From Concept to Finish: An Outdoor Chair

Quick update! We have moved (again) and this time we have actually found ourselves in a space that we shouldn't outgrow in a month! Not only are we product designers and builders, but we are quickly become professional shop movers. 

This summer we had a request for a patio set consisting of a table, bench and four chairs. Each one became a new design, allowing us to explore some materials and ideas that haven't appeared that often in our other work. In this post I'll give you a little insight in how we took the chair from an idea in our head to a finished piece. 

When we collaborate with a client, we often begin with sketches (often quick and dirty) and work into renderings and/or scale thinking models. While we have worked with other programs in the past, Solidworks is the dominant rendering program used in our office. 

Renderings are not a perfect representation of how someone may interact with the furniture, but it gives us opportunities to show different color and material combinations quickly. From there we produce technical drawings that we work off of to create a full scale prototype. Ergonomics is a huge focus of our design process, which means we sit/stand on everything we build before making an actual piece. 

In this particular series, slats of various widths became our twist on the stereotypical "picnic" set. With a full scale model, we played with the composition of the slats. Call it... purposeful randomness!  


Once we had everything adjusted--the angle of the back-- and edited--the slat facet details-- we proceeded to building the four of the design. The final material choice was determined to be aluminum for its anti-rusting characteristics and weight, and batu hardwood for its beautiful deep reddish color, straight consistent grain, and its resilience to the outdoors. 

With aluminum being as soft as it is, Kevin was able to cut away at stock using our compound mitre saw usually reserved for wood. 

Meanwhile, I was stuck at the table saw for a couple of days cutting and faceting slats. Just when we think we are close to being done, there's always another detail to consider or a surface to make a little bit smoother. 

The final results are this chair finished with an Azure powder coat and Messmer's oil on the batu. 

 Detail of the chair's back leg.

Detail of the chair's back leg.

 Subtle angle on the front legs, as well as a faceted details on the front slat of the seat. 

Subtle angle on the front legs, as well as a faceted details on the front slat of the seat.