Brettstuhl assembled

Spent the day fitting the brettstuhl together.

Brettstuhl assembled

I had put the ash legs in a kiln powered by one light bulb. Over time I weighed them, and they stopped losing weight a couple of days ago. Hence, dry. I didn’t get photos of the first half of today’s work, boring the mortises in the battens for the legs. I had the battens in place in the seat, and bored from below. Used 2 adjustable bevels to set the rake & splay. Here’s photos of the rest of the day. First a front & rear leg fitted into a batten. Through-wedged tenons, 15/16″ in diameter. Ash legs, white oak batten.

legs & batten

Before fitting the battens into the seat, I chamfered the edges of the front & sides of the seat. This could be a molded edge (it is in Drew Langsner’s article I used to build from) – but a chamfer works too.

chamfer w drawknife

Once I had the two battens fitted with their legs, time to knock them back into the seat. They are not interchangable. I marked them inside the housing.

Then slide/heave/push, but don’t pound the back into the mortises cut in the seat & battens.

one good use of too much bulk

From there, I scribed the baseline for the mortises in the back’s tenons. Then back out it comes.

scribing for mortises

I bored these mortises, then pared with a chisel. I felt the butternut was a somewhat fragile wood, and it’s tight quarters in there for chopping a mortise. So brace & bit and paring chisel work. Make sure the top end of that mortise is ABOVE the baseline scribed. The wedge needs to bear on the batten’s surface, not the end grain of this mortise.

The other end is angled some, maybe 6-8 degrees or so. Too steep is less likely to grab.

more boring

then I pared the end grain and the walls inside that mortise. It’s 5/16″ wide. Centered on the tenon’s thickness, which is about an inch. Then I planed some wedge stock, I used hickory in this case. I just wanted something harder than the butternut. Not sure it’s necessary. I always chamfer the ends of wedges like this – both ends. That way if you ever have to adjust them, you can knock them this way & that without beating them to bits.

Then put the thing back together & drive the wedges in. These next two photos are a bit out of order – the wedges are still extra-long, and not yet chamfered. And the batten too is extra long. I took the wedges out to trim their length, then chamfered them. Took the back out so I could easily trim the battens flush with the back edge of the seat.

Then put it all back together. This is an earlier test-assembly. One nice thing is there’s no hurry and you can take the back in & out to make whatever adjustments you need.

Here’s the other view of the finished chair.

brettstuhl side view

I want to do another one soon, otherwise everything I learned doing this one will go out the window & I’ll have to learn it again. Next time, more taper to the legs. More rake & splay.

16 thoughts on “Brettstuhl assembled

    • this is based on a Swiss one Drew Langsner wrote about in 1981. I think lots do pin them front-to-back – this direction misses the legs easily. But pierces the thin dimension of the tenon. pros & cons I guess.

  1. When I’m cooking from a recipe book I annotate the page with changes I make along the way. Do you keep a catalogue (apart from your most excellent blog) to keep these annotations for later use? A chronicle?

    • Not really. Just the blog mostly. Some notebooks here & there, I have a chairmaking notebook from ages ago, not much in it beyond measurements & angles. The joinery stuff is/was mostly in letters between Jennie Alexander & I before the blog started in 2008.

  2. Well Done!

    1I have always wanted to make a set of these and have even devised a wedged sliding piece to attach the legs so the seats don’t crack.


  3. Very nice looking chair, Peter. I especially like the ornate back rest and the meeting of styles. German chair meets 17th century carving.
    My only concern is that the legs don’t go all the way through the seat. I have seen many historic examples and own an antique Brettstuhl from 1832, all of them had the leg mortises going through the battens and the seat (to provide for extra meat around the tenon).
    Just perhaps an idea for your next chair, especially if you are planning to add more rake and splay. If the legs are only attached to the battens, the undercarriage has a greater chance of failing.
    Just my two cents as a fellow chairmaker. Nice work and I look forward to seeing your next Brettstuhl.
    Greetings from Germany and all best, Rudy

    • Thanks Rudy – I had seen your blog post, it comes up in a search for brettstuhl. The battens on this example are 1 3/8″ thick, so there’s plenty of mass there for the mortise & tenon. I super-dried the tenon and the batten – didn’t want the batten to shrink in its housing. Should be fine. Drew says Ruedi Kohler made them this way all the time, after formerly making them pierce both the battens & seat in the traditional manner. When he switched to this method, he increased the batten thickness.

      • I see, that is interesting. I have not yet encountered any historic examples of this type of construction but there are always more chairs out there that I haven‘t seen. If I come across some I will let you know and send pictures.

  4. Beautiful chair!

    I know this is from an old style and design but at first glance it looks like Danish modern (seat and legs)
    meets the 17th Century.

    I never tried chamfering cross-grained with a draw knife. I’ll have to try that next time – it looks like a good technique. I always get good ideas from reading your blog.

  5. The reverse tapered legs make all the difference. I lightens the chair, almost to the point of a fairy tale.

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