The Portland Chair, designed for Thomas Moser


Thomas Moser is a 43 year old furniture company based out of Maine.  It was started in 1972 by Tom Moser, a former Bates College professor who left the academic world to pursue woodworking, making furniture pieces out of an old Grange Hall in New Gloucester, Maine.  His wife Mary managed finances while their four sons trained as apprentices.  The company was successful and grew, now operating showrooms throughout the United States.

Adam Rogers, their director of design at Thomas Moser asked me if I’d be interested in designing a piece of furniture for them.  The Portland Chair is the result of that collaboration.

I met Adam a little over two years ago at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.  We talked about Michigan (where we both grew up) and Thomas Moser.  Moser has been an inspiration to many craftspeople throughout their 40 plus year history.  Tom’s spindle back chairs have always been an inspiration to me.  Some of his designs are inescapable touchstones on the American handmade furniture landscape.

About a year and a half ago, Adam asked me if I’d be interested in designing a piece of furniture specifically for Thomas Moser to produce.  I was honored.  He invited me out to Maine to show me their shop and what the Moser team was capable of.

The Thomas Moser facility in Auburn, Maine is 100,000 square feet.  To say that they have everything a woodworker has ever dreamt of would be an understatement.  It’s not just about the size of their space or their impressive machinery.  They employ over 70 craftspeople.  About a third of them have been there for over 20 years — to a small business owner like myself, that retention rate speaks volumes.  I was also very impressed that Adam’s office was on the ground floor within that workshop, that he was also a skilled woodworker, and his team communicated so effectively working through design challenges.

During that initial visit we talked a lot about design, craft, where craft is today, how the conversation is being shaped and how it’s changed over time.  Adam and his team were completely open to me about how they designed (we both prefer to draw by hand), prototyped, developed processes, handled orders, and ultimately worked day to day at Thomas Moser.

Upon returning to Portland, Oregon, I decided to design them a chair.  In my mind, it was always a chair.  Moser has such classic chairs — I’m a huge fan of Tom’s Newport Chair.  Adam’s latest (at the time) Cumberland Chair is also a great design.  I settled on a simple side or cafe chair.

First thing, Dad and I made a prototype.  It involved just as much blood, sweat, and sawdust as anything I’ve ever designed for Phloem.  It is inspired by Shaker simplicity and Danish modernism.

It was important to me that the chair had exposed joinery, a hallmark of Thomas Moser’s designs.  We sent the back legs straight through the backrest and wedged them.

When I was happy with our prototype, I sent pictures (including the two you see above) over to Adam and shipped a chair with patterns out to Maine.

I then flew out to Maine for a second time to meet with the Moser team again. We looked over our prototype and talked through the fabrication of the chair. No detail was left untouched and very little was changed from the original prototype.

The Portland Chair gets quite a bit of it’s structural integrity from an X brace under the seat that connects the front and back legs.  It is taller to house larger tenons to add strength and visual weight proportionally.


Years back, dad had a happy little accident on the lathe here at Phloem.  We were working on a completely different piece and he was turning a limb into a tube.  He tapered a leg in such a way that he created an elongated subtle ellipse shape into one side of the tube, while leaving the outside radius straight, creating a beautifully odd taper.  I knew I wanted to use it as a detail again, but it was really hard to do consistently.  I remembered that little accident when I was designing this chair — that strange taper would be no problem for Moser’s tool chest.  All the legs on the Portland Chair have that same detail.


The X brace tenons go all the way through the legs and are wedged on the outside.  Wedged tenons are common in traditional Shaker chairs and quite a few of Tom’s early designs.  They’re a functional, structural detail.


Here, you can see a chair before the seat goes on with all those wedges sticking out.  The backrest is a tube of steamed wood.  Consistently and accurately steam bending wood is very challenging, but it is something Moser has quite a bit of experience in.

Working with the team at Thomas Moser was a pleasure.  They are committed to craft, the celebration of solid wood furniture, and the simplicity of form.  I named our side chair Portland, after the town I call home and the other, older Portland I visited on my trips out to Maine.  I love where I live — it’s a great, growing city so close to nature.  Portland, Maine is a beautiful town as well, with it’s waterfront, brick streets and history.  The name speaks to both.

The Portland Chair is available online at and at each Thomas Moser showroom in New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Freeport, Maine.






