Shaved Windsor chair; take 2

Thursday I resumed work on my 2nd version of Curtis Buchanan’s democratic chair. The first piece of furniture I assembled this year was my initial attempt at this chair back in January. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2020/01/06/finished-my-curtis-buchanan-chair/

For my first Windsor-style chair in decades, I was happy enough with that one. Which is different from “I was happy with it.” One problem I had was the legs splitting at the joints.

splits in rear leg & side stretcher

I suspected my tenons were too large. I talked to Curtis about it, and if I remember right, he said because of the steep angle (say where the side stretcher meets the leg) you can get splitting. Suggested yes, make the tenons a bit smaller than I might in a ladderback chair. I was using white ash. I think another factor was the auger bit I used. It has a thick lead screw that might have contributed to the splitting.

For me, one of the most glaring problems was boring the mortises directly in the tangential plane of the legs. And the orientation of the leg is dictated by the orientation of the seat. In this case:

  • the long fibers (the “grain”) of the seat run front-to-back.
  • The growth rings in the legs’ tenons (the whole leg actually) are therefore oriented so they run perpendicular to the fibers in the seat. 
  • The leg is split so the wedge is also perpendicular to the fibers of the seat. 

This makes the front view of the front legs (and back legs) the tangential plane. And it means when boring the mortises for the side stretchers you’re boring directly into the growth ring plane. Where ring porous woods split very easily. 

BUT – I hate looking at the tangential plane of ring porous hardwoods like oak, ash, etc. And on my first democratic chair, the front of the front legs (and back of the back legs) is this plane. 

front leg shaved chair, Jan 2020

I thought about switching the leg orientation 90 degrees to the “usual” format. Then you wedge it just the same. This puts the leg’s radial plane, which changes less than the tangential plane, running in the direction in which the seat moves the most from one season to the next. So in a worst-case scenario the seat could split I guess, if it shrank a lot versus the leg tenon which wouldn’t shrink much. I think if you use a softwood seat like white pine, and hardwood legs, the seat will compress before it will split from the legs. I bet any problem would be at assembly, not afterwards. I could, of course, be wrong. It’s been a long time since I was really a chairmaker of this sort.

In the usual orientation, the leg’s radial plane lines up with the long fibers of the seat. The seat does not shrink in this direction at all; maybe the tiniest fraction of an inch. If you were to make the change I was thinking about, the radial face would now be the front view of the legs. Better visually for me, but now you’d still be boring into the radial face./growth ring plane, where ring porous hardwoods also split very easily. 

In the ladderbacks I learned from John Alexander and Drew Langsner, we positioned the posts’ growth rings at an angle to the rungs…they coined the phrase “post and rung compromise.” They didn’t make up the concept, it came from studying old chairs. The reason for it is to reduce the chance of splitting the legs when driving the rungs in – the mortises are bored between the growth ring plane and the radial plane. Below is one of Chester Cornett’s chairs, showing the front post oriented with this post & rung compromise. The radial crack bisects the angle between the front & side rungs. But you see how neither of those mortises are in the radial or growth ring plane. Some of Chester’s chairs that I saw used sassafrass posts, this one was white oak, very slowly grown.

I decided to try something this on my democratic chair #2. I was moderately successful. The legs & stretchers on this chair are also white ash, and had grown a bit too slow for this application. Too many growth rings make them a bit weak. I oriented the stretchers in the usual way – their hardwood-to-hardwood mortise & tenon joints seemed more critical to me than the hardwood/softwood leg-to-seat joints. So the growth rings on the side stretchers are parallel to the floor – those on the center stretcher are perpendicular to the floor. This means the mortises for the center stretcher are bored into the radial face, directly in the growth ring plane.

boring the mortise for the center stretcher

One side stretcher cracked slightly like on the first chair. I keep learning.  

