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Chair back joint

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tim

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I've just come back from a meeting with a client who wants me to look at a couple of projects (note look at, not here's my commitment to you financially!)

One of these is a request to make a pair of chairs similar to the one pictured below.


It is mahogany and we have agreed that someone else would paint the medallion. It is definitely not my cup of tea as far as design goes but I am intrigued by it.

What I can't work out though is how the back is fixed to the rear legs or apron. Any ideas? Also I haven't got a clue what to charge for this - the trouble with reproducing antiques is that unless you are making a batch of them or the items you are reproducing are famous and rare, it can easily work out more expensive to make new ones than track down old ones.


What I negelected to mention is that all I have to go on is this photo!

Cheers

Tim
 

Chris Knight

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Tim,

I would guess the back is fixed with dowels.

A multiple M/T would be possible too.

More difficult might be the side rails to back legs joint. I would guess an angled tenon but can't see enough of the thing to be sure. (Good candidate for Rat joinery!).

You will need to include time for a couple of jigs, that's for sure.
 

tim

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I think dowels too but I can't believe that that would take the kind of abuse chairs take. The back is definitely separate from the rear legs.

Curious to know more about the multiple M/T -not sure if I understand what you mean. (think I'm being thick!)

I had also seen the angled M&T Rat possibilities :wink:

I can't believe there is going to be enough margin in this to make a sensible price point but I also don't know how much that is down to my learning curves or lack of realism from the client's side. Could be an interesting question to continue the various pricing threads.

How long would most people think it would take them to make this then?

T
 

Aragorn

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Hi Tim
Like Chris, I reckon it would be a dowel joint, and also like Chris, I'd probably do it with multiple M&Ts meself.

tim":pi1v1bo1 said:
Also I haven't got a clue what to charge for this - the trouble with reproducing antiques is that unless you are making a batch of them or the items you are reproducing are famous and rare, it can easily work out more expensive to make new ones than track down old ones.
I'd say this is normally the case. New bespoke furniture is very expensive, and people will always do better searching around for antiques, if that's their style.
Just having a quick look, I'd say no less than £900 for the pair excluding materials.
Be very interested to hear what others might charge for such a project.
And Tim, like you, it's not my style, but I'd be very happy with a job like this coming my way!

Good luck with it.

EDIT: Overlapped with you their Tim!
 

Woodythepecker

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Tim personally i would say M&T's. As for the costing, it is hard to say without seeing more of the chair (have you got any more photos) but at a rough estimate between £1,000 and £1,200 the pair.

The trouble is, in my view it is not a very nice chair and i am sure the client would save money by going to a few antiques fairs, but if you can make it pay then you obviously do not want them to do that.

Good Luck. Let us know how you get on.

Regards

Woody
 

tim

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Thanks guys - I think your pricing is realistic in terms of what would be a reasonable amount to pay - I'm not sure I could make any money doing it for that - thats why I don't tend to do many chairs - they are always more expensive than people expect.

I'm still being thick I think about the joints. Obviously the legs should join the apron with M&Ts but the back splat is thin and not a continuum of the rear legs. So how would M&Ts work there.

Woody - it is the only pic I've got.

I think also I am being put off by the fact that I really don't like the design, coupled with the fact that I'm not sure I'd ever want to add it to my portfolio means that I am not sure that I want to risk what I imagine has a very high 'mistake' potential for limited reward. I'm not in a position to turn money down but for those of you who do this for a hobby, you can begin to see why we do so many kitchens!!

Imagine if these chairs took 40 hours - not so unrealistic once you factor in drawing time, jig making, trial runs, finishing etc and then you divide that into the figures above - excluding materials, you still need to take overheads (other than wage) into account. Not much profit there I fear.

I'd like to take up the challenge if I didn't feel that so many individual things could really screw it up and then even if none of those things did go wrong, I'd still have made two plug ugly chairs!

Maybe I'll think differently tomorrow. :wink:
T
 

tim

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Chris,

Thanks for this - I do understand teh M?t thing now - clearly I had been taking stupid pills.

Also well done for the link and it also confirmed my fears that it is an inherently poor design, with the back splat effecttively hinged at the bottom where it meets the apron, regardless of what joint is used.

Cheers

Tim
 

mudman

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I can't add to what other people have said about construction but I'd like to add to what you have said about what to charge.
You seem to be worrying about not making much profit as they will take a while to make and you feel you can't charge too much.
But, you also aren't too keen to take on the commission because they are unattractive. As this is the case, then you should not feel too constrained about how much you charge. How much do you want to earn as profit for a week's work? Use that as a marker, then increase it by some factor, maybe two and add on materials and a contingency. They can only say no and if they do, you haven't lost out as you didn't really want to do it anyway?
I would also make sure they are aware of the weaknesses of the design, they may change their minds as to what they want.
I would still put it in my portfolio though, just because it isn't your cup of tea doesn't mean that somebody else isn't looking for one. If the picture is good, then it will still show off your craftsmanship. Take the photo before the plaque is painted on which is the worst bit to my mind.
 

Adam

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I agree with Mudman to an extent, if you don't *really* want the work, explain to the client that chairs are particularly labour intensive, and hence extremely expensive realtive to "other" projects, especially as you are making a design completely from scratch, that you don't have any jigs or other templates you can re-use, so the NRE has to be charged on just the two chairs - and hence your quote will be really high. (and quite high enough you'd feel really happy to get the job if they did decide, so you work on it with enthusiasm).