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The Strand Line at ICFF 2015


PHLOEM STUDIO will be showing at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair this May 16 – 19 at the Javits Center in New York City.  We’ll be in booth 868.  This is our third time showing and I’m very proud to introduce our new collection, the Strand Line.  If you’re in New York, come by and see our new pieces.


I collaborated very closely with my father, Ron Klebba on this new collection.  In the Strand Line we explored exposed joinery, turned tapered limbs, and weaving.  Dad made a living at making furniture when I was very young and he created many beautiful things.  I’ve always loved Shaker seats with their woven seats — dad made quite a few of those.  When we made the Harbor Chair, using a contemporary rope weave was a natural progression to both of us.  The feel of the rope is sturdy and comfortable.


We’ve been working on these shapes, ideas and processes for years.  The collection is a culmination of those experiments into a cohesive body of work.

A strand is one of many, as in a strand of rope.  It’s also the place between the water and the land — the beach, the coast, the shore.  I grew up sailing on Lake Huron in a boat my father built in the woodshop behind our house.  To me, this collection feels like going home.


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The New Frontier at the Bellevue Arts Museum

harbortrioThere is currently a show at the Bellevue Arts Museum called The New Frontier, co-curated by Charlie Schuck and Jennifer Navva Milliken.  The show highlights over two dozen artists, designers, and craftspeople from the Pacific Northwest.  PHLOEM STUDIO was asked to be a part of the show.  We were excited to introduce our new Captain’s Chair and Rope Stool alongside our Harbor Chair.


You can read about the show at Sight Unseen, the Seattle Times, and ARCADE.  It will be on display until August 16th.






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Harbor Chair



I grew up sailing on Lake Huron with my family.  We’d head out on one of the wooden sailboats my dad built and hang around the harbor.  Sometimes we’d head out to the lighthouse on the edge of the breakwall or venture beyond the harbor, but mostly we’d feel the wind and the waves and enjoy each other’s company.  It was a simple pleasure.  I miss it tremendously.




I’ve wanted to design a chair with a rope weave for a while now.  As with the entire Phloem line, this chair remains as lean as possible, almost primitive in form.  The legs are turned on a lathe and the stretchers are connected with floating tenons.  The backrest is a simple, but comfortable tube shaped by a router, rasps, and sanding.  We used a modern rope similar to lines on sailing ships that will barely stretch over years of use.


My father, Ron Klebba developed the prototypes and built the first batch out of white oak and walnut from my sketches and our talks.  It’s been amazing working with dad these past few years.  His expertise and support has been invaluable.



We’ll be showing the Harbor Chair at two events in October —

Show PDX — a biennial furniture design competition here in Portland, Oregon on display for the whole month.  There will also be a retrospective show at the Museum Of Contemporary Craft showcasing pieces from past shows.

West Edge Design Fair — happening in Santa Monica, California October 16th through 19th.  We’ll be a part of Super PAC — a group of designers and artists curated by Design Milk in booth 201.


The Harbor Chair is available in domestic hardwoods and grey, black, or navy rope.  Please contact me directly for pricing.






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The Jess Side Chair

jessontableIt’s been a great summer in the midst of a very busy year.  We’ve had more new clients this year than any before it.  We’ve had the opportunity to collaborate on some great large scale architectural work. And Phloem showed at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in NYC for the second time back in May.

If you’re in San Francisco, we’ll be showing for the first time at the American Craft Council Show at the Fort Mason Center August 8th through 10th, booth 524.  I’ll be there with pieces from our line, including our recent Jess Side Chair.  I hope to see you there.


jesssideparts2 jesssidestack



The Jess Side Chair is named after my sister, Jessica Klebba.  The seat gracefully cantilevers over its front legs, each limb tapering slightly outwards.  The back is made of solid wood laminations glued up in a curved form.  The stretcher is turned on a lathe, it’s slight arc echoing the curve of the carved seat and the back.  It is appropriate for long meals at a table or studying at a desk.  She’s small, but mighty.

Available in domestic hardwoods.  Contact me directly at for pricing options and lead times.




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Huron Bed


The Huron Bed is a contemporary portrait of a traditional spindle bed.  It marries the tapered long gentle slopes of the spindles to an angular frame.

It is available in domestic hardwoods in full, queen, or king sizes.  Shown above in rift sawn white oak.


