Have A Seat - The Making of A Chair

Posted On Furniture Date April 2015

Chair City

If you look up Manzano on a search engine, the results will yield apple trees (the Spanish word for apple tree is manzano), a high school in the U.S. and a small town located in the Friuli region of Italy.

I'll give you one guess as to which I will be referring to here!

This small city just happens to be the "Chair Capital of the World," and if you visit it you're bound to pass the giant chair located at a roundabout on the outskirts of the city.

When I drove past it for the first time, I sent a message with a picture of the chair to a frend that read, "It's a giant chair!" to which he replied, "Was it comfortable?"

Hmmm. Can't say that I was quite able to reach the top, considering that it is a little over 65 feet tall!

The largest chair in Italy at 20 meters high!
The famous chair of Manzano. It is located in the middle of a roundabout and stands 20 meters (just over 65 feet) in height.

It Smells Like Wood!

We passed this giant chair on our way to a chair factory located in Manzano. When we arrived and entered the production area, we were greeted by the swirling smells of fresh wood. As a child, my dad always let us kids help out on various wood projects in the garage, so anything that smells like a "dad project" brings me back to those good old days when I could  hammer, cut and sand down scrap pieces of wood. 

The factory we visited uses only solid wood for its chairs, so of course the quality is unbeatable. Just running my hands over the smooth, sanded surface of the frames that I passed, I could feel the difference. It wasn't wood that was overwhelmed with thick varnish or paint, and didn't feel sticky as I touched it. It was natural. Solid. Wood. 

Working Hard, As Usual

The  workers at the factory were all incredibly concentrated. I, for one, am not as comfortable working on projects when I have a curious person standing behind me scrutinizing my every move and taking pictures left and right when I am just doing my normal, every day routine. 

Their concentration and dedication to the task at hand was commendable.

We entered the factory in the shipment area, where seats were being attached to bases, leather was being heated and smoothed before the final product was checked by hand several times and then boxed for shipment. 

A worker heats the leather to tighten and smooth out any wrinkles.
A worker heats the leather to tighten and smooth out any wrinkles, and then prepares it for packaging after checking it over several times.

Quality control is a must for this factory and every other one that I have visited. 

Stacks of chairs wait to be wheeled to the next phase of production and a worker controls the width of the wood.
Left: Chairs are stacked in the warehouse. Top right:"Sedia," which means chair in Italian, is prited on a metal trolly. Bottom right: A chair leg is checked.

Varnishing, Sanding and Putting The Pieces Together

After the final assembly area, we headed over to a man who had rows of chairs on a large conveyer belt. At the other end of the belt someone had placed freshly varnished chairs, and as the man advanced the chairs towards him, he checked them over thoroughly bofore setting them aside for the next phase. If there were any doubts about a potential flaw, he tended to it immediately.

Freshly varnished chairs sit on a conveyor belt, waiting for a hand inspection before the next phase.
Freshly varnished chairs sit on a conveyor belt, waiting for a hand inspection.

A worker scrutinizes the varnished chairs to make sure there are no flaws.
A worker scrutinizes the varnished chairs to make sure there are no flaws.​

Removing the dust from the wood is important before moving to the varnishing phase.
Left: Dust is removed from a sanded chair. Top right: A worker attaches a chair to a machine. Bottom right: A machine sprays an even coat of varnish on a chair.


Top: A worker hand varnishes chair bases. Notice the two pegs to the right of the image, which are used to pick up the varnished chair so that the worker doen't have to touch it with his hands. Bottom left: The freshly varnished chair is moved to a conveyor belt to dry. Bottom right: The pegs are removed from the chair (these are inserted in the holes to avoid touching the freshly varnished surface.)

Glue is added with a special glue gun to the joint holes.
A worker adds glue with a special tool to the holes of the chair frame and legs so they can be assembled by her coworkers.

Workers assemble the legs, frame and backs of the wooden chairs.
Workers assemble the legs, frame and backs of the wooden chairs.

Hand tools are used constantly by the workers assembling the chairs, as this work bench shows us.
Top: A well-used workbench is filled with hand tools and materials needed to assemble the chairs. Bottom: Prepared chair legs and chair frame pieces are neatly stacked.

Where Can I Sit?

After walking around the factory for a couple of hours, and I found it kind of amusing that I was in a chair factory and didn't have anywhere to sit! Everything was still in the production phase and some of the frames didn't yet have a seat. 

Lucky for me, they had some of the Valitalia Natura Chairs and I was eager to test them.

Sold!

Even before sitting in them I had one feel of the leatherette and glanced at the legs, and knew that I wanted some for my own home.


One of the company owners demonstrates how to properly attach the base of the Natura chair to the seat. He emphasizes the importance of aligning the screws in all for holes before tightening them, to make sure they will all pass through the holes cleanly.

Time To Go

Another day, another factory visit. This is by far the most interesting and exciting thing that I have had the opportunity to be a part of.

I encourage you to continue following our blog to learn more about the producers we collaborate with.

My goal is to help you see through my eyes (and my lenses' eye!) just how amazing the quality of these furnishings are.





About the Author

Rachel

I made a decision in 2011: to marry an Italian man. Since then, I have been creating a new identity for myself here in Friuli Venezia-Giulia, one bite of cheese, one dish of risotto and one glass of wine at a time. With my husband, camera and four-legged companion, I’m pursing happiness in one of the most beautiful countries of the world.

shop at Valitalia

Find Valitalia on Facebook

A photo posted by Valitalia (@valitaliausa) on