Sunday, August 24, 2014

A visitor builds his own

One of the people viewing my blog decided to build his own Steltman chair. His name is Christian, and he wrote:
"Similar to your calculation it definitely hasn't paid out in term of money if you include the hours I spent at the workshop. But this is of course besides the point, because I really enjoyed these hours! I went every Thursday evening from 6-9 pm to the community center where they have a really nice shop and a professional carpenter, who helps you with all your questions - what a great public service!!"

Christian's chair turned out fantastic! He made it using European Walnut, a great choice, as it has excellent figuring and character! It makes mine look lifeless...

Great job Christian! Here are the photos he sent;


Monday, April 28, 2014


Well it looks like I'm finished. I did some final sanding at 320 grit, checked everything again, and put three coats of Satin Polyurethane finish on the chair (sanding lightly between coats). It came out very nice.

And for the most important test...

It works!

I weigh around 180 lbs (81 kg), and the chair barely flexes! It's very sturdy.

I hope you've enjoyed following along with the construction. Please drop me a note if you have any questions or comments.

Rietveld Builder

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stamp it out

It’s time to create a small detail. On the Cassina reproduction chairs one of the last steps is to silk screen their logo along the bottom of the chair, and stamp in a serial number.

Since I’m not running a large factory, I’ve decided to imprint “G. RIETVELD ZIG ZAG 1932” on the bottom piece. This way when I’m dead and gone, and my relatives wanted to know a little more about the odd chair I built, they will have some reference information.

This is a pretty easy task. Not a whole lot to it.

Step one: lay out a straight line.

Step two: test the first letter (in terms of how hard to drop the hammer). Looks about right.

Step three: Step back and admire the work.

When I do the final sanding the very small edges around the letters will be sanded smooth, and will look nice.

The chair is now dangerously close to being finished!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rietveld Inerpretations

If you'd like to see some odd Rietveld inspired chairs, follow this link and browse through 18 pages of them!

Brazilian craftsmanship!

One of the reasons I did this blog is that there are VERY few posts on the Internet showing people building the Zig Zag and Red Blue chairs. Here is a link to a Brazilian woodworker who has made both the Red Blue and Zig Zag chairs. Scroll about half way down the page to see the chairs

Some more video!

I found a video that I thought was interesting. It's in French, and it features the Red Blue Chair, and other Rietveld designs. If you want to see the Red Blue being built at the Cassina factory, go to the 9:20 mark.

Click here to watch on YouTube

If you want to see exactly how I got the dimensions when I built my Red Blue Chair, over 20 years ago, watch the video at the 18:00 mark. It shows a man in a museum sneaking around the chair measuring, and writing the dimensions down. I did this same thing (there was no Internet back then to find plans) but instead of a museum I went to a modern design store in San Francisco and took some measurements when nobody was around!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Original sketches

Here are some assorted drawings of the Zig Zag Chair made by Rietveld. The chair was eventually produced by Metz and Company of Amsterdam.

In the photo below Garard Van De Groenekan, who worked for Rietveld as an apprentice and built many of the Zig Zag chairs, is shown looking at the original chairs in 1987.  

The Zig Zag in white looks pretty nice too!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

More drilling, sanding, and plugging!

Now that the glue has dried, it’s time to sand down the wedges. I left about a 1/16th over on the ends (around 2mm) so sanding these flush shouldn’t take very long.

Here’s the next challenge; the original Cassina version used two rows of dowels drilled internally to provide support to the two 45 degree areas. This is an ideal way to do it (completely hidden from view), but since I don’t have the computer controlled machinery for this, I will do the next best thing.

My plan was to drill the holes through one side of the wood, not completely through, and then to use wood plugs to cover the holes.

I could have done this with a regular drill, but when you do that free hand the drill has a tendency to wander, making the holes not very snug. You can see on this illustration how I planned to make the holes for the dowels used. Two rows used in the main pieces, an additional row that will go through the wedge. This third row of dowels will really help make this a strong joint, since they stabilize the wedge, and go through both pieces against it.

So what I did was set up a support system on the drill press. This took a while to adjust, cut, and get everything just right. The chair now rests against a piece of MDF which holds it at a 90 degree angle to the drill press.

Here you can see how the ½ bit is drilling holes over the wood screw holes used during gluing. Nice and neat!

Drilling is complete, and I know what you’re thinking; “that looks terrible”. Yes, at the moment it looks like the joints are made using swiss cheese, but not for long.

Here’s a shot of the first dowel inserted. Before I glued it in, I slid it in to check the tightness. It was a good fit, but each dowel seemed to be just a hair off. Some too small, the most being a bit tight. So I gently sanded most of them with 80 grit sand paper, and checked each one for fit.  A couple of drops of glue, a few taps with the hammer, and the first one is in. Nice and snug!

A couple hours later and they’re in both sides. No problems yet!

Now it's on to make the plugs to cover the dowel holes. I will use wood from the same area of the main pieces so the color and grain will look similar. I purchased a tapered wood plug cutter. This is used with my drill press to drill the plugs. It’s tapered, so that as I tap the plug in place it will fit nice and snug.

Ready to go!

I let the glue used on the dowels dry overnight, and now it’s time to glue in the plugs.

A little glue, a couple of taps with the hammer, and then wipe each area with a wet rag to get the excess glue off.

The glue has dried on the plugs, so now I can use my zero kerf saw and gently trim the plugs flush.

Next step is to use my random orbital sander to sand the plugs smooth. Now it’s starting to look really good!

Here’s how the plugs look.

When I stain the wood, these areas will blend in well.