I decided to stay warm today in the house, rather than trying to get the shop warm. So I took this chance to go back to video-editing and made an actual trailer for my chairmaking video that shows some of the woodworking. (I had done two other excerpts – one 2 minute intro and another long one about Jennie Alexander and chairs.)
This one’s about 9 1/2 minutes long and shows some of the steps involved. The entire video is 8 1/2 hours long and shows you most everything I could think of about making this chair. It costs $75 and you can access it at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/jachairpf
My kids, as part of an on-line history class, are watching the PBS series Colonial House. I keep interrupting to say “I made that [chair/chest/stool/table/bench/bed]” etc. The museum where my wife & I (& most of our friends) used to work collaborated on the project – the period carpenters built the houses, I made the furniture – that sort of thing. I think we worked on it in 2002/3.
I’ve been sorting through old files here at the same time – and have run into some turned chair photos from 15 or more years ago. The chair above (with a servant sitting in it, while the head of the household sits on who-knows-what) is made from ash, with oak slats and a rush seat. Here it is when I photographed it back at the museum – after the series was done shooting. I “made it up” – by that I mean it’s not a copy of any particular chair from the early 17th century. I measured chairs when I could, studied a lot of Dutch art – and then came up with something plausible.
It’s made using techniques I learned when making chairs with Jennie Alexander and Drew Langsner – some basic principles still apply. All the wood is riven and then turned green. I used to dry the rungs near the potters’ kilns then – and I bent those slats before they went in the chair. Below is a typical press or form for bending slats. JA didn’t use this setup because the slats of her chairs each have a different bend.
This is a different chair – but here I’m boring it vertically – with a spoon bit. Those large-diameter posts are an easier target than JA’s 1 1/4″ posts. More room for forgiveness.
Assembled the front & back first, then bored & fit the sides together. That top rung (in my hand) is not turned, but just shaved. The seating will cover it.
The other extreme is the shaved chair pictured here – another screen shot – same notion; using techniques from working with JA I often made these simple chairs – shaved & hewn posts, left square. Mortises made with a spoon bit and tenons shaved at a shaving horse. Rush seat. At this fellow’s right foot is something that never seems to have actually made it to New England – a three-legged board-seated turned stool. I got real interested in making them and the chairs with the same construction. But probably shouldn’t have. For whatever reason, they don’t seem to have been made here. The 3-legged turned chairs are found a lot in England – but not New England.
Four-legged versions are found in New England – some years ago I made this copy of a famous one at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth. Ash with an oak seat. Heavier than all get-out. Pilgrim Hall has a couple of them – worth a look when you’re in town – https://pilgrimhall.org/
I hope this photo below is a test-fit to get the size of the seat. The seat is a beveled panel that fits in grooves in all four seat rails, so it has to go in during assembly.
And for scale – here’s one of my JA chairs beside my copy of Bradford’s chair. Yes, that JA chair is the standard-size, 34″ tall. Note the seat height of both is about the same.