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Furniture Design Inspiration Part 2: A Visit with Jeff Miller

Posted on December 27th, by Andy Brownell in Design. 3 comments


While in Chicago I stopped by J. Miller Handcrafted Furniture on Monday and spent the morning watching him wrap up another one of his bent lamination walnut rocking chairs. He showed one of these at WIA 2012 during his lecture on chair design.

JMiller-rockerIt was down to waxing and flossing (clearing the tough to reach cracks), as well as attaching the carved seat. Jeff uses wax that is custom tinted to better match the walnut when it dries, so rather than the white flecks common with some, this dries a color that compliments the chair. When seated at this chair, you melt into a surprisingly comfortable position, as is the case with his Toccata chair shown above.

While I’m nowhere close in wanting to take on an exercise in geometric insanity of Jeff’s exceptional work, he has always encouraged me to incorporate more curves into my designs since apprenticing with him in the late 90’s. We also talked about, and tried his shoulder cutting jig, recently featured in Popular Woodworking magazine. It works far more accurately than any power tool technique and is great for smaller, complex angles as well as your run-of-the-mill 90 degree shoulder tenons.jMiller-shoulder_jig


This year, I made a point of really taking Jeff’s advice – moving beyond my 90 degree comfort zone – to really push myself on both design and technique. I was successful earlier this year with the bent lamination Sapele hall table, and spent some time thinking through the curves on my latest project the “Conversation Bench“. The curves and carving into the solid teak of the seat backs was particularly interesting to me. But I also liked the organic shapes I carved by hand into the legs of my walnut TV stand. It seemed like there are some connections between my last three projects and the my new-found love of Wendell Castles work, that is curves.

I’m going to start looking into Wendell Castle a bit more and start putting some ideas down on paper.

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