Spindle, spindle, spindle, spindle.






You can see more of the Huron Bed here.  Shown above in cherry with the Elaine Four Drawer.

Contact for pricing and options.


Swing low the rumble of a hundred ribbons tied to clouds, the smooth grace of memories roll and wake and roar to life again.  Rely on wind, your sail, and sleep.



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Building The Prospector Canoe, Part 3



Hello, dear reader.  It has been a looooong time since last I spoke of any progress on our canoe.  I initially decided to build a canoe so I would spend more of my free time out on mountain lakes fishing, camping, and exploring.   I’ve been swamped with work and free time has been in short supply.  I get to it when I can but am encouraged when other boat builders tell me it took them years to finish boats.  My hull has been hanging from the ceiling for almost two years now…


You can see how we got to this point here and here.


Once the hull was stripped it was time to clean the glue squeeze out and fair the hull.  I spent many hours with my dad (shown here) and other helpful hands sanding.


sandinghull3 sandinghull2

So much dust.


hullfillAfter the squeeze out has been sanded back it’s time to fill and voids between the strips with epoxy and dust and fairing compound.


After the sanding and the filler, we needed another round of filler here and there, but ended up with this.  Smooth satisfaction.


I decided to put a keel on my canoe.  I’ve heard it helps the canoe track more straight in the water, which can be a great thing in windy waters.  The keel will go the length of the boat, from one stem into the next.  This requires a 14 to 15 foot board…  OR you can make a scarf joint.  I opted for the scarf joint.  Our boat’s keel is ash.


Scarf joint glue up.


We cut the stems to accept the keel.


Then fit the ends of the keel.


The keel is then attached from the inside of the boat with screws.


This was the boat the night before we moved on to fiberglassing the hull.  I was really nervous about fiberglassing and epoxying the hull.  It was something I had never done before, but I had dad on my team and he’s done it quite a few times.


This is the boat in it’s fiberglass ghost costume with Lucy the Wonderdog, faithful springer spaniel companion to my parents.  Unfortunately since this picture, Lucy has passed away.  Lucy was a rad dog.  She could jump pretty much straight up and was always in good spirits.  Rest in peace, Lucy.  You were a damn good dog.


Fiberglass followed by brushing on the first heaping coat of epoxy…  the weave and the wood just soaks it up.  We’re trying to get the weave to sit flat on the wood.  You don’t want to lift it with the brush…  and it starts slowly curing…



Next, you squeegee the epoxy.  I had a hard time getting my technique down, but dad was a champion.  You wet out the weave then time it about 10 to 20 minutes to come back and squeegee off the excess.



When you get to the end of the canoe, you sort of pull the fiberglass tight past the stem, trim it, and let it soak into the wood.  If you didn’t cut it, it would fold over strange and be very weird and hard to remove later.



My mom is taking pictures and stirring batches of epoxy.  It really helps to have a third person help you with timing the epoxy curing and making fresh batches.  This is a pretty great shot, eh?  Nice job, mom.


This is what it looked like after the first coat.  You can see the weave through the wet epoxy.  That’s AOK.  The next couple of coats will fill that in.


The cedar really shows itself off with the wet epoxy on it.


After that first coat, we re-attached the keel.  It’s best to apply all three coats of epoxy in one day, otherwise you have to sand back the epoxy after each coat has cured, making the process take days and days.  If you apply all three coats in one day, you have to wait just long enough that the epoxy is starting to cure, but not too much…  you will be able to touch it but it will be kind of tacky.  We had to wait about four hours before we could apply the second coat.  We had a few beers in those four hours…


Coat two we rolled on and brushed on.


As I said earlier, we had beers…  so I don’t have the best selection of pics for the other two coats of epoxy, but honestly it’s more of the same and would make for a rather boring blog entry.  You get the idea.

trimming epoxy

After the epoxy had cured for two weeks, I trimmed the weave that was hanging below the full.  And then I began sanding with a random orbital sander hooked up to a vacuum.  Epoxy dust is some seriously gnarly stuff.  Don’t breath it in.  Use a vacuum.  Wear a respirator.  For real.

sanding epoxy




After many hours sanding, the glossy, rippled cured epoxy was sooo smooth.

sanded This will be our future canoe.  I don’t know how many hours are into it, nor do I know how many more there are to go.  I do know that I’m on my way down the hill now.  In the next post, we’ll flip it and sand the inside.  Be patient, dear reader.





