A Good Chair

What constitutes a good green wood chair?

In October 2009, I was asked to judge the chairs made by the students on the BBC 2 series, Mastercrafts. They asked me to detail the main factors that I would be using in the judging process, which I found a very useful exercise when teaching chair-making on my courses. The most difficult part was to give a weighting to these criteria, as they are all important. Other people will have different factors and will certainly give them a different weighting but for what it is worth, here is my list:

Van Gogh's Chair, painted at Arles, 1882Comfort: 25%

  • Back support: Is there any discomfort with shoulder blades?
  • Does it have a comfortable height, depth and lean?
  • Does it have a comfortable/well shaped seat?
  • Does anything stick into the sitter?

 Strength and durability: 25%

  • Does it bounce when dropped?
  • Do the joints look & feel tight?
  • Do the joints creak or wobble when you lean back in it?
  • Do any components break or come loose under stress?
  • Does it feel as if it will last for years?

Appeal to the senses: 20%

  • Visual:
  1. Subjective “good looks”;
  2. Can you see the wood’s character, grain, colour?
  • Sound/feel:
  1. Does it have a vibrancy to it or is it stiff and dull?
  2. Does it have a sticky finish?
  • Smell:
  1. What finish has been used oil/wax/other?
  2. Can you smell the wood? Good/bad?

Energy input: 10%

  • How much high energy machinery was used? e.g. chainsaws, power lathes, bandsaws, planer/thicknessers, sanders etc
  • Have the materials been transported far and by what means?
  • Has it been made with love, care, skill and enthusiasm?
  • Does it display a sympathy with the materials?

Physical suitability: 10%

  • Will it fit round a dining table/office desk etc?
  • Is it light enough to easily pick up?
  • Does it feel stable?
  • Does it wobble on the floor?

Quality of finish: 10%

  • Are there any splinters, tool marks, glue marks, pencil marks? – bad
  • Is there evidence of cleaving? – good (in small doses)
  • Is there a good attention to detail?
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