A Chair In The Making

The Wine Barrel Chair

We wanted to produce a chair out of finer woods, so along came the idea of a chair made out of wine barrels. Modern Times Brewery donated six wine barrels to our group and that is where the process began. There was no set tutorial to follow but YouTube video which didn’t even share any measurements with us. Our first prototype was a learning experience for the entire group. From learning the techniques of painting and sanding to constructing the actual chair.



The Beginning Process

The wine barrel chairs look best when finished with poly acrylic. At first, we thought the poly acrylic would leave the barrel pieces shiny and glossy, but instead it gave them a subtle finish. Originally the barrel pieces came in ashy and rough, to solve this we sanded each piece individually. Once the pieces were sanded we wiped them down with tack cloth. The tack cloth removed any debris and powder that remained on the wood so the poly acrylic would glide on smoothly. Once the poly acrylic was on each piece we set them out to dry which would usually take 15 minutes to dry. 


A Day in The Workshop

Our day at work usually begins after Brendan, our engineering teacher, calls the attendance of our two period long engineering class. There are five of us in the furniture making group, Ana, Chase, Kush, Tai and me, Marissa. We leave the classroom and hurry into the lab so the rest of the class can have their discussion on building robots. The five of us usually take 5 to 10 minutes to discuss our plans for the two class periods.From there we branch out and begin to focus on our own mini projects to contribute to the company. There are quite a few projects that have to be taken care of daily and weekly. Before any progress is made in building a chair Ana, Marissa and Kush have to sand down the barrel pieces and then coat them with poly acrylic to have a finished look. 

 From there Chase and Tai take over the wood pieces and begin constructing the wine barrel chairs. The amount of time it takes to produce the chairs has varied because we just learned how to build them based on prototypes and YouTube videos. Aside from the construction of the chairs we have a mini team of three, Kush, Ana and I that work on the technology portion of the company. We work on social media pages such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to advertise our product and company. We also work on our webpage and add in blogs like the one you are reading at the moment.

Treehouse 37: Daytrippin'

After finishing a prototype of  what we had deemed the “hipster” coffee table- a three legged table of our own design, with a top the shape of a kidney bean (or deformed boomerang  depending on who you asked)- we were feeling pretty good about our budding carpentry skills and were ready for our next challenge. Since we had just finished making a table, a  chair seemed like the logical next step for us. Inspired by our recent success, we searched Yellawood for a design and quickly found the daytripper chair: a quirky, folding chair, with curved legs that didn’t didn't look overly complex, yet still difficult enough to pose a challenge. After successfully cutting out the curved design of our “hipster” table, we felt confident that we would be able to put our new curve cutting skills towards bringing a more complex design to life.

So without much planning, we dove head first into the project; armed with instructions and confidence, ready to take on a challenge. Little did we know that that confidence would soon be torn apart by the project’s surprising difficulty

It started off simple enough, once we had gotten all of the straight cuts out of the way, we timidly approached the curves. After carefully reading the instructions, We proceeded to make the great idea of not following them at all and improvising what would become, by far, the worst part of the project. While the instructions called for us to make the curves by bending a thin piece of wood between two nails, and then using a jig saw to cut along the curve, we decided to try things a different way.


Photo by: Chloe & Blake

We opted to use our class laser cutter to make perfect wooden templates. We laser cut out a piece that was the shape the legs were supposed to be. From there the plan was to trace the legs using the template we had cut, then cutting out the legs with a router, thinking it would give us greater precision than the other tools. The first roadblock came early in the process when we realized just  how difficult it would be to cleanly route through such thick wood, so we were back to the jigsaw. And as if that wasn’t already bad enough, the little hope we had left began to dwindle when we noticed the jigsaw we were using-an old and abused piece of machinery that had definitely seen better days-was dying. There was another, better jigsaw we desperately wanted to use, but  the battery that fit the better jigsaw was nowhere to be found. With the clock ticking we caved and used the lesser jigsaw, desperately cutting the rough outline that we had planned to shave down to perfection with the router.

After days of cutting with a tool that would make even the most jaded of safety inspectors cringe, we gave up on the jigsaw. The use of a burning hot saw that took our full body weight to push the across the wood had turned into a dangerous and trying process that we decided to just abandon. Infact, it’s was probably the best decision we had made so far. What we originally thought to be a precise, yet moderately challenging plan, had turned into a nightmare featuring a revolving door of different tools and saws. Even after discovering a working battery that and using the other jigsaw to complete our rough cut's, our legs were still blocky pieces of wood that hardly resembled the beautiful curves we had imagined. But we still had one glowing beacon of hope: the router. It would remove all the ugly wood that was defacing the legs we had poured our souls into, leaving us with beautiful legs that would make this all worth it.


Photo by: Chloe & Blake

Then, as our luck would have it,  the router was no longer an option for us as we couldn’t find a bit to fit the machine or accommodate the odd dimensions of our wood. So with our plan now in complete ruins, we desperately searched  for an alternative. And then it dawned on us. The band saw was what we needed all along, albeit if we had followed the instructions a working jigsaw could have foregone a lot of pain, but the band saw was exactly what we needed to save our week of  work. So with a tangible plan in place we were finally able to move forward past our roadblock and on to the final stages of the design.


Photo by: Chloe & Blake

With our freshly cut chair legs and some rekindled hope, we began to furiously sand the legs until they were relatively proportional. At this point the frustrating process of working with a curved surface that slid all over the table while we attempted to measure and drill, felt like nothing compared to the troubles we already went through. With the end finally in sight, we drilled, screwed and glued all the pieces together. Even with our challenges apparent in our final design, the chips and misshapen edges really show the process behind our product. It may not be a perfect little chair, but hey, at least it has some character.


Buy it HERE

What's this here for?

So why would an Engineering Site highlight a blog?

Good question Brendan, let me answer that for you: This is here to help chronicle our class, student experiences, be a resource for our class, and keep tabs on Brendan.


Most of the posts on here should be made by particular students.  Each week an honors student will be posting highlights from class, big deadlines and assignments, and also doing general announcements.

Occasionally, a student will be asked to write a 'guest blog' post.  Usually winners of competitions, or just a student that has a strong opinion on something and wants a place to voice those opinions.


Mentors will be asked to post occasionally to chronicle their journey through their students projects.  It will help future mentors understand what is expected of them, and also understand why they would want to come in and help us out.


Brendan will probably be posting general announcements and big events (though he'll probably pass that to his honors blogger).  He'll also be posting his personal projects, things he's making at home or in the lab for 'funzies'.