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How It’s Made: Estelle Side Chair

Ever wonder what went into the making of your favorite chair? If your chair happens to be the Estelle Side Chair–a sculptural piece highlighting the beauty of its natural wood material– the fine details of its creation may surprise you. Copeland Furniture, a Vermont-based manufacturer of contemporary, solid hardwood furniture gives us an inside look at the making of this intriguing piece.

The Lightbulb Moment

It all begins with an idea. Copeland Furniture constantly works to identify trends and needs in the marketplace. Once the design brief is established, the Estelle is given form with 3D, computer-aided design (or, CAD) software.

Heading into the Workshop

Production begins on Estelle in the workshop in the form of raw lumber that comes from well-managed timber lots in the American Northern Forest. This forest is comprised of some of the most desirable species for woodwork, including walnut, maple, cherry, oak and ash. This regional sourcing model helps limit the company’s carbon footprint.

Time to Optimize

In a process known as optimization, raw lumber is removed of its defects. The first step is at the planer, where the rough surfaces are planed smooth and an even thickness is established. The lumber is then visually evaluated, and its defects are marked. A computerized scanner reads the length and width of the boards, as well as the location of the marked defects and figures out an optimal way to use the boards with minimal waste. Cut boards are then sorted by length.

Cut to Order

Using a rip saw, planed and optimized boards are cut lengthwise (ripped) in order to remove any defects running the length of the board. This process also provides the perfectly straight edge required for gluing panels.

Copeland Furniture factory worker, hand-selecting and color matching planed and cut boards

Precision Glued

The first step in gluing panels is color matching, which is critical to the final appearance of the furniture. While natural variations from one board to another are a large part of the appeal of solid wood furniture, a skilled operator with good visual sensitivity must still hand-select boards and lay them out in an aesthetically pleasing way. Then glue is applied to one edge and they are arranged on the bed of a radio frequency glue machine.

A large plate lowers onto the panel to perfectly align the boards and hydraulic pistons press the panels together at 3000 pounds per square inch. Radio waves are conducted through the glue lines, which in turn cause the glue to cure and strengthen. Glued panels are then sent to the wide-belt sander where three belts of consecutively finer grit remove any residual glue and prepare the surface for final machining.

Glued panels going through wide-belt sander

Exciting Shapes, Unique Forms

The various pieces that make up Estelle are machined by computer numerical control (CNC) machining centers. CNCs perform multiple operations at a single workstation, follow the exact path of specifications entered by a designer or engineer, and reduce the overall processing time of turning raw lumber into finished parts. Because of their ability to machine parts with perfect repeatability, at tolerances as small as several thousandths of an inch, designers are liberated to experiment with shapes and forms that stand out in the marketplace.

CNC machining of one of Estelle’s legs

Made with Pride

After machining, the underside of each chair seat is laser-engraved with the Copeland Furniture logo, indicating that the piece was manufactured with pride in the company’s factory in Vermont.

Assembled from the Ground Up

Each part of Estelle is then carefully hand-sanded and assembled from the ground up. Traditional mortise and tenon joints are reinforced by precision-machined wedges that eliminate the need for stringers running between the legs, preserving the sleek, minimal design of the piece. It’s these subtle variations on conventional approaches that make the Estelle Side Chair unique.

Finished to Perfection

Finally, a highly durable, catalyzed, low chemical emission, and GREENGUARD certified finish is applied to the Estelle. Each chair receives multiple coats and is hand-sanded between coats. The result is a finish that provides superior protection without the heavy build-up or emissions associated with other heavy lacquers.

All of the above elements, from careful planning and design to high tech machining and hand-craftsmanship, add up to the Estelle being engineered to last a lifetime. Estelle will enrich your living environment with striking design and superior comfort.

It is an exceptional piece. But the production of the Estelle Side Chair is just one example of the level of thought, care and workmanship that goes into every piece Copeland Furniture makes.

Team Y

Team Y

Team Y is a dedicated group of design devotees. We love everything that has to do with modern design, from products like lighting, furniture and decor all the way to interior design, architecture and city planning. What inspired the design? How does it work? What does it mean? We want to know. And once we know, we are constantly inspired to share what we've discovered with others who love design as well. That's Y.

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