But it was the legs that I moved around. I re-positioned them just a bit, turning them in their tapered mortises so the growth rings were angled to the fibers in the seat. The wedge, and the wedging action, are still perpendicular to the long fibers in the seat.

rear leg in the seat

This way I was boring the mortises for the side stretchers one facet off from the growth ring or radial plane.

It worked pretty well, one leg has a small split, but that might be more due to the slow growth rings than anything else. Next time, I’d choose a faster-growing log, and I might turn the tenons rather than spoke-shaving them. It’s better than first time out, almost to where I’m happy with it. 

thinking about chairs: past, present & future

I don’t need the calendar to tell me the season is changing – the light in the shop is distinctly different now, a bit lower, coming around a bit earlier. A nice time of year…

Our neighbors put out some stuff for sale by the side of the road from time to time. I wouldn’t let Maureen bring home a small table last week, so I couldn’t bring home these chairs this week. But I could photograph them…some fun stuff to see. One with four slats, but still a small chair.

A hideous knot in the rear post – ugh. But it’s lasted quite a few years.

This was my favorite of the pile. Worn down on the feet, probably was about 4″ higher I’d say.

I like the top slat of this one.

They were $20 apiece – nobody bought them. Not enough traffic these days, I guess.

I’ve had chairs on my mind lately. I told you I pay attention to Curtis Buchanan’s work. Recently I bought a set of his new drawings for the democratic arm chair.

I finished this example of the side chair earlier this year – and started another. Now I hope to finish that one and then make the arm chair.

I shaved parts for the arm chair in red oak, but mine are a bit heavy. I’ll wait a little to see how much they shrink, then will go over them just a little more to slender-them-up a bit. Or down, I guess.

Curtis’ shaved chairs really hit me right at the right time. I made Windsors many years ago, learning from Curtis and Drew Langsner. Quite some time ago, my friend Michael Burrey took me into his house to show me some things he’d bought at someone’s estate sale – including this continuous arm settee I made back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I took one look at it, and immediately thought “I couldn’t make that today.”

and that got me to thinking about how I’d like to recover some of those techniques/skills. Then along came Curtis’ democratic chair. It reminded me of some shaved chairs I made way back when, inspired by my friend Daniel O’Hagan. Here’s a settee my brother and his wife still have, I must have made it around the same time as the one above.

This one I still use, I’m sitting in it right now – it’s my version of Curtis’ sackback chair, just with shaved bits instead of turned bits. Tulip poplar seat, cherry legs/stretchers/arm stumps. White oak, ash & hickory above the seat.

In case you’ve not got to Curtis’ chairs & plans yet – here’s his links:

https://www.youtube.com/user/curtisbuchanan52/videos

https://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

Curtis’ plans are the inspiration for my Carving Drawings https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

 

 

the Arkansas Test

Many of you know I’ve been editing Jennie Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree for Lost Art Press. (yes, I know you want me to hurry…) At the same time, I’ve begun a meandering sort of research project that is only partially formed in my head. For a year or more now, I’ve referred to it as my “Craft Genealogy.” This is the first blog post on that subject. 

Much of this parallel project draws on the Jennie Alexander Papers, now housed at Winterthur Museum’s research library. JA kept notebooks from nearly the beginning of her chairmaking work, the earliest is dated 1973/4. There are other papers, notes and letters that I have here. Eventually, I’ll add these to the Winterthur collection. 

At North House, I gave a talk outlining some of it. It was mostly for me, but some of the audience claimed to like it. But they’re midwestern, they’re very polite. The focus of the talk was mostly about JA, Daniel O’Hagan and Bill Coperthwaite. All letter-writers. Many other people are involved – certainly Drew Langsner who is my connection to all of these folks.  While I was at North House, I stumbled onto a piece by surprise. 

