Sam Maloof's Rocking Chair
Some time in early 2002 or late 2001, I made a beautiful English walnut rocking chair for myself and when it came time to put the inscription on the underside of the seat, for the life of me, I could not think of anything to write. So I took the chair in the house to use as my own chair. Then about six months later I got a call from a friend of mine, Michael Grady who lives near Atlanta GA. Michael told me Sam was going to do a seminar at Highland and would I like to come out and attend with him. I immediately thought of my rocking chair and knew that I wanted to give that chair to Sam. I gratefully accepted Michael's offer and immediately took "Sam's chair" back out to the shop for the inscription. It came to me in less than a millisecond or so and shortly after that I loaded up Sam's chair and headed to Atlanta. Assuming that Sam would be surrounded by all of the "A" types who attend his seminars, I wrote Sam a letter that I thought I could slip to him between the bodies of admiring fans. When Sam came into the room surprisingly everybody was afraid to approach him. This provided me with my opportunity. I went up, introduced myself, and handed him the letter. Then, since we were alone at the front of the room I explained to him that "I knew it was like bringing coals to Newcastle", but, I wanted to give him a rocking chair. He smiled his huge Sam Maloof smile and asked me if I had the chair with me. "I have it out in my car" I told him. "Bring it up!" Sam insisted. So I brought Sam's new rocking chair in and he directed me to sit it down in the front of the class.
"I'll critique it later" Sam said. I thought "heck, I didn't bring it here for a critique, I brought it as a gift!" But who was I to complain? At the end of the class Sam walked over to the chair and said. "Now, lets go over this chair."
Sam started at the top, noting the vertical grain in the headrest. He asked if I doweled the headrest boards. Then he went on to the arms. I thought he would not like the arms much because, at that time, they were not as graceful as Sam's but they were quite functional. Sam, surprisingly, loved the arms. He was surprised that the back braces moved as much as they did and thought they were too thin. I explained that they were laminated from four strips and then he said "Well, that would be fine then."
At that point Sam turned to the class and said "You know, the proof of a rocking chair is in the sitting." And, Sam had a seat in my (his) rocking chair. He smiled, then shifted around a little and said to the class, "You know, this chair sits very well!"
I explained to Sam that I was giving him the chair out of gratitude for myself and all the other woodworkers that have been guided by him and that I was not giving it to him for an advertising ploy. I deliberately chose to not have my picture taken with Sam and I do not plaster Sam's name and picture all over my web site, nor have I, since giving him the chair, made a big deal of it for my financial advantage. I have told friends and those that I thought would be interested in private conversations. Now that Sam has passed I feel it is an appropriate time to tell my story. Sam had the chair air freighted back to his home in California and what happened to it after that I do not know. I talked to Sam several times by phone after the chair arrived at his home but I never felt that it was appropriate for me to ask what he had done with it.