Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The Miniature Electric Chair
As is typical, we had a customer wandering around the shop studying miniatures. During his exploration, we chatted about miniatures and the amazing variety and styles available. He didn’t appear to be looking for anything in particular, but suddenly he turned to me with a sheepish expression on his face. “Please don’t think I’m strange, but I collect miniature chairs.” Being accustomed to miniaturists and the sometimes unusual items they request, I assured him I did not think him strange. His next statement did surprise me: “I’m looking for an electric chair.”
I’m sure my expression revealed my surprise. I must admit, it was an interesting request. He went on to explain that while he and his wife do collect miniature chairs, he is in security, and someone examining his collection noted that it did not include a chair that could be loosely associated with his profession. Thus began his hunt for a miniature electric chair. I was quite certain that I had never seen an electric chair in miniature, but I suggested that he leave his name and phone number and that I would try to fulfill his request.
Soon after he left the shop, I began my quest. I called several vendors who I thought might make such an item, I searched through my files of artisans, and I surfed the Internet. No luck. I did, however, stumble upon “Li'l Sparky” a You Tube video someone made on a battery operated miniature electric chair. Quite funny in a dark way, but not what I’m sure he had in mind. During the course of the next couple weeks, I asked and searched, but came up empty. Then one day I came across a website about “The Mystery Electric Chair.” Interestingly enough, the site included a schematic for a 19th Century electric chair; the origins of which the author was trying to learn. As I looked at the drawings, it dawned on me that the lines were simple and reproducible in miniature. Thus began the building of my electric chair.
I assembled the basic structure rather quickly, but then I was confronted with the problem of the electrical and wiring details. As I hunted through my various supplies, I found several components that I thought would work. While wiring and adding the fittings, I briefly considered electrifying it, but decided it was unnecessary. I was certain my customer wanted just the chair.
The entire process was delightfully weird, but fun. My family got a big kick out of the concept and the kids thought it was “cool” and “awesome.” It never ceases to amaze me what kids find cool! My daughter even posted a picture of it on her MySpace page. I learned more about the electric chair that I care to admit.
I was a little nervous the day my customer arrived to pick up his chair. He was delighted when I called to tell him we had a chair for him, and even more so when he learned that I had crafted it specifically for him. I held my breath as I took it from the box to show him. A huge grin spread across his face when he saw the fruits of my labor. He carefully turned it to inspect the details and just kept grinning. I guess I had a winner!