In Daniel O’Hagan’s notes is a description of a stress-test Dave Sawyer used to apply to his ladderbacks, dated 1974: 

His chairs are so strong that he recommends what he calls the Arkansas test having learned it with other techniques from Arkansas craftsmen. The test is to tilt the chair on one leg and taking hold of a back post exert all one’s weight downwards on the chair which supports it all on one leg; by this any weak point will soon creak or break. ” 

The only Arkansas chairmaker mentioned so far in the Alexander letters was Charles Christian. More about him another time. JA eventually visited Christian, but I think had first  heard of him through Dave Sawyer. JA introduced himself to Sawyer in a letter dated May 1976 – but in an Oct 1976 letter to Sawyer, JA noted:

“It is a small world. I was going over my old notes the other day and saw that the Woody Brothers of Spruce Pine N. Car. had given me your name 2 years ago but I never got around to writing.”   

I don’t know how JA got onto the Woody Brothers of Spruce Pine, N.C. – Arval & Walter. Then-John and his wife Joyce had visited them in spring of 1974, and then traded a few letters back and forth. 

While at North House, I was browsing the bookshelves in one of the workshops. A variety of Scandinavian stuff, boatbuilding, timber-framing, etc. One little coffee-table National Geographic book “The Craftsman in America” (1975) – so I opened that, and found a photo that I recognized right away, but had never seen before. Arval Woody testing the chair just the way Daniel described Dave’s test. 

Chairmaking in the US is now is a small world, in the mid-1970s, it was even smaller. I see several explanations, none of which we really need. One is that Daniel mixed up Dave’s chairmaking friends, thus the Arkansas test might really be the NC test. Another is that the Woodys and Charles Christian knew each other, and they both did it. Another is that Dave is the transmission of this show-stopping demo – bringing it from the Christian shop to the Woodys. None of it matters. All I know for sure is when I opened that book at North House, and saw that photo, I knew right away I was on the right track. I heard Daniel O’Hagan’s voice say “It is providential!” 

PS:

I tried it yesterday and almost broke my neck.

I couldn’t balance, needed one hand on the bench. There’s plenty of weight on the chair still, I have enough to go around.

Brendan Gaffney got a better photo than I did; he’s still young & more nimble than me. 

 

PPS: The Woody’s Chair Shop is still going. https://www.woodyschairshop.com/

 

 

 

new small toolbox

In between a few recent projects I made a new small toolbox. Pretty early in the year for me to cut dovetails. It’s white pine, 11″ high, 12″ x 28″ on the outside of that lower skirt. Made it to replace an open tray that housed my boring tools and jigs for making JA ladderback chairs.  It was a great amount of blank space that bothered me, so you can see I started laying out some chip carving on the front.

But I can switch stuff out & travel with it too. Those snappy iron handles by Peter Ross make me want to pick it up.

There’s a till inside, for bits, line levels and other small stuff. Till lid is American sycamore.

One long divider inside, to separate the bit extenders we use in for boring the chair posts, the oak blocks for holding the posts when boring, etc. I’m going to make a removable tray to sit on top of that stuff next.

 

But I couldn’t leave it at that. I have two joined stools I’m coloring recently, so have been making a mess with milk paint. I had some mustard paint around that wasn’t going to make it on the stools, so I put some on this box. Then began the carving. I like chip carving, but don’t have the discipline to do the perfect job you see many doing these days. It’s too slow. Mine are best viewed from a distance.

Here is the toolbox with the open tray it’s replacing. And some of the stuff that’ll go in it.

And open.

It’ll never look that good again, it just got shoved under the other workbench. And there it will gather dust & get kicked around. That’s why I built it with the skirt to reinforce its construction. The chairmaking tools – braces, drawknives, bit extenders – are heavy. My mid-1980s Japanese-style toolbox is just to the left of it under the bench. In that are mostly student tools – extra spoon carving tools, random metal-bodied plane or two, extra braces, etc. Usually I move all that stuff to a temporary box when I travel. Now that will stay put & the yellow box will become the schizoid tool box. At home one thing, on the road another.

