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/ ]

Next chair

(as I’ve been working on blog posts lately, things have been a bit weird. When I preview the post, to see the photos larger, I have to click them twice – first they go tiny, then the 2nd click enlarges them. That’s all I can tell you – otherwise, you’re on your own.)

I’ve made lots of kinds of chairs over the years, but the chair I started today is only my third attempt at a “brettstuhl”. Six or more years ago, I did one in walnut with hickory legs. As soon as I got this one done, I saw the flaw – I tapered the legs the wrong way!

walnut & hickory, 2014

It’s funny looking at that photo now – the chair is sitting right where my shop is now. So today I started in at the beginning, working some beautiful ash – and tapering those legs DOWN to the feet. The instructions I’m using on making this chair are from Drew Langsner’s Fine Woodworking article “Two Board Chairs” in the July/August 1981 issue. Below you see one leg done, the other riven oversized. You can make these at the shaving horse, but I did them today at the bench. (I sat at my desk all day yesterday & didn’t feel like sitting.)

First step is to plane two faces, then bring the whole thing to about 1 3/8″ square. This is very fresh wood, just split open a week ago. I want it to finish about 1 1/4″ at the thick end.

Then mark out the tapered foot, and plane down to that. See the end grain of this stick, I’ve drawn a 1″ square as my target to plane down to.

The fresh green wood planes so easily. Dead-straight makes it easy too. I make the octagonal cross-section after tapering. The piece is sitting up in a v-block behind me, and that brings it “corner up.” First shavings here are whisper thin (narrow, really, but who says “whisper-narrow?”)

I start near the foot and take a few strokes, then begin backing up as I plane forward. After a couple of strokes, the shavings get wider and wider.

There – I’ve got that mistake from six years ago remedied. Now on to the back board. I made a half-template out of 1/2″ thick pine and just traced around it. The board is quartersawn butternut, 7/8″ thick.

I’m no master with a bowsaw/turning saw. I get close, then fine-tune the result. I make stop cuts here & there, and apply beeswax to the tiny little teeth. And I keep telling myself, “easy does it.” This saw I made years ago with the hardware from Tools for Working Wood. https://toolsforworkingwood.com/store/item/GT-BOWS.XX?searchterm=bowsaw

Here, I followed some of the shape with a spokeshave.

Then I went over some of the detailed edges with a couple of carving gouges.

Here’s as far as I got – the holes I bored are to put the saw in to cut out the hand-hold. It was getting pretty low light in the shop, so I decided that was a good time to quit. Tomorrow’s another day.