a little more brettstuhl work

trimming battens’ ends

Here and there I take some time to work on the “board chair” I’m making. I struggle with what to call it. This version has a 3-board back. But for now, I’ll stick with the German “brettstuhl” but recognize that it’s not a very good term for it.

Once I got the uprights fitting into the mortises, I then trimmed the extra length at the back end of the battens/cleats. Maybe you can see in that photo above that the upper tenons have already been drawbored – turns out this is not ideal. Small discrepancies in how those two uprights relate to each other means I need to adjust their shoulders for the crest to come down tight on both at once. So I made a note for next time – leave that drawboring til after fitting the upright’s lower wedges. (for now, I plugged the holes in the tenons and will re-bore them after adjusting the fit. Another learning-experience-chair.)

Once I had those uprights fitting in their seat mortises the way I liked them, I marked the baseline of the wedge-mortises. This wedged-tenon is one place where I do things differently from other brettstuhls I know about.

marking the baseline for the wedge mortises

I first heard of these chairs from a Drew Langsner article in Fine Woodworking in the early 1980s. That chair, made by Drew’s mentor Ruedi Kohler in Switzerland, used wedges driven across the through tenons.

wedges across the through tenons

Most of the antique chairs I’ve seen pictures of use tapered pins instead of wedges. And they run from the back toward the front. I decided I like the wedges vs the pins but I like the fore-and-aft direction better. It does have a drawback – you have to miss the legs. (the picture below is from Chris Schwarz – he’s been to places where these chairs come from. I haven’t.)

C Schwarz sent me photos

I bore a couple of holes, then clean out between them to make these mortises. They’re too short to chop in the usual way. Laying them out looks weird because of the angle where the uprights meet the seat. And you have to be sure the mortise extends above the baseline so the wedge will bear on the cleat.

wedge mortise

Now I’ll trim the length of these wedges, adjust the way the crest sits. Then bore for the legs.

wedged tight

I made the tapered legs from riven ash. Turned the tenons oversized, then air-dried them for a while. Last week, I moved them to my 4-wheeled kiln to dry the tenons further before turning them to final dimensions. These days I try not to go anywhere, but at least I get some use out of this car.

hot as blazes in there

7 thoughts on “a little more brettstuhl work

  1. Peter.

    Your photo of the “4 wheel kiln ” for drying stuhl leg tenons gave me a solution to a chair post tenon drying problem i have been sitting on (an unintentional and accidental play on words) for months!
    13 year old black Volvo plus July dry heat may do the job!

    Brian

  2. Funny enough, just spotted a couple of these type chairs on the front porch of an antique shop. The card said they were antique Swedish chairs. And of course I flipped one upside down and the back tenon had been permanently pegged thru the back of the seat. It could’ve been a later screw repair and plugged over the holes. Seemed sturdy, but the chair could not be taken apart. Do you happen to know if these chairs were made to be easily taken apart for shipping or even just moving about? Thanks.

    • I doubt they’re Swedish. Usually German/Austrian/Swiss/French/Italian and a couple other places I’ve forgotten. Most (but not all) of the old ones had the legs penetrate the seat and the battens – thus can’t knock down too much. The backs can usually be taken out – carefully. I doubt they were made with the notion “oh, we can take this chair apart” – I think it’s just the construction they used.

      • Yes, these chairs had the legs thru the seat and wedged. What was weird was the back tenon was thru the seat with a couple inches extended like it would be wedged, but it was merely pegged thru the back of the seat. Certainly easier to not cut that angled mortise and fit a wedge. It appeared to be an original configuration. Thanks.

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