next brettstuhl assembled

It was April 10th when I wrote here on the blog about the previous assembly of one of these chairs. I was too busy in May with the Essex County cupboard project and birding to spend much time chairmaking. So it wasn’t until today that I assembled the next one – 6 or 7 weeks apart. That’s a long enough gap to un-learn things for me.

One thing I changed this time is the seat – a thumbnail molded edge instead of just a bevel. And the front corners snipped off – something I saw scrolling through photos of antiques and museum pieces online.

black walnut & ash

I bored the mortises for the rear legs with the back in place – an attempt to keep the rear leg from bumping into the through-tenon of the back under the seat. It almost worked – I must have wiggled on one of them. But a minor wiggle.

boring rear mortises

I turned the leg’s tenons to their final dimension (in this case 15/16″ x 1 3/8″ long), Then sawed a kerf in them for a wedge and knocked them into the battens. With glue too. The batten is lifted off the bench top so the tenon can protrude through the top of the batten.

sub-assembly

My notes from last time said “make the tenons longer so they all exit completely.” A combination of the angle the mortise is bored at and the length of the tenon can leave the tenon either through like this one, or not quite all the way through like some of the others today. Oh well. Not the end of the world. I still wedged them and they glue helps too.

wedged tenon before trimming

Driving in the tapered beveled battens is pure fun. They’re very loose for a good stretch, then all of a sudden they get as tight as can be. Brilliant concept.

driving in the legged-battens

Then I insert the back in its mortises through the seat and the battens. I don’t use a mallet, it’d be easy to split that back right in half. I’ve done it, a very discouraging move. After it’s all the way in, I scribe for the wedge mortises in the through tenons.

fitting the back in place

I consulted the previous chair when I laid out the mortise for this wedge. I made it 5/16″ wide and just eyeballed cutting out the wedge angle. Then I used the wedge to lay out the angle of the mortise.

locating the wedge mortise baseline

Knocking the wedge in from the back. I drive it in, mark where I want to trim it front & back, then knock it out, trim it & put it back.

knocking in the wedge

Here’s today’s walnut one beside April’s butternut example. These chairs are a great combination of challenging and fun.

The impetus for this diversion into these German/Austrian/Italian/Swiss etc chairs was first of all Drew Langsner’s article “Two Board Chairs” in the Jul/Aug 1981 issue of Fine Woodworking. At first, I felt skittish making them because I’ve never studied an old example. But 2020 blew that notion out of the water anyway. So I started in, figuring I’d make some blunders here & there, some changes to Drew’s instructions and find my way into them. One thing I have seen online is the wedging that fastens the back under the seat is usually a pin, not a wedge. I like the wedge idea that Drew learned in Switzerland, but I run mine from the back toward the front – not side-to-side like the way Drew learned. All those options work of course. I have enough walnut boards to make three more. But they’ll take me some time. There’s that cupboard to get back to…

[if you missed the April brettstuhl assembly post – here it is https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2021/04/10/brettstuhl-2-done/ ]

5 thoughts on “next brettstuhl assembled

  1. A long round tapered pin for the back tenons requires a smaller drilled hole and is easily adjusted. I don’t know the ramifications of drilling the leg tenons through both the cleats and the tapeed dovetailed shoes, seems counter-intuitive, but “they” did it a lot. Maybe you should look an Italian sgabello chair? Some were made in England in the period. I’m not aware if any of the American Moravian brettsthuls are carved.

  2. Well, the underseat battens may be an explanation for how the chair is constructed in Durer’s “St. Jerome in his study”, a work of art with a number of woodworking ideas that I’ve been kicking around for some time. A little tough to tell, but the leg and back mortises make no sense otherwise, and Durer is really good at construction detail.

    • Except there are no battens visible, nor tenons from the upper stiles. I don’t understand why the “leg & back mortises make no sense otherwise.” – it might be no different from any construction like a windsor chair or a stick chair. Through tenons, wedged at their tops.

  3. Nice work, Peter, I think this one really captures the Brettstuhl tradition, yet looks modern and with a twist. Funnily enough, the through tenons of the back rest often touch the legs (to stabilize the construction). That way when leaning back against the back rest, the tenons push against the legs through the pivoting action, making for less stress on the seat mortise. My own Brettstuhl has a 1/2“ gap between the tenons and the legs, so historically this wasn‘t always done.

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