Sunday, December 4, 2011

My first chair

Seen above are the drawn up plans for my chair assembly. That's one of many things I love about this project, is that I need to find a way to create objects and shapes based on photographs only. There are no plans pre-existing for me to go by so I create them myself.

Next, I start with the legs. I was very lucky to stumble upon excellent legs for my chairs at a dollhouse shop in Sacramento. They were a tad too long, but had the makings of perfect chair legs. By cutting out a small section of the pre-made legs I took care of the length problem and also took out additional patterns in the legs that weren't true to Titanic's chair legs. Once the two useable chair leg pieces were glued together, it was eerily close to the pattern of the originals.

A few more pieces of wood and I had all the parts needed to build a chair base. I checked the dimensions for scale's sake to an original chair from Olympic's (Titanic's sister ship) dining saloon chair and it was a perfect match. Yay!

With a photo of the dining saloon in the background, some glue dries on the chair back with the base waiting in the background. The chair back's characteristic wavy curve was cut using a jeweler's saw, seen on the table in the picture. I will be using that saw for the chair arms as well.

Once the base and backrest were assembled I needed to stain the wood. After two tries I found a nice color which resembles the color on Titanic's chairs...

For awhile I was pulling my hair out trying to find some type of covering for the chairs. The originals were upholstered in leather, so that was my first choice. However the hobby stores didn't cary much leather, much less leather thin enough... so I started to look into other possibilities... vinyl, synthetic leather, I didn't know what to use. I did almost ask local book binderies if they had some bookcovering leather they could sell, and I found out about "skiver" leather which is a very thin leather used to cover desktops. After searching for some time I came upon a leather shop. After less than five minutes I found what I was looking for... thin leather with the perfect shine and to-scale texture I needed! I bought the whole hide.

So I started to cover my first chair back. This took awhile because it was my first chair and I had no idea what I was doing.

Looking pretty good... slowly the leather gets wrapped around the wood. This is the prototype and I'm actually thinking of adding a piece of foam on the "production" chairs before wrapping the chair back to give it a more rounded plush look.

So I sat the covered chair back onto the base, and bam! Looks like a chair! The seat cushion is not upholstered and the arms are missing, but it definintely is looking like a Titanic dining saloon chair now.

At the leather shop I picked out a green dye that looks very accurate. The dark green color is exactly that as seen on the original leather upholstery. And it's SO easy to use... just brush it on.

And check this out! What a beautiful color! And the texture is perfectly to scale. I just love this color of green matched with the stained wood. These were truly beautiful chairs, and I'm very happy to reproduce them in miniature. The "seams" can still be seen where I had to cut the leather to fit the upholstery, and I very much want to make those dissapear. So I'm looking into a way to fill those hairline gaps and make the leather upholstery seamless.

Putting the dyed chair back onto the base was an amazing moment. The chairs were something I was dreading because I had no idea how to go about making them but it seems possible now! The photo below shows the chair sitting on a prototype of the floor that will be put in my miniature. The pattern was made from scratch by me on computer (the first part of my blog covers that adventure). I printed out the pattern onto slightly textured card paper which gives it a stunningly close look to old style cork linoleum flooring which is what I'm shooting for. If you look close at the picture you'll see what I mean. The colors may need to be tweaked a little on the floor before I print the final product.

A view of the back of the chair is just as impressive. I can't wait to see this prototype finished. And eventually there will be 44 of these beauties sitting throughout my miniature. I can't wait to see that.


  1. How are the chairs coming along? All 44 of them! The prototype turned out really well. Cant wait to see them altogether.

    p.s. i found some pictures on the ulster museum website, which might give you some help with detail. They are part of the Welch photograph collection. The photos are the dining room in Olympic so it wont be exactly the same as Titanic, but the detail might be useful. Once you click the first blue button, you can enlarge them again, in the top right corner and save.

    Ridiculously long links sorry.

  2. They are even more ridiculous than i thought they would be, there are 3 links there,each begins with "http://" and ends in "false". Hope they are of some use.

  3. Hi Ben, Quite a challenge you have taken up. You will feel very crazy after making all those chairs - suggest a mirror somewhere to trick the eye!!
    Regards Janine