At the moment, the black walnut tiles were all Mr. McGlasson had — that and a pencil sketch on a piece of quarter-inch hardboard. Last Monday found him laying out his high-tech design kit: a free pencil from Youngblood Lumber, a 4-foot-long straight edge, a Starrett square, a bevel, a punched metal disc and a Pink Pearl eraser.
The eraser was getting the heaviest use. He hadn’t liked the hardboard template when he first drew it four months ago. And it hadn’t improved through desuetude.
Ideally, when the chair was completed, it would be well proportioned, impeccably finished and sustainably sourced. It would express Mr. McGlasson’s personal vision as a craftsman.
Practically, the piece needed to be something he could build with about $200 to $300 worth of materials.
And while the test model could take 40 hours to assemble, he would budget just half that time for the production version. (The chaise longue, by comparison, consumed 120 hours.)
Mr. McGlasson also obeyed an overarching imperative: The chair needed to make a profit, and a decent one at that.
“I get hassled on price sometimes,” he said. “Some people will say, ‘Really, isn’t that a little much?’ And I’m like, ‘What do you make?’ I’m sure my hourly rate is a lot lower than theirs.”
Mr. McGlasson estimates that his hourly rate is $85. But Woodsport is a one-man studio (at least until he hires a new assistant).
This means that he spends hours of every workday answering sales inquiries, shipping finished work and posting promotional images on Instagram. In a sense, his hourly rate for this work is zero. “The only time I’m actually making money is when I’m standing at the lathe,” Mr. McGlasson said.
That lathe, by the way, cost $4,000.
This is the perverse economy of furniture making. A completed set of six chairs could run $10,800. The federal poverty guideline for a one-person household is only $1,000 more.
“That kind of money is kind of insane,” Mr. McGlasson said. “People say that to me all the time: ‘I love your stuff. I wish I could afford it.’ And I say, ‘I wish I could, too.’ ”
At these prices, it’s hard to believe that a high-end woodworker would cut corners. But, in a literal sense, cutting corners on a bandsaw is the definition of the job.
The question is what kind of corners a designer chooses to cut. Should the legs be straight or tapered? Should the wood tiles be beveled or flat? Should the back slats be solid or laminated, straight or bowed?
The chair he was imagining would be 36 inches tall, with a ladder-back up the spine. How many rungs should there be? “Two or three,” Mr. McGlasson said.
Each of these choices determines the labor that he needs to put…