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A Family Table


I am fortunate enough to be able to design and build furniture for a living.  The pieces I create will last beyond our lifetime and undoubtedly be handed down to future generations.  It can be a very humbling profession.  I recently had the pleasure of building a dining room table for a young family.  The couple had just welcomed their first child.  One day, this table will belong to their son.

glueup crosscut

The couple wanted a table that could handle their daily hustle and cycle as a small family and extend to accommodate larger gatherings.  They wanted a design that was sturdy and timeless.  Originally from Vermont, they decided on a curly maple top (a classic Northeastern wood) with contrasting walnut legs, all locally sourced here in the Northwest.  I sketched up a table with tapered, angled legs and a top that had a gentle bevel on the underside edge.   The curly maple we used has some of the most surreal grain I have ever worked with — maple from the west coast has tremendous amounts of color.  It was overall creamy white, but had massive streaks of orange and pink, with small streaks of brown, black, and hints of green.  There were shimmers from the undulating grain curling and quilting through all of the boards.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

taper mortises legglueup2 finishing2 finishing

Dining room tables become the center of family life.  It’s where we gather our nourishment, plan our future, and recollect what the day has offered.  I remember growing up around a table my dad built.  I would eat oatmeal in the morning at the table before rushing off to school.  At dinner, we would share our experiences from throughout our day, tiny or triumphant.   It was where my sister and I would do school work, where I liked sitting with my back to the window, where my mom would put fresh baked goods out, and where we had family and friends over to enjoy each other’s company.  It would become cluttered and cleared at regular intervals throughout the weeks.  It gained some scratches and wear, a history of our time together. Next to the kitchen, it was the heartbeat of the house.

under table tablewithchairs

To build a family a table that will be with them from the beginning of their journey is a pretty awesome thing.





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Shaped Pulls



 This custom twelve drawer walnut dresser had quite a few pulls.  We outfit the drawers to our Meredith Cases with leather tabs or solid wood pulls that are turned and shaped on a lathe.  My dad and I spent quite a while perfecting the solid wood design.



Here are some of our attempts.  We started with a traditional knob that was turned on the lathe.  While I like keeping things simple, I also really like objects that feel natural to hold.


I remembered back to some threaded knobs dad had made for music stands and plant stands from my childhood.


These knobs had a place for both your finger and your thumb to hold onto.


With this as our reference, we came up with a way to arc a radius for a thumb at the top of the pull.  At first we mimicked that on the bottom of the knob.  Not content with making the pull symmetrical, we ground another radius perpendicular to the thumb radius to make a home for an index finger on the underside of the pull.


The solid wood pulls on the Meredith Cases are unique in shape, but familiar in your hand.









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The Peninsula Chair

Phloem is exhibiting for the first time at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City this May 18th through the 21st.  I’ll be in Booth 1370 with some brand new furniture debuting at the show.

The Peninsula Chair is one of those new pieces debuting at ICFF.  It’s a leather sling chair I designed with help from Matt Pierce of Wood & Faulk.  Matt and I are studio mates and we’ve been talking about designing a leather sling chair for a while now.  It was inspired by a sling chair from 1964 by Jerry Johnson.  Alex Olavarria of Quimby TV documented the entire process – from the initial design phase, through prototyping, and into building the first batch of chairs.  You can watch this little video he made below.


The Peninsula Chair is a lounge chair composed of a leather sling attached to a solid wood frame with simple brass rods.   The profile limbs come together tightly towards the center, giving it added strength and a nice visual weight, with each limb spiraling and tapering outwards.  The Peninsula slings are easily interchangeable by removing the rods, and the entire chair comes apart with 8 oval head brass machine screws.  I grew up in Michigan, a state surrounded by water.  The name is fitting for a chair that is simple, honest, and distinct.  It is a chair for lounging in refined, relaxed form.  The Peninsula Chair is currently available in domestic hardwoods or ebonized ash, with heavy leather sling options in earth tones or black.

Please contact me directly with inquiries

Benjamin Klebba —

This website will be completely new on Friday, May 17th, 2013.  We’ve been working very hard over the past year or so creating a pair of new lines — the Arris Collection and the Meredith Cases.  I can’t wait to show them to you.













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