Coming Soon: The Chairpanzee

The working model of the Chairpanzee before production work begins. The final product will have some small changes compared to the image above.

I don’t keep a diary, I just look back at Instagram to see what I was doing on any given day. This is how I know The Chairpanzee was born on 11th April, as nothing more than an idea in search of a good name. That day, in the early stages of my COVID-19 infection, I sat at my desk designing a new low back chair. I used other chairs I admire as a reference point, noting their rake and splay angles to understand the visual effect they generate. Rake and splay are all very well on a drawing, but when it comes to making a chair what we really need are a sightline and a resultant angle for the legs. This approach allows us to drill with reference to a single sliding bevel (set to the resultant) which is positioned along the sightline. It struck me that a simple device to tell us those sightline and resultant angles based on any given rake and splay would be a useful tool to own, which brings us to today.

There are published tables available to use as a reference, but for this product I went back to first principles, enlisting my older brother (an Engineering Ph.D.) to do the hard bit. Shortly after, armed with lines of data, the first prototype was born. An important concept from the beginning was to return both the sightline and resultant for a single setting of rake and splay, which led to the double-sided design. Every good product needs a memorable name and, having christened an earlier product the Bevel Monkey, it seemed only right to continue the simian DNA line. My son George eventually won the pun-off on a family walk, coming up with the perfect name: Chairpanzee.

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Collaboration is a key aspect of product development; it leads to ideas being challenged and ultimately creates a better end product. A good idea is also worth nothing without a route to market, so with both of those principles in mind, Chris Schwarz and I formed an alliance to develop a product that would become part of the Crucible range. We pulled apart the flaws in the first prototype, which was too big and suffered from racking sliders that jammed. We also needed to scratch an itch that Chris had: the thought that a wheel-type gauge might fit the bill. We got to a wheel gauge eventually and I still have a fondness for its Fibonacci-like pattern of holes, but it would have been too big and too expensive to produce. You have to be willing to drown a few ideas in the river on this journey.

By prototype three we were zeroing in on the concept of a double-sided slider, which could be produced to a high quality at an affordable price. We made an important step toward a printed product, which allowed us to reproduce detailed graphics and fine data on a durable surface. Laser engraving had been a useful development tool, but ultimately too costly as a production solution. Following creation of the graphics and layout, we arrived at the end of the story with prototype number four, which looks exactly like the product you’ll be able to have in your hands very soon (pictured at the top of this blog entry).

— Ed Sutton, FirstLightWorks


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