Here’s the toolbox that doesn’t move. I built it after Chris Schwarz wrote his book about them. And painted it too. I couldn’t bear to look at all that blank wood. I see from the links below that was January 2012. Time flies.

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/a-solution-to-too-much-blank-space/

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/another-day-of-painting/

 

Tim Manney’s shaving horse at Plymouth CRAFT

Last weekend Tim Manney came down to Plymouth from Maine to teach 6 Plymouth CRAFT students how to make his shaving horse. Tim;’s version is well-known now; he had an article in Fine Woodworking about it, (issue #262, Jul/Aug 2017) and in the same issue Curtis Buchanan was quoted as saying that he thinks he’s spent over 20,000 hours at a shaving horse, and that Tim’s is the best he’s used.

Tim’s main focus is that the horse can be built with everyday materials; but carefully-selected everyday materials. It’s almost all 2 x 6 or so material, some thinner stuff and a little bit of hard maple. This course was a bit of a departure for Plymouth CRAFT in that some of the work was prepped ahead of time by Tim, and there were even some machines invovled. Mostly a drill-press. Here’s some of the shots I got during the class.

Stacks of parts prepped by Tim.

Jake trimming some of the first glue-ups, the leg-to-rails.

Tim sneaking underneath, showing how to adjust the leg assembly prior to clamping the glue-up.

Tim marching down the line, checking on progress.

Winding sticks helping to line up the front & rear legs.

This was our first time running this class. We kept class size small. That gets a lot of attention, and lots of detail. Here David and Andy work together to line up the clamps on Andy’s horse. Craig must be on deck.

Half of the dumbhead assembly set up in place – to check its placement and glue-up.

This is the next step – the full dumbhead base now. It gets wedged below the “bed” of the horse.

Tim demonstrating layout for the wedge mortise.

Craig cleaning up the mortise with a chisel.

David has a small smirk on his face, as his horse is coming together.

Diane was amazing – absolute new woodworker, dove in the deep end. Now she’ll be off to a great start.

Not quite done, but nearly so. This one still needs the work surface under the head.

We got done in time to bring in some green wood & distribute some drawknives so everyone could test-drive their creation under Tim’s direction. Paula Marcoux & I shot photos of the group as they worked their horses for the first time.

Tim has measured plans available for his shaving horse, and we’ll get him back sometime to do this class again. First he has to recover. Here’s his shaving horse plans web-page https://www.timmanney.com/work/shavinghorseplans 

Plymouth CRAFT’s website – so you can sign up for the newsletter for future workshops – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/

 

finished my Curtis Buchanan chair

The two joined stools I’m making are mostly all cut, a little more carving to add to the small end aprons. Then I need to wait a few days before pegging them. So I took some time to continue my “finishing-leftover stuff” campaign. This time I went into the loft and dragged down my version of Curtis Buchanan’s democratic chair. (Well, it was a little beyond this point – the stretchers were in too.)

I had the seat, legs & stretchers all assembled. So what I had left was boring the posts for the crest rail, then test-fitting that,

and boring it for the spindles. Then just shaving the spindles and assembling. I say “just” – lots can go wrong in those few sentences. But as it happened, I made it through. Here I have the crest bored for the center spindle, and I shaved that & installed it. That stiffened things for boring the other holes in the crest. I set the other spindles in just to check their alignment, then moved them back out & bored it. 

I didn’t shoot any step-by-step photos, but I did set up the camera to shoot a sequence of the assembly. I set it for once a minute and just took what I got. Here I’ve marked the depth on the spindles’ bottom tenons, and I’m knocking them in place. Unlike Curtis’ video series, I glued this chair. 

After some alignment gymnastics, I am knocking down the crest onto the five spindles, then the posts come down into their tapered mortises in the seat. A lot has to happen. Hide glue next time, slower setting than the yellow glue. I got away with it…

Using a zig-zag ruler to check from seat to under the crest at both posts & center spindle.

Then splitting & wedging the joints.

Done. My first real chair of this construction since 1993. My lack of practice shows, but it will work fine for the shop. The ash legs split a bit as I drove the stretchers in. A few angles are off down under the seat. But I keep hearing Jennie Alexander’s voice back when I was making chairs with her – “The eye is very forgiving.” And when you sit in the chair, you can’t see it. 

You can make your own – Curtis posted step by step videos showing the whole thing. I think this link will take you to the whole set.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DoQl6xBAUI&list=PLL_KlogKd1xf9GYjSfBVLKTp8KngC8q7j 

——————

Woodworking has taken me to some wonderful places, and I’ve met people who in very short order become great friends. And I’ve been thinking  recently of those I met down in Australia, particularly my friends in New South Wales. I was lucky enough to go there in the fall (their spring) of 2018. What a fabulous place, and such a terror to hear about these past few weeks & months. A benefit of social media is that it makes it easy to keep people posted about folks’ safety/situation, etc. It’s good to hear that so far they’re safe, but some have left their homes. Whether the houses will be there when they get back no one knows. Wish I could send all you folks some rain.

Chair assembly pt 1

I spent some time recently working on the undercarriage of the “democratic” chair designed by Curtis Buchanan. First, a very modern convenience; an Ipad on the bench, running Curtis’ excellent video series on youtube, so I can follow along with what he’s doing. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL_KlogKd1xf9GYjSfBVLKTp8KngC8q7j

 

Here, I’m set up to bore the legs for the side stretchers.

I flipped the chair seat around to get at the other legs – Curtis’ bench is in the midst of the shop, so he can get around the whole frame. I shoved some short alignment pegs in the bored mortises, to help line up the bit extension for the next set of holes. We used to use these in the JA chairs; not necessary but they don’t hurt.

I got smart & got the Ipad off the bench  – clamped it to the window frame. I got afraid I was going to smack into it. I can fix a busted chair part…but not the electronics.

Here I’m test-fitting the legs with their side stretchers in place. Gotta spring them a bit to get them in the seat mortises.

It’s been over 25 years since I made Windsor chairs with any regularity; and much of the process has been simplified since then. I spoke with Curtis last week, and we talked about how we used to bore this stuff, how to find the angles, etc. It’s all so much more direct now. The center stretcher angle he finds by setting two sticks (in my case, 2 rulers) = one across the side stretchers right above the mortise locations, the other sighted to line up with the first. Then strike a line across the seat – that’s the angle! I added a square to double-check the alignment of the two sticks.

Here’s where I got to – the rear posts are just jammed in place. I’ve caught up to Curtis’ videos. (well, except for leveling the feet) I could just bop ahead, but I might as well wait & see what he’s got up to in fitting the crest and spindles. I have plenty to do in the meantime.

This chair has a white pine seat, ash legs & stretchers. Posts are red oak, the spindles and crest I have made for it are hickory.

 

still doing to-be-dones

In between teaching and other commitments, I’m still plugging away at unfinished projects. This morning I went out to the shop and had a look around. I’m back to working on this chest of drawers. The morning sun created a visual assault on the moldings and turnings.

I’ve been cutting the joinery in the lower case – it’ll be three drawers of just about equal height. Then the upper case (above) is technically three as well, but two shallow side-by-side drawers, over a very deep single drawer. The lower case is just about done framing now. I have two horizontal pine panels to make for the rear. Then it’s onto the drawers. The side panels are re-sawn Spanish cedar, to match the side panels of the upper case.

There’s mortises chopped into the top edges of the lower case’s upper side rails. Tenons will project above the rail to engage related mortises in the bottom edges of the upper case. This will keep the cases aligned. Gravity does the rest.

I’ve sort of made up the format of the drawer fronts. I stumbled across a quilted/rippled board of maple one day ages ago. So I’ve resawn it as well, making thin plaques that get housed flush in the drawer front. Then Spanish cedar moldings will frame around them. And I’ll have leftovers of both that I’ll make into small boxes…

Meanwhile, I’ve been following along with Curtis Buchanan’s democratic chair videos – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL_KlogKd1xf9GYjSfBVLKTp8KngC8q7j and I’m almost caught up. Next up is  boring for the stretchers and assembling the undercarriage.

For that I just got this Millers Falls 18″ bit extension – it fits both auger bits and the more modern straight-shank bits. (or the ones I’ve tried so far, at least.)

An auger bit and an old (30 year old?) Stanley power-bore bit, with the business end of the Millers Falls extension.

I thought it said No 3; but I put my glasses on and see that it’s No 35. I think they came in other sizes too, 24″ maybe…

and last, this amount to just about my entire summer’s worth of spoon carving – 3/4 done rhododendron spoon. I’ll add it to the “to be finished” stuff.

Looking at some chairs

I first learned how to make ladderback chairs based on Alexander’s book, Make a Chair from a Tree. Then later, I studied a thin slice of furniture history from the perspective of those who made it. So what I know, or think I know, is pretty narrowly focused. There’s lots of kinds of chairs; generally I break them down into two forms – Joined chairs, like this one:

And turned chairs, like this one: 

turned chair, ash w rush seat

For now, I’ll concentrate on turned chairs.  Whether they have a board seat, fiber seat; spindles in the back, or slats – the common feature they all have is the round mortise & tenon joint. I think of JA’s chair as a turned chair that isn’t turned. Alexander’s earliest chairs were turned; here is a one-slat Alexander chair all in hickory, with a paper imitation rush seat. Made c. 1974. 

By 1976, Alexander’s chairs parts were shaved with a drawknife rather than turned. There is a long tradition of “un-turned” turned chairs, some reaching back to the 16th & 17th centuries. One helpful reference I found when studying London records was this, from the Company of Turners:

“20th February 1615 It was directed that the makers of chairs about the City, who were strangers and foreigners, were to bring them to the Hall to be searched according to the ordinances. When they were thus brought and searched, they were to be bought by the Master and Wardens at a price fixed by them, which was 6s per dozen for plain matted chairs and 7s per dozen for turned matted chairs. The effect of such an order…all chairs which came into London had to be submitted to the Company and if approved, were taken over at the fixed price. The Turners reaped the benefit by the removal of possible competition.” – this quote is from The Worshipful Company of Turners of London – Its Origin and History A.C. Stanley-Stone, (London: Lindley-Jones & Brother, 1925)

My italics. If “plain” matted chairs are distinct from “turned” matted chairs, then I conclude they aren’t turned. “Matted” refers to the fiber seat, usually rush. Paintings & prints are helpful to a degree in seeing what sort of chairs were in use at a given time. There’s loads of examples. This painting by Cornelius Decker (1618-1678) shows a 2-slat shaved chair in the lower right corner. 

Looking at it in detail, I see a few things. Square posts (well, sometimes they’re rectangular, but not round, thus “square”). Only 8 rungs, and the lower ones are quite close to the seat rungs. Doesn’t offer much strength that way. Either the chair has wracked so the rear posts are now canted back, or it was bored to achieve that. Rush seat. Moving those lower rungs down would strengthen the chair.

 

Meeting in a tavern, by De Jongh (1616-1679)

The chair in the lower right hand corner, has some perspective problems. But we can see several details. Might be 12 rungs, it’s at least 11; through mortises; a cushion; square posts.

this detail from Michiel Sweets’ (1618-1664) “The Academy”: 8 rungs, through mortises, rush seat, 3 slats. No bend to rear posts. Small chair.

Sweerts, The Academy

A mezzotint by Wallerent Vallaint (1623-1677). This is a detail; all we can tell is the chair has square posts, round side rungs, through mortise for a very tall slat. Either intentionally bored to cant the rear posts back, or wracked to just-about-falling-down.

Same artist, different chair. Note the raked rear post, clearly shown here. I’m of the opinion this is intentional to give the chair a bit more comfort than if it were bored so the rear posts were plumb. This time, two rear rails, with turned spindles between them. Discard any notion this chair was shaved/square posts because there was no lathe! Very low seat, allows you to work easily in your lap. Only 8 rungs. Rush seat.

Vallaint, boy in the studio

I made lots of shaved chairs in the years when I wasn’t making JA style chairs – mine were more like these period-style chairs. I could make the chair frame in a day, maybe 6 hours. The rush seat took me as long or longer! This one is maple posts and white oak slats. Rungs might be white oak or ash. Rear posts hewn above the seat to cant them back just a bit.

plain matted chair, PF

more of this sort of stuff here; Alexander, Trent & I (mostly Trent driving this article) on shaved chairs – http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/581/American-Furniture-2008/Early-American-Shaved-Post-and-Rung-Chairs

Chester Cornett chairs

I first saw photos of Chester Cornett’s chairs in Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree in 1978; but didn’t know it. For various reasons, some of the chairs in that book are attributed, some are not. There’s three of them in there; here’s one:  

 

Some years later, Drew Langsner showed us a VHS of Chester, called “Hand Carved” produced by Appalshop, a non-profit dedicated to “document, disseminate, and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of the region.”  That film is where I first learned the story of Chester. I guess Alexander then showed me The Hand-Made Object and Its Maker a book by Michael Owen Jones. This was published in 1975, and expanded and revised as Craftsmen of the Cumberlands: Tradition and Creativity in 1989. 

So when I went out to Lost Art Press last week for our box-making class, the day off after the class entailed a trip to the Kentucky Folk Art Center https://www.moreheadstate.edu/Caudill-College-of-Arts,-Humanities-and-Social-Sci/Kentucky-Folk-Art-Center in Morehead to see some of Chester’s chairs.Chris Schwarz and Brendan Gaffney had been on a Chester binge in recent years – here’s a blog search at Lost Art Press for Chester Cornett https://blog.lostartpress.com/?s=chester+cornett 

Brendan was my guide, and he’s not only seen a lot of Chester’s chairs; he’s made a version of one of the 4-rocker/8-legged chairs – https://www.burn-heart.com/fatman-poptart-rocker/onf4ok366nyfz8kmkjpyi2rd4c3cft

This white oak rocker astounded me. Virtuoso craft.

Those rear posts are probably around 1 3/4″ or more in “diameter”; we estimated the mortises for the arms and stretchers to be about 3/4″ – so not delicate in any way.

I forget the whole inscription; Brendan translated it for me. This is some of it, I might have some of it garbled. The price, $90, is also written the top slat.

“Made Buy
Chester Cornett
______ ________
Engles Mill
Trouble Creek Kentucky”

Now -before anyone makes fun of this chair – I’d like to see you make it with a handful of tools. A four-rocker, eight-legged walnut rocking chair with hickory bark seat.

This one is walnut & hickory bark. The seat rungs might be hickory too.

The most basic chair is itself a beauty. I think this is what Chester called a “settin’ chair”.

The relief shaved in the rear post to make it easier to bend is in the radial plane here, not the growth ring plane like JA always did. I just was looking at some of Kenneth Kortemeier’s chairs, and was planning on swiping this idea from him. Then here it is on Chester’s too.

The front post, oriented just like JA taught us, medullary rays bisecting the angle between the front and side rungs.

It was amazing to see these chairs in person. Regardless of the design debate about his over-blown rockers, Chester was often in full control of his tools in making a chair. The oak rocker here is a perfect example. I’ve thought of him as an idiot-savant whose gift is chair-making. His sad life was a struggle; but he was a natural with a drawknife and brace and bit. 

Here’s a feature on Chester from the Cincinnati Magazine https://www.cincinnatimagazine.com/features/chester-cornett-humble-chair-maker-mad-genius/