The Thos. Moser Continuous Arm Chair, An Icon of Evolutionary Design
Windsor chairs originated in England at the beginning of the 18th century. Often used as outdoor furniture, they were traditionally painted green to blend into the landscape. These early Windsor chairs found their way to the American colonies by the 1730s and from there the design evolved over several decades until the American Windsor chair became its own distinct form that enjoyed popularity well into the 19th century.
In the early 1970s, when Tom began his journey of becoming a full-time furniture maker, the Windsor style had fallen out of favor. But Tom, with a keen eye for form, saw a timeless grace that transcended passing trends. He set out to design his modern iteration of the Windsor chair, a design that would go on to become synonymous with the Thos. Moser name. After taking several years to perfect, the Thos. Moser Continuous Arm Chair proves our commitment to creating functionally driven objects, to which nothing can be added, and nothing taken away.
Although derived from the traditional Windsor chair, the Thos. Moser Continuous Arm Chair offers a unique interpretation of a classic style. For the first time in history, a Windsor style chair featured an arm constructed solely from laminating single saw cut pieces of wood to create the sweeping shape of one continuous arm. There were other notable features that differentiated Tom’s chair from other Windsor chairs including; a lack of turned spreaders contributing to a lighter profile and the unique blend of ash spindles with cherry or walnut seat and arm. Upon further inspection of Tom’s Windsor-style chair, one notices pinned spindles in the front, a laminate arm that bends 180-degrees from the center of the crest to the armrests, as opposed to the steam-bent arm found in traditional Windsor chairs, and the lack of a painted milk finish.
Creating the Iconic Arm
Tom knew he wanted to create a crest with a fluidly that transitioned into the arms of the chair. He began by experimenting with lamination and bending techniques, which led him to design a jig from copper plumbing pipe resting upon a scrap wood brace. The design of the first jig was then taken to a machine shop. The two jigs that were constructed in the late 1970s, minus a few shims, Bondo, and the addition of hydraulic cylinders that pull the arm into shape, are the exact ones we continue to use to this day.
The first iteration of the Thos. Moser Continuous Arm Chair included thin strips of laminate cut on a table saw that created copious amounts of sawdust and rough edges that not only proved to be time-consuming and less aesthetically pleasing but was also highly dangerous.
On a trip to Sweden, Tom and his son Aaron visited a woodshop that was using a multi-stack veneer. This sparked the idea of transitioning the process from creating laminate on the table saw to flitch-cut wood. This process created smooth cuts, virtually no wasted material, and the beginnings of an arm that could be easily coerced and set within a jig. Additionally, the flitch-cut wood allows the boards full strength to be preserved when the pieces are shaped and glued back together.
Making the Continuous Arm
The shape of the continuous arm- oval at the top, round in the middle, and U-shaped where it meets the arms- requires intensive handwork. Once the arm has dried in the jig, it is taken to a bandsaw to trim away any excess glue and even out the arm. Over the next two hours, the time it takes a highly-skilled craftsman to complete one continuous arm, the craftsmen will use a router to shape and round over the square edges, refining the curves and transitions with a hand-rasp rendering the veneers indistinguishable. From there, the craftsman hand- drills the through and blind holes for the spindles, and finishes the arm with a three-step sanding process. There are many craftsmen who are trained in the process of crafting our continuous arm, but only a handful have mastered the technique of shaping.
Changes in Process and Materials
In the first ten years of the Thos. Moser Continuous Arm Chair’s existence, subtle refinements began to shape and perfect the chair we know today. While the form and scale of the chair have not changed over the years, there are a few differences between the late 1970’s chair and a chair produced on our shop floor today.
When the first chair was created, it featured a slightly shallower seat that was shaped with an electric chain saw and sculpted by hand with an automotive body grinder. As time passed a computerized numerical control (CNC) router has automatized the process of cutting the rough form. What remains the same, is hand-sculpting the seat with a grinder to form the highlight and saddle.
In the early 1980s, we added what we call a ship’s knees to the front legs for structural support. This has become a signature addition consistent through all our spindle chairs and benches. The knees are sculpted to sit within the mortise of the leg- allowing for light, air, and legs to move freely beneath the seat. The knees, as opposed to the traditional H-shaped stretchers of Windsor chairs, gives an illusion of the seat being suspended in the air.
Around 1982, the maple that was originally used for the legs was replaced with ash to match the tensioned spindles in the back of the chair. Employing ash legs deepened the aesthetic now found in all our spindle chairs, each carefully set in place with the cathedrals of the wood grain running vertically to create a visual statement.
Forever a study in refined design
These subtle refinements have only enhanced the elegance of the chair. When you first gaze upon the chair, you are drawn to run your hand across the perfect curve of the arm. Once seated, your body is both enfolded and transported. The glow of a richly developed patina casts a spell that is difficult to resist.
Much like the Windsor chairs that brought inspiration to a younger Tom Moser, his Continuous Arm Chair tells a story of design evolution- one that is a study in form, simplicity, and the beauty of honoring the natural material.
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