He doesn’t take measurements before he starts a project.
I do not feel that it is possible to make a working drawing with all the intricate and fine details that go into a chair or stool, particularly. Many times I do not know how a certain area is to be done until I start working with a chisel, rasp, or whatever tool is needed for that particular job.
For him, functionality trumps aesthetics.
My goal is to make furniture that people can be comfortable living with. If you’re not preoccupied with making an impact with your designs, chances are something that looks good today will look good tomorrow…
I try to make my things aesthetically pleasing; but, if it isn’t functional, people will ‘oo’ and ‘aah’ over it in an exhibit but they won’t buy it. … My feeling is a chair has to be functional and comfortable for tall and short alike.
“Carved Success: Sam Maloof’s Handmade Life” (NPR) explains how he got started. He had an empty tract house which had no furniture. So he started making some.
Maloof taught himself how to woodwork after serving in World War II and marrying his wife, Alfreda…
“She bought a little tract house for $4,200, which now is probably worth about $400,000,” Maloof chuckles. “It didn’t have a lot of furniture in it. Plywood floors, no carpeting or anything. And so I put rugs down, and then I found a lot of scrap wood, and I made furniture out of it for the house.”
He’s always made everything by hand and has turned down offers to mass-produce his furniture.
When Maloof was still struggling to support his family, he turned down several lucrative offers to mass-produce his furniture — on principle. The black sheep of the family who never went to college now has three honorary degrees…
Maloof has said that when making furniture, start with the legs: They’re like values, principles, beliefs. Choosing the arms is like choosing friends. And the seat keeps you upright, steady and looking ahead to your goals and your future.
Related: Video: Sam Maloof, A Woodworking Experience [Woodworking Channel]