If not, maybe ask one of our restorers if they can help, either if they'd like to take the project on, or if they could source something from their contacts/auction.

It can be profitable passing clients to other businesses who operate in slightly different areas as they can pass clients the other way as required.

Adam
 

Noel

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How about subbing the job out? Stick your 15% or 20% or whatever on your cost?
Hate to see a customer go elsewhere.

Noel
 

tim

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To be fair guys I wasn't going to just bin this before offering it out - I had literally left the meeting an hour or so before posting and wanted to get some feedback

Also I didn't get many buying signals from him over this - it was very much a 'oh and by the way have a look at this and see what you think'. Very much not top of his list.

I will work out a 'real' figure, explain the weaknesses in the deisgn and see what he says. If he rejects the figure, I will definitely ask here to see if anyone would be interested before any other decision is taken.

I think the reciprocal concept has a lot of merit BTW.

Cheers

Tim
 

Argus

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Tim,

That chair does not appear to be intended for sitting on - it an 'occasional' piece intended for show, hence, no stretchers or visible means of support for the legs or back. The Victorians dotted pairs of these about in vestibules etc as ornaments.
 

Sgian Dubh

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Tim, what you are looking at are known as Hall Chairs. They're not designed for sitting on. They were made in pairs to display at the end of a hall, often either side of something like a hall table which sat under an ornate gilt mirror or picture. The backs typically had family crests or other motifs carved or painted on.

The style shown is from about 1800- 1810'ish displaying typical Regency style sabre legs, and in mahogany in this case, although other examples might be in all sorts of woods. They could have been made later and be a copy of the earlier style.

Backrests were typically joined to the seat with a version of mortise and tenon-- often a series of tenons with room for expansion and contraction built into the mortises because the grain direction is opposed to the seat. This is a similar construction to that used in many clamped ends on tables, aka, breadboard ends. In poor versions a groove is worked in the seat and the bottom end of the backrest is either full housed or tongued in. There is little need for strength as the chairs were never really meant to be sat on anyway.

The side rails are mortised into the back leg, as they are into the front leg. The joinery is executed whilst the wood is still square and prior to shaping the rail. The legs, front and back are also jointed whilst still square or with known straight lines prior to their final shaping.

To make a pair of chairs like this I'd charge in the region of £4,500-- 5000, or maybe even more, plus a delivery charge. If the customer were to blink nervously at the mention of that sort of figure I'd rapidly lose interest in the job. A typical prototype or one-off chair (or pair of chairs in this case) usually requires between 60- 100 hours of time including design/drawing work, jig/pattern making, full-size mock-ups of joining techniques and shaping to test the jigs, and lastly construction and polishing of the final piece. Slainte.
 

Aragorn

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SD
That's very interesting and useful.
Allowing some for the mahogany, your prices/hours ratio seems to suggest you charge something between £50 and £75 per hour.
Is this right? Do people really pay you this much for this kind of work?

__________
Cheers!
Aragorn

Seriously worried that I am undercharging my work by a factor of three!
 

Sgian Dubh

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Aragorn, I don't charge as much as $75, but I do charge between £35 and £50 an hour for furniture construction depending on various factors, and more for design and consultancy work. I've reached a point in my life after more than thirty years in the business and with income from other sources that I charge a rate high enough to get me motivated. These sorts of charges also rapidly eliminate tyre kickers and other time-wasters-- and what does a plumbing or joinery firm charge nowadays anyway, ha, ha?

I haven't made a high quality table of any sort for less than £2,000 (or $3,000 when I lived in the US a year or so back) for many years, and these chairs are basically a funny looking table with a plank stuck up at one end, so I immediately see £3,500 labour at ~£40/hour, plus about £230 of swietenia mahogany and finishing materials with their mark up. Slainte.
 
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I have nothing to add to this but would like to say thanks for the info guys especially Richard, very interesting and a real eye-opener :D

Hope you get the commision at Ricard's rate Tim :wink:
 

Adam

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Sgian Dubh":3r3yaepj said:
Tim, what you are looking at are known as Hall Chairs. They're not designed for sitting on.
Thats really interesting stuff - although I have to admit - I hate stuff that isn't functional. OK, its aesthetically pleasing (well, maybe to someone somewhere) , but if they'd made them a bit stronger, you could sit on them as well!

Ahh, that must be the engineer in me talking!

I was also interested to see your comments on being well established, and pricing items at a level at which you would feel committed to making them.

Thanks for that Sgian.

Adam
 

Aragorn

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Thanks SD
I hope to be in a similar situation as you in another 10-15 years!
Well, actually, I hope to be there this year, but that's just wishful thinking!
 

tim

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Richard,

Many thanks for the comprehensive info. I did know they were hall chairs but I didn't know that they were purely decorative so that does make sense of the poor joint design.

Re pricing, the guy did put me on the spot when I was there and I said that I didn't think that I could make them for less than a £1k each plus materials (excluding the painting), which on reflection seems cheap considering the time needed. His reaction was mixed in that he didn't go ballistic but I also sensed that it was higher than he expected.

Your information has given me confidence that even if the client won't buy at those prices I am not making ridiculous figures up in my head and that there are experienced and skilled makers ( I have seen some of your very impressive stuff) who would walk away from the job at double the price.

I'll keep you all posted on what goes on here.

Cheers

Tim
 
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