brettstuhl #2 done

Before I dive into splitting & planing a new oak log, I figured I’d take today to finish up the brettstuhl that was 3/4 done.

brettstuhl #2

Some of what I tackled today. First, make sure the legs are dry. The scribbling on them is their weight in ounces over the past couple of weeks. They’ve been in a kiln made of insulation board, heated by a single light bulb. Kept at about 140 degrees.

dry bones

Then figure out the placement of the mortises and the angles of the legs. I built the first one based on Drew Langsner’s 1981 article “Two-Board Chairs” about a chair he built with his teacher/mentor Reudi Kohler. But here & there, I changed a few things. And on this one, I changed them some more. Drew sent me some notes on his chair, measured the angles for rake & splay, etc. But I’ve been looking at images online from various sources too. Often these chairs seem to have an exaggerated degree of rake & splay. So that’s what I aimed for this time.

sightlines for mortising

After some mock-ups I laid out the sightlines on paper, then taped that in place because the battens and underside of the seat do not form a plane to easily lay things out on. I had to nip off the corners of the paper so I could bore the mortises. I have no mind for math, I used the “chairpanzee” contraption made available by Lost Art Press – to figure these angles.

boring with adjustable bevel as guide

It’s all well & good to figure all those cool angles, but you still have to bore them on the money. I got close, but could have been better in a couple instances. These mortises are 15/16″ in diameter, 1 3/8″ deep.

rear legs

And there’s the problem – the far leg here bumps into the back’s through tenon below the seat. Not fatal, I just trimmed that tenon some. Only my pride was hurt, and I’m used to that.

#1 on our left, #2 on the right

I like the looks of the new one much better. More lively. But as I viewed it beside the previous example, I thought I’d over-done the angles. Figured those feet would trip people up walking by the chair.

#2 beside my version of the democratic chair

Then I began to measure it against a version I made of Curtis’ democratic chair (another post later…) and they both are about 17″ across the front of the seat, with footprints of 21 3/8″ (the brettstuhl) and 20 3/4″ (the democratic chair). So both of these chairs’ front feet jut out beyond the seat a bit. I guess the thing to do is use the new one some & see what happens. And go measure some of the other chairs around here…

11 thoughts on “brettstuhl #2 done

  1. Could it be that the back is so much smaller, it would be easier to cut closer to the chair when walking by? It’s lovely!

  2. I thought from the photo that the splay was a but much, but I hadn’t seen the picture of it next to the Windsor. A similar problem exists in NY versus CT continuous arm Windsors, the NYC ones have upright legs and greater layback in the hoop, the CT ones, Tracy et. al., have more splay to the kegs and a more upright back. So far as the leg catcher problem goes, It’s more apparent than real, because the brettstuhl has a smaller seat. Once the COVID restrictions on going into the Winterthur collections are relaxed, I will look at the Moravian one we published in 2008.

  3. I like the lines of the first Brettstuhl more. It looks more like a stuhl or stool. I assume you increased the splay because the first one was too tippy, which stools can be. Maybe just a slight increase in splay, say a couple of inches total, would look better and still serve the purpose of making the chair less tippy, and/or the back leg splay should be more, to prevent tipping over backwards. Thank you for this post. it is n interesting chair.

    • I’m glad you like the chairs. I didn’t change it because there was a problem with the first one – it’s just aesthetics. Most of the old ones I see in photos (I should have stressed in the post that I have not studied these chairs in person!) – have pronounced flare to the legs. It was enlightening to compare them to the Windsor chairs. I have another Curtis Buchanan-made chair here that has even a wider footprint. Fun stuff to think about.

  4. I like the 2nd one much better—the carving, rake & splay, shape of the legs, the whole thing. If #2 excels at its new role as a nocturnal toe stubber, you could always chop 6” off the legs and market what’s left to the munchkins.

  5. It was interesting to read that you kiln dried the legs with a light bulb. My first job was working under my uncle, a building contractor. I was 17 y.o. and he was 69 y.o. At one time he explained to me that he made sure trim wood was dry by sticking and stacking the wood under plastic and placing a light bulb at one end letting the hot air flow upward. That was back in the 1950ies. He built his last house when he was 81 y.o. Pleased to hear that you practice an old tradition. WES

  6. hey Peter,

    do you ever bore all the way through to the seat from the dovetail battens? Or too many problems with crossgrain glueing? I’ve got a thin 1 1/2″ seat I plan to carve that I’d like to pair with 1″ battens. thanks!

    • Randall – take a look at the title of the blog post – brettstuhl #2. So I have not done this type of construction much. No, mine don’t come through the seat. Many old ones (maybe most old ones) do. Quite often, this results in the seat splitting. It won’t break in two, but is not something I really want. My seats are 7/8″ thick, battens 1 3/8″. The battens are white oak.

  7. Hi Peter, I read in a german encyclopedia on furniture making from around 1900 in which the author wrote that boring the holes all the way through the seat – although often done – should be avoided and therefor the battens should be at least 30 millimeter or more. Thanks for the inspiring work!

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