The 17th-century World of Sitting

From Randle Holme III’s “Academy of Armory,” which he began in 1649. As republished in “Living and Working in Seventeenth Century England”


He beareth a Throne, a chair Royall, or a Cathedre (from it Latine terme), adorned with a veriaty of precious stones.


He beareth a Chaire.
This is a chaire made vp by an Imbrautherer, which being all of one colour needs noe more termes; but it it be of contrary colours, as when it is made vp of needle, or turky worke then the fringe is diuerse coloured, (or the seate and back of Needle work) proper ffringed answererable thereunto, Garnished (or set the Nayles), of the first. If the chaire be made all of Joyners worke, as back and seate then it is termed a Joynt chaire, or a Buffit chaire. Those which haue stayes on each side are called Arme chaires or chaires of ease.


Turned chair
He beareth a Turned chaire with Armes.


Settle chair
He beareth a chaire. This is the old way of makeing the chaire. Some term it a settle chaire, being so weighty that it cannot be moued from place to place, but still abideth in it owne station, haueing a kind of box or cubbert in the seate of it.


He beareth a stoole (or stoole frame).


Joint stool
He beareth a joynt stoole. It is so called because all made and finished by the Joyner, haueing a wood couer: In most places in Cheshire it is termed a Buffit stool.


Turned stool
He beareth a Turned stoole. This is so termed because it is made by the Turner, or wheele wright all of a Turned wood, wrought with Knops, and rings ouer the feete, these and the chaires, are generally made with three feete.


Country stool
He beareth a countrey stoole, or a planke, or Block stoole, being onely a thick peece of wood, with either 3 or 4 peece of wood fastned in it for feet. Note that if these be made long, then they are termed, either a Bench, a Forme, or a Tressell; of some a long seate. Some of these stooles haue but three feete.


He beareth a round three footed stoole, or a countrey stoole made round with three feete.


Nursing stool
He beareth a nursing. stoole; In some places it is called a crickett, or low stoole, or a childs stoole.


Joint form
He beareth a Joynt Forme, or Bench.
These are termed Joynt formes, because wholy and workmanlike made, by Artists of the Joyners craft. Some are made with turned feete, 4 or 6, according to its length, hauing railes or Barres both aboue, for the seate to be fixed vpon, and below, to hold the feete firme and stiddy. If the couers be broad then they are blazoned, Tables.

Twiggen chair
There is another kind of these chaires called Twiggen chaires because they are made of Owsiers, and Withen twigs: haueing round couers ouer the heads of them like to a canapy. Thes are principally used by sick and infirm people, and such women as haue bine lately brought to bed; from whence they are generally termed, Growneing chaires, or Child-bed chaires.

Posted in Furniture of Necessity, The Academy of Armory | 4 Comments

2nd Printing of ‘Campaign Furniture’ & Other News


We’re going back on press for a second printing of “Campaign Furniture” with a few corrections and a slightly different cover. The only significant correction, which was to the Roorkee Chair chapter, is discussed here. I also added a thank you to Greg Miller, who I neglected to include in the first printing.

I’m telling you all this because we have some customers who collect first editions of our books (no, we don’t have any first-edition copies of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” hidden here).

The new cover replaces the image of the chest pull with the title of the book. We’re also switching inks used for the cover stamp. The new ink will be more matte and coppery – less gold.

Also, the third printing of “By Hand & Eye” should be back in stock next week. And the expanded “With the Grain” is right on its heels.

In news on new projects, Peter Galbert’s “Chairmaker’s Notebook” is almost completely designed and should be headed to the printer within a couple weeks. As I type this I’m scanning the last of about 500 hand-done drawings for this book. I promise, this book will be worth the wait. The book will be 8-1/2” x 11”, hardbound with a dust jacket and more than 350 pages (perhaps close to 400). No word on pricing, yet.

Designer Wesley Tanner has begun work on designing Don Williams “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley.” It will be ready for Handworks and the exhibit of the cabinet and workbench. Come to Handworks, see the cabