut off the tenon, and glued it into the hole.  When the clue was set, re-drilled the hole in the seat, turned the seat over, and reamed out all of the holes.  Legs all point in the right direction!

I shaped the seat – mostly with a wide gouge, cutting across the grain.  I liked the look, and decided to go with a tooled finish.

Lesson 3 – if you are doing a tooled finish on a seat or table top, keep your tools sharp!

Sanded back, glued in the legs, trimmed the through tenons, leveled the legs, a couple of coats of Danish Oil and a coat of wax.  Done!

Despite the obvious Dutchman, I’m happy with that!  More important, Su is happy with that!

170528 Plane Stool1-1a


What was he thinking?

Lounge ChairsVladimir Kagan Classics:


Vladimir Kagan was a noted designer of furniture in the USA.

According to Wikipedia – “Vladimir Kagan (August 29, 1927 – April 7, 2016) was an American furniture designer. He was inducted in the Interior Designer Hall of Fame in 2009, 62 years after he started designing and producing furniture.

Born in Germany, emigrated to the USA in 1938.  Became attracted to architecture and design. Graduated from the School of Industrial Art in 1946, as an architecture major and then went on to study architecture at Columbia University.

He was best known for his sleek Modernist style – or ‘mid-century modern’ as they call it in this century…

But this chair?  What was he thinking?



Vienna Secession and Wiener Werkstatte


Josef Hoffmann – Sitzmaschine chair – 1905

I kind of stumbled across the Vienna Secession – I had no idea….

I like chairs, and I follow chairs on Pinterest.  From time to time these curious chairs turned up – Josef Hoffman designs in particular.  Some of the images were tagged as being from the Vienna Secession – so I went exploring…

According to Wikipedia, ‘The Vienna Secession (German: Wiener Secession; also known as the Union of Austrian Artists, or Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs) was formed in 1897 by a group of Austrian artists who had resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists, housed in the Vienna Künstlerhaus. This movement included painters, sculptors, and architects. The first president of the Secession was Gustav Klimt, and Rudolf von Alt was made honorary president.’ 

Wiki goes on to say ‘The Vienna Secession was founded on 3 April 1897 by artists Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Max Kurzweil, Wilhelm Bernatzik and others. Although Otto Wagner is widely recognised as an important member of the Vienna Secession he was not a founding member. The Secession artists objected to the prevailing conservatism of the Vienna Künstlerhaus with its traditional orientation toward Historicism. The Berlin and Munich Secession movements preceded the Vienna Secession, which held its first exhibition in 1898.

That’s 120 years ago.

Gustav Klimt is one whose name I’ve heard, and I’ve seen images some of his spectacular work.  His painting ‘Adele Bloch-Bauer I’ (or ‘Woman in Gold’ as it was renamed) was the centre-piece of the Helen Mirren movie ‘Woman in Gold’.

But it is Kolomon Moser’s work that fascinates me.  I find his paintings, lithographs and gorgeous inlaid furniture intriguing.  His paintings and prints are exotic with a freshness and clarity…  But his furniture is simply spectacular!

I need to learn more about the Kolomon Moser, Josef Hoffman, and Gustav Klimt – and the Vienna Secession and its offspring, the Wiener Werkstatte

By Kolo Moser (1868-1918), 1902, Exhibition of the Vienna Secession.:

Kolomon Moser, 1902 – Exhibition of the Vienna Secession


Kolomon Moser


Kolomon Moser – Cabinet with nlaid panels c 1903 – From the Eisler-Terramare Apartment Bedroom, – Leopold Museum


Kolomon Moser – Armoire – c 1900


Gustav Klimt – 1901, Beethoven Frieze


Josef Hofmann – ‘Egg’ rocker – ca 1920

Ilmari Tapiovaara

According to Wikipedia – Yrjö Ilmari Tapiovaara (September 7, 1914 – January 31, 1999) was a Finnish designer noted for his furnishings and textiles.


In 1937 he graduated in interior design and in the following year worked for Asko. He would count Alvar Aalto as a strong influence. In World War II, Tapiovaara designed dugouts and field furniture to the Finnish Army, a challenging task given that only local wood and simple tools could be used, and no nails or screws were available. His own work gained attention for the Domus chairs. These came about while working with his wife at the Domus Academica from 1946 to 1947. The couple established their own office in 1951. In the following year he taught design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. After this he would do work in Paraguay and Mauritius on behalf of a United Nations development program. Further in 1959 he received the Order of the Lion of Finland’s “Pro-Finlandia medal.”[1] He did much of his work for universities, schools, and also did a “Root Table” for the Finnish army.[2] Furniture designs based on his sketches continued to be produced into the twenty-first century

He designed a number of notable and interesting chairs.

The Domus Chair:


The Pirka Chair:


The Mademoiselle Chair:


The ‘Dr No’ Rocker:


Side Chairs:


(All above photos from Google images)



Standard chair

These were the first adult sized chairs I made – and the first of a set of 6 for the dining table.

These ‘evolved’ from a chair designed by Finnish designer Ilmari Tapiovaara, with a bit of Welsh chair and other influences.  That’s the thing with design – nothing happens in isolation, nothing is absolutely new – especially when you are dealing with furniture, which has some fairly rigorous functional demands (or limitations) – it must be comfortable and/or serviceable.  So basically – I absorbed images, ideas, designs – then shut all the photos, all the books, and started to draw a chair that ‘looked right’.

These chairs were made from some wood sourced from the ‘urban forest’ – I was given the wood by a friend – he slabbed the timber from a tree on his block and never got round to using it.  The timber is allegedly turpentine – not a good choice.  Turpentine is normally favoured for bridge timbers – resistant to rot, termites, and fire (classified as non-combustible!).  It  is heavy – too heavy for chairs – hard as glass, interlocking grain, and high silicon.

The chairs were ebonised with with a spirit stain and finished with a tung oil and polyurethane blend.

I am happy with these chairs.  They are comfortable to sit in and I like the look of them.  They feel good.  Eventually, I will make some leather seat cushions for them – but they are pretty comfortable as it is.