What makes a chair a chair?


Being relatively new to woodworking, and having never built a chair, I've decided to give one a try. Square parts, because I don't have a lathe, and I'd like to try something with a caned seat, because I've never done that either. This brings me to my question.
What makes a dining chair a dining chair? Same thing with a vanity chair, a writing chair, a desk chair, a parlor chair, a porch chair and the like? Is it just stylistic elements? For instance, do dining chairs by definition have to have a (back) and a (seat) or certain geometry or (no) arms or be made of (wood) finished with (finish)?
Let's say I build a chair that I like, but isn't "suited" to my application? I don't have one in mind right now--in fact, I'll probably give the first one away if it doesn't go on the firewood pile. All other things being equal, if by extending this piece a few inches or finishing with shellac, I get an According-to-Hoyle (type) chair, why not do that? I know that there are lots of folks who say, "Build what you like, the hell with the rest of 'em." I, too, am one of those folks, but there are people out there who've spent a lot more time than me on this subject, and I'd like to think that a dining chair is a dining chair for a REASON. If the voices tell me that that reason makes sense, then I'll try to be faithful to it. If not, I'll "Build what I like, the hell with the rest of 'em."
Ladies and gentlemen, I await your discourse.
BTW, a Google Search revealed this:
Design a Chair hat Fits like a Glove", FWW Issue #96, Oct 1992, pp 88-91. Author Glenn Gordon
Details the construction and use of a chair-fitting rig used by John and Carolyn Grew-Sheridan who build chairs somewhere in San Francisco, according to the article.
Anyone have this issue who could scan and email or copy and mail? I'd appreciate it. FWW doesn't carry back issues that far, um, back.
-Phil Crow
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Depends ... to the point that social engineering with chairs is common place, and may have always been.
http://tinyurl.com/9sfap
Modern examples include the fact that chain restaurant chairs are routinely designed to only be comfortable for so many minutes to guarantee turnover, and you can be sued if the chair you supply your workers causes health probems.
There are time honored ergomonics involved that are worth taking into account when designing a chair for your own use. Height, and width, of the seat; backrest generally angles away from the seat 5 - 7 degrees; the front of the seat is usually wider than the back, etc. There is a world of information on chair design and ergonomics.
http://www.individualfurniture.com/maker/design.htm
--
www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 12/13/05
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Phil, Just go build a chair. You will answer all your questions yourself. If you'll excuse me now, I've got to go finish a glue up for a rocking chair that I'm building. :-)
OBTW, you might look for a book by Jeff MIller, it will answer your questions. Taunton Press publishes it. He has a tape out also. Don't quibble over the cost of the book or tape, the price for the wood will bring tears to your eyes.
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Sun, Feb 12, 2006, 7:28am (EST-3) snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com doth burble: <sni> For instance, do dining chairs by definition have to have a (back) and a (seat) <snip>
Being silly today, eh? If it doesn't have a back, it isn't a chair. If it doesn't have a seat, you may be sitting on a toilet. Or, maybe you just like being silly.
JOAT I'm busy now, can I ignore you some other time?
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On 12 Feb 2006 07:28:54 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

You don't need a lathe to make round parts. I have made perfect chair legs using a jig and a router. I've seen woodworkers make round parts using a horse, spokeshaves, and a little skill.

Any chair you use while eating is a dining chair.

Here too. Although we get into specific features. A desk chair will often have arms for comfort. A porch chair might be a little rustic and made from wood types that stand up well to the elements.

Sometimes
Dining chairs are usually smaller than other chairs, and the ones with arms made such they can be pushed under the table.

I have made things that don't have a purpose, perhaps a work of art, but not that often.

All I can say is make a chair strong enough the fat lady can use and you'll be fine. Well made chairs take some skill, and not exactly something for a beginner.

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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (in snipped-for-privacy@o13g2000cwo.googlegroups.com) said:
| Being relatively new to woodworking, and having never built a chair, | I've decided to give one a try. Square parts, because I don't have | a lathe, and I'd like to try something with a caned seat, because | I've never done that either. This brings me to my question. | | What makes a dining chair a dining chair? Same thing with a vanity | chair, a writing chair, a desk chair, a parlor chair, a porch chair | and the like? Is it just stylistic elements? For instance, do | dining chairs by definition have to have a (back) and a (seat) or | certain geometry or (no) arms or be made of (wood) finished with | (finish)?
If it rests on the floor/ground; if it supports both your butt and your back while allowing you to rest your feet on the ground; and if it does all these wonderful things for one person at a time - it's a chair.
(I'm not going to argue about highchairs or barber chairs or dentist's chairs.)
| Let's say I build a chair that I like, but isn't "suited" to my | application? I don't have one in mind right now--in fact, I'll | probably give the first one away if it doesn't go on the firewood | pile. All other things being equal, if by extending this piece a | few inches or finishing with shellac, I get an According-to-Hoyle | (type) chair, why not do that? I know that there are lots of folks | who say, "Build what you like, the hell with the rest of 'em." I, | too, am one of those folks, but there are people out there who've | spent a lot more time than me on this subject, and I'd like to | think that a dining chair is a dining chair for a REASON. If the | voices tell me that that reason makes sense, then I'll try to be | faithful to it. If not, I'll "Build what I like, the hell with the | rest of 'em."
Hmm. Do you have these kinds of converstaions frequently? ;-)
| Ladies and gentlemen, I await your discourse.
I'm neither - and I think you may be overthinking all this just a wee bit. If you wanna build a chair, then just /do/ it! If you don't like the result, call it "an experiment" and build a better one. Repeat as necessary until you can say: "Damn I'm good!"
Take notes and pictures along the way and share what you learn.
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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