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Cool furniture, design objects and desiderata

Discussion in 'Fine Living, Home, Design & Auto' started by gdl203, Oct 22, 2008.

  1. Loathing

    Loathing Senior member

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    I have noticed that certain PP designs are £3-4K per chair, including the PP501/3 and the cow horn chair, but you can impute from the complex joinery why these would be much more expensive.

    But the PP58, for example, is priced very reasonably (£650 from my supplier).

    Price is obviously a consideration, but I prefer not to compromise so I'm inclined to save up for what I really love rather than buy something cheaper now.

    The wishbone is excellent too, but it has become so ubiquitous in London that it might be nice to have something different at home for the purpose of variety if nothing else.

    Anyway, I appreciate your input as always. Thanks.
     
  2. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    I had a reply drafted moments before the site was shut down to be updated, sigh.

    Oil varnish, which is normally what is used when a company refers to oil "finish" is as you have experienced, not especially protective at a low build. They can be at a high build but then they no longer look anything like an oil finish as most would recognize it to be. I like the finished effect of a low build oil finish, but just like yourself I found it to be overall very underwhelming.

    I realize this is neither here nor there for someone buying manufactured furniture, but I prefer low build shellac for applications where I want to impart some color into the wood. It's about as "protective" as oil, but much easier to repair (for me).

    To help protect either finish you can apply a microcrystalline wax over the finish. It will not save you if someone leaves a sweaty glass on your table for hours, but will if it's wiped up quickly.

    I like soaped finishes as well. I've always suspected they seem to simple for the general public to readily adopt them but everyone I know who has experienced living with them seems to enjoy both how light they are and how easy they are to repair.

    This is also not especially useful for those buying manufactured furniture but for lighter woods I've taken to applying 'kanna shiage' which is a planed surfaced that when free of defects is especially durable. This is a very common method in Japan.

    I've haven't seen anything from Carl Hansen that implied poor quality, but one can certainly build more detail into chairs typically retailing at 2-5x what CH's line usually retails at. The wishbone chair especially, it's a very nicely made chair with cut tenons, steam bent back, legs and bent lamination support along with a nicely woven seat. They're neatly finished, and entirely finished unlike many chairs where the bottom is left alone hoping that no one will notice. They're not quite as sculpted or detailed as something like the PP501, but they're hitting two very different price points.

    Would you be more specific about CH?
     
  3. Loathing

    Loathing Senior member

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    I'm not knowledgeable about woodwork/cabinetry, but the CH25, for example, does seem exceptionally well made to me. I suppose that's reflected in its price though.

    @SkinnyGoomba Could I ask your advice regarding soaped ash? Does ash have any compelling disadvantages as a wood?
     
  4. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    We had a pair of oak CH25 lounge chairs--it was the pair that had a defect and we returned.

    They came with a huge crack going through the top of the back leg--plainly visible. It was maybe 5-6 inches long and a millimeter or so thick. If that weren't bad enough, the crack had been filled with glue or some other kind of filler, implying they went ahead and manufactured/shipped the chair even after realizing the wood was defective. To me, that is unacceptable for a $3.5K piece of furniture.

    Also, the different wood parts did not match well--as if they came from different parts of the tree or different trees from different forests altogether. Picture one side of the chair being noticeably darker than the other.

    To put all this in context, as many of you might have gathered, I've had a lot of experience with a lot of the higher end contemporary furniture manufacturers. Unfortunately, issues like the above are not as rare as they should be. Easily one out of four pieces of furniture we've ordered has had some issue--and half of those were bad enough to require return or exchange.

    We originally had dining room chairs from Maruni. Gorgeous Fukasawa designs. At $2K per chair, I would expect pretty decent quality. Not so. The oil finish was not evenly applied, so areas near joints or on the undersides of parts simply had no finish. There were an unusual number of knots in the wood. But worst of all, and similar to the Carl Hansen issue above, there was a huge split in one of the seats that they had filled with glue. Needless to say, these chairs went back to the vendor--and only after weeks and weeks of Maruni arguing that they would never make a chair with split wood and fill it with glue. It took half a dozen photos before they admitted somone fucked up and lost their job over it.

    So, Carl Hansen is no better or worse than its peer group. They make great stuff and if I preferred any of their designs, I would not hesitate to order from them--but I'd also be crossing my fingers that there won't be some problem to deal with. To be clear, that would also be the case with Knoll, Vitra, Cappellini, etc.

    My main point is that PP Mobler is not really in Carl Hansen's peer group. The prices are much higher--the PP 512 chairs are twice the price of the CH25s, for example. But I think the higher prices are commensurate with superior quality/consistency. We have three lounge chairs and six dining chairs from them--all were delivered without flaw or defect. In my experience, that is a remarkable hit rate for one maker.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017 at 8:48 AM
    Loathing likes this.
  5. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    None that I'm aware of, it's an excellent wood. I use it regularly because I prefer it to oak, but they're both great woods.
     
  6. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    The crack is a non-starter.

    Generally speaking and having nothing to do with this specific case/maker:

    As you've been finding out, when you begin to get much more particular then you're quickly climbing the ladder toward the top tier. When you begin to set parameters such as 'cut from the same tree', we're generally talking pretty high price points. I can appreciate that of course and I'm glad to see that it is recognized as a parameter for quality. I've seen that PP Mobler does, at least for some chairs, cut all of the parts from the same boulle of lumber. This is not typical amongst furniture makers in general, but it is typical amongst the top tier of furniture makers. It's also not very easy to pull off if one needs a variety of different thicknesses of lumber. If they're large enough scale and/or thinking far enough into the future they will be milling their own material and drying/aging it as they see fit.

    There are many reasons as to why this is impractical in some cases and the biggest of which being that it is certainly more expensive to do so and requires much more skill in carving up the lumber initially. Chairs, for instance, require very strong parts so there are areas of the log that are just completely useless to chair building.

    My ideal would be rift sections of the same tree, matched where applicable, and running along the grain to minimize grain run out.

    I'm building a prototype dining chair currently, and cutting sections like those aforementioned with exception that it's not all from the same tree (it's a prototype, so buying a boulle of lumber specifically for it is a needless expense, but for the client chairs they will be). The amount of material which fits those parameters requires a lot of material to be wasted off of the rough sections. Most manufacturers just cannot afford to make their price points and consume lumber in this fashion.

    I will set aside the waste material and slowly use it over time in other applications, but a manufacturer with a fixed group of designs to work from is likely going to sell that waste to someone making chip board or similar and really not recouping much of its value.

    So, makers are generally only going to be concerned with these things up until the point where it begins to negatively effect their product, in the case of chairs it would be either splintered sections or sections which break too easily.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017 at 12:26 PM
  7. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I'm not sure there is any disagreement here. As I've been saying, PP Mobler and Carl Hansen are at different price points, so it would make sense that the costlier might be better in certain ways.

    That said, Carl Hansen is not cheap furniture. There is no amount of wealth at which point a $3,500 chair isn't a "nice" chair. They should be able to do a better job of selecting wood--I'm not convinced it is a cost issue at their prices. Fredericia makes superior stuff, where the wood appears to be better selected, and is priced better to boot. Both are Danish. Both manufacture iconic Danish designs. If I had to guess, the difference comes down to how much is allocated to marketing.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017 at 10:08 AM
  8. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    No disagreement really, just sharing the information I have on the topic from my experience as a maker.

    I don't know the specifics of how CH processes their material, which is why I'm only providing general information about the industries.

    I've seen a lot of CH furniture and it's all been pretty high quality. There is a chance that the chair was fine when it left the factory....

    WRT the color, there is a wide variation on certain boards from side to side due in part to how the grain shows through. This is especially prominent in white oak.
     
  9. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    I'm working with white oak at the moment, laminating a chair seat;

    These boards came from the same larger board.

    [​IMG]

    These are the same two boards, turned 90 degrees.

    [​IMG]

    So there can be distinct color difference in certain sections of white oak, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
     
  10. FlyingMonkey

    FlyingMonkey Senior member

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    Following this conversation, I just went to check out the prices of a few things and I ended up ordering a pair of CH24s in the 'limited edition' elm. They are a present for my wife, who has always wanted a 'Y Chair' (which is how they generally refer to the CH24 in Japan). Plus I really like elm... so, all-in-all, perfect thread synchronicity.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017 at 7:59 AM
    sugarbutch, Loathing and Journeyman like this.
  11. Hobbs

    Hobbs Senior member

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    What are the advantages of elm over oak, for example?
     
  12. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    Those are nice! I like the coloration of elm, some elm's have a light brown coloration to them. Elm is similar to ash in many ways.
     
  13. FlyingMonkey

    FlyingMonkey Senior member

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    As the skinny woodmeister reminds us, every wood has its aesthetic virtues and suitable uses. And like Skinny, I just happen to appreciate the colour and grain of elm (and ash). In addition, both are trees I remember from my childhood before Dutch Elm Disease virtually wiped out elm trees in the UK and across Europe - and for that reason and others you just don't see a lot of elm furniture, although it is now making a comeback in a more reststant strain, all of which makes it a little more interesting. I like oak too...
     
  14. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Love the wishbone chairs. They are great in virtually any context. Price represents a fantastic value, too.
     
  15. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Can't buy these and the sand-blasted finish is sort of a gimmick, but love the shapes and proportions:

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Medwed

    Medwed Senior member

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    These are suppose to be hit by a throwing bat? I played that game as a kid.
     

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