A Joint Stool Comes to Greenbriar


The two most difficult things to photograph in woodworking are plow planes and joint stools.

With plow planes there is not a single good angle that shows everything about the tool: the fence, the tote, the skate and the cutting action. With 17th-century joint stools, the problem is of parallax.

The four legs (or stiles) are angled in one direction but not another. As a result, when you take a photograph of the stool, the laws of parallax and perspective conspire to make the joint stool look all kinds of wrong. Sometimes the front legs look straight and the rear legs look hopelessly angled. Other times the whole stool looks like it is going to fall off the edge of the earth.

With a standard camera, it takes a lot of fussing and fooling to turn this gorgeous three-dimensional object into an equally gorgeous two-dimensional object.

Today I received a joint stool that I had purchased from Peter Follansbee. Wait, let me restate that. I purchased the awesome joint stool that is on the cover of “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree” by Jennie Alexander and Follansbee. I bought the stool for two reasons. One, I really like to support craftsmen I admire. Two, I wanted to have a joint stool to show customers when we are out selling the new book “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree.”

I’ve had a hard time explaining how cool joint stools are to customers when showing them the book. Having a joint stool makes that easy. This thing is awesome. If you are coming to the Lie-Nielsen show in Chicago on April 20-21 then you can experience this for yourself. I’m going to bring the joint stool so you can get your hands and eyes on it.

After I unwrapped the joint stool today, my daughter Katy was all over it. She’s actually sitting on it right now while playing Rock Band. While she was looking it over, I pulled out my camera and shot the following short video segment.

It’s hard to impress a 10-year-old girl. But Peter’s joint stool really did. And when you see this thing in person I have no doubt you’ll want to build one for yourself.

— Christopher Schwarz

About lostartpress

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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25 Responses to A Joint Stool Comes to Greenbriar

  1. Grumpy Badger says:

    I wish I could have seen a joint stool at the Cincinnati hand tool event last week. I’ve never seen one in person and thus far I haven’t been a big fan. Partially because, just like you said, when photographed joints stools always “look all kinds of wrong” and that turned me off.

  2. rob campbell says:

    I truly hope my daughter has a fraction of the enthusiasm for woodworking that yours does!

  3. Bill Snyder says:

    Yep Looks lopsided as hell :)

  4. Eric Bennett says:

    It makes me feel so much better to see another parent quiz their kid on wood. Over twenty years I’ve called my son away from video games, phone calls or wrapped in a shower towel to show him a hand cut tenon, blind dovetail or dry assembly. He learned early on that I required a few seconds of oohs and aahs – or to guess what was unique about a particular wooden part.
    A few weeks ago at the Detroit Institute of Arts, I called him over to look at an early American chest. “Wow, you don’t see quarter sawn stripes like THAT today – and squared off pegs”. My jaw dropped and my heart soared.
    Later that night he hit me up for a twenty and I cheerfully opened my wallet. Smart kid who knows where his bread is buttered.

  5. Cary says:

    I do not see any art here. Perhaps Peter needs to concentrate on French furniture of the period. Where real talent is present. As far as Alexandria—-so sad.

  6. tsstahl says:

    See you in Chicago.

  7. steveschafer says:

    That odd-looking blotch at the bottom center of the photo makes it look like you were photobombed by a mutant Cookie Monster.

    -Steve

  8. Jack Palmer says:

    Like a flash back. I remember when my daughter was that age and would bring me a glass of water to my basement shop. It was always her ticket to coming down and hanging out. A great age,as they all are. She is now a designer for a local company. Keep up the good work Chris. And to Carys comment: I didn’t see the word “Art” anywhere in the narrative??

  9. John Cashman says:

    Chris, there really can’t be any doubt about who Katy’s father is. Nice job.

    • joraftsr says:

      I’ll say, they have exactly the same smile. A very cute young lady.
      Nice video, I enjoyed it.

  10. Brent says:

    Truly his father’s daughter: the first thing she said was “look at how tight that joint is”. Chris, I am proud for you!

  11. Cary says:

    Good obervation Jack. Peter is so talented I would love to see a French period attempt. This is good work but well below his talent level.

  12. tucsonlawrence says:

    As the parent of a 10 year old myself (and an 8 year old, both boys) I can empathise with your obvious pride. It appears as if you have both a very nice joint stool and a child that is practically bubbling over with life. Congratulations on both,
    Lawrence

  13. joecrafted says:

    I think my first joint stool will be a basic one, perhaps with a pine seat as the oak I have ready for work is not going to be big enough. A utilitarian piece that would look good as a companion saw bench in my shop. I don’t have a treadle lathe yet, so I’ll have to fire up the electric version for the turned bits.

  14. Cary says:

    comment removed at the request of the commenter.

  15. Adam Palmer says:

    I always thought Follansbee’s talent was in the execution. A joint stool is a simple thing, certainly, but expertise shows through. It doesn’t always have to be a highboy. Just like in cooking, the mark of a great cook is more about the very well done roast chicken, not the truffle risotto.

    • lostartpress says:

      To all these comments about the “art” in the joint stool or whatever, I invite you to build one of these from a tree using hand tools and send it to me. Let me look over your work.

      Then you’ll have the right to criticize Peter’s stool.

      This thing is fantastic. Period. By any measure. And it is made even more so by the methods he used. So send me your stool or shut your yap.

      Chris

  16. Cary says:

    I feel the comments are right on. I make Windsors, would that do?

  17. Cary says:

    French Windsors—-you drinking?

  18. Marty Backe says:

    The view of the chair at the very end of the video captures it perfectly – doesn’t look strange. Take a picture from the same perspective and it might look very nice.

    • Cary says:

      Good observation Marty. The view elongates the elements thereby making it look in proportion. My take, but things are relative.

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