A Play-by Play: From Forest to Dining Table

We LOVE to watch how things are made. Whether it's watching how a saxophone is cut and molded with Mr. Rogers, enjoying a Harpoon factory tour in Windsor, or watching Tom Silva fix up a historic home on This Old House—we love to watch people making stuff! Forget the saying curiosity killed the cat, embrace your inquisitive inner child, and follow me through the many mesmerizing steps of creating the Estelle Chair.

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The first ingredient is patience. Okay, wood is needed, too. Wood and patience. The birth of Estelle begins with a designer, who uses computer aided design (CAD) to build a virtual model of the chair. The design depends on various trends and needs in the marketplace.

I was amazed to learn Copeland Furniture's most popular chair is also actually their most complicated to make. I asked Armin, Director of Design at Copeland, how many people have a hand in making this chair, and she looked a little taken aback, as if to say: "How many stars are there in the sky?" Many?

Every week, Copeland brings in over 20,000 board feet of sustainably managed and harvested raw wood for their factory production. Through a process called optimization, they remove parts of the wood with defects to maximize the use of remaining wood. The wood in the upper right image is going through a planer, smoothing the rough surfaces. Next someone marks the location of defects in wood with a special marker that a computer scans, determining the optimal way to use the board. In the last image above, the yellow and black sections designate imperfections.

The sections of usable wood are grouped by length, then run through the rip saw to achieve consistent and smooth widths of boards. An operator with a trained eye evaluates the pieces, arranging an aesthetically pleasing selection of wood grains in a process called color matching. The long edges of the color matched boards are run over a glue machine, before being pressed together by hand to form a slab, which is then pressed perfectly flat by hydraulic pistons with 3000 pounds of force per square inch.

Then, radio waves are transmitted through the boards, causing the glue to cure to 80% of its strength in one minute. The slab passes through the wide belt sander for three levels of progressively finer sanding to prepare the surfaces for final machining. The last phase before assembly is completed by CNCs, or computer numerically controlled machines. A CNC machine "carves away" wood to reveal the various components of the Estelle Chair.

After the CNC machines do their carving and before the craftsmen and women begin hand-sanding and assembling, the underside of the Estelle Chair is laser engraved with the Copeland Furniture logo. Precisely machined wedges ensure the chair's structure and stability without the need for stringers running between the legs, maintaining the sleek, minimal design of the Estelle Chair.
Highly durable, catalyzed low-emission finishes are applied to all Copeland Furniture pieces, including the Estelle Chair. The chair receives multiple coats followed by hand-sanding between each application. The result is superior protection without heavy build-up or toxic emissions of typically-used lacquers.

I lost count of how many people and machines worked together to create the Estelle Chair, but it's fair to say it's a lot of stars. Copeland Furniture offers factory tours to see the stars, I mean, their team of craftspeople at work. The Company Store in Bradford sells the Estelle Chair and many other furniture pieces, including seconds. And their massive tent sale is in a few months, so start clearing some space in your house!
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