a new chair

I was thinking about chair-making a lot lately, just had no time to do any. Now I do. First thing I did after cleaning the shop for 2 days was take this brettstuhl down from the loft and changed the outline of the seat. It used to look like this:

last year’s brettstuhl

That seat shape was pretty close to what Drew Langsner wrote about when I first learned of these chairs back in the mid-1980s. When I started building them in the past couple of years, I used that same shape at first. Then the more I saw of antique examples (online, not in person…) I decided I like this shape better:

that’s better

Then I went back to the chair I resumed work on the other day. An alternative to the chair above, this time with a 3-piece back.

chip carving

Yesterday I chopped the mortises in the seat board – starting with a brace & bit. These mortises are 7/8″ x 1 3/4″. I do them in 2 steps, first in the seat board, then in the battens.

ten degrees

Once those are chopped, I laid out the trenches for the battens. I saw and chisel most of this, then clean it up with a router plane. I pretty new tool to me. These battens were extras from making a couple of these chairs last spring, so beveled, not dovetailed on their edges. That means you can use the batten to guide the saw’s angle. If you’re careful. I do most of this sawing with the heel of the saw, teeth I rarely use.

white oak batten, butternut seat

Then knock out the waste.

bevel down

I use my large framing chisel to begin the cleanup.

it only reaches so far

I have done enough of these chairs now, and plan on more to warrant the addition of a router plane.

router, starting to get the hang of it

After I got the battens fitting & chopped the back’s mortises through those, I bored the mortises for the legs. These are 15/16″ diameter holes. Mine don’t exit through the seat – I made the legs a long time ago & the turned tenons weren’t long enough to do so.

boring leg mortises

I turned the now-dry tenons to their finished size, glued them & wedged them.

glued & wedged

Some more fussing with the back, more mortising & wedging of the tenons through the seat. here’s where it stands now – some trimming here & there to finish it off tomorrow.

butternut above hickory below

9 thoughts on “a new chair

  1. Why don’t you bore the legs through the seat, too? Also, the Italian ones you don’t like so much often have tiny octagonal or hexagonal seats with clipped corners. Drew’s seat sort of looks 1950s, to me?

    • I first learned of them with blind leg mortises. I am going to do some with through-mortises, but these legs were made last year so their tenons were already too short to go all the way through.

  2. I don’t often reply, but view and admire often. Don’t think we aren’t watching out here just because we’re quiet. Love your work and calm, clear delivery.

  3. The chairs I’ve seen and repaired in this style semi to fall in two categories. Thin battens with through tenons, here the seats often are cracked.
    Thick battens with blind mortices. Here the seat mostly is fine. Usually there is a leg or two that broke at the tenon.
    If I where to make chairs with through tenons I would have a two piece chair seat. This keeps the more traditional looks of the through morticed chairs but reducing the possibility of the seat cracking in the future.
    Just my two cents.

    • Thanks Frederik – I am glad to have your input, having not really seen these chairs in person. I see the cracked seats in photos regularly and understand how it happens, with the battens across the seat that way. The legs breaking at the tenons is interesting. Could be a combination of factors I guess. The pronounced rake & splay and the reduction in cross-section from the leg to the tenon. My tenons are 15/16″ but the leg is about 1 1/4″ thick at the shoulder. It looks like older chairs have thicker tenons than mine…but still a drop from the leg’s full dimension.

  4. Cool chair, Is this your own concoction? I don’t think I have seen one like this before, I really like the style and the blind tenon you can really give a good piece of wood with nice grain a place to shine. Definately going on my to do list, Thanks so much Peter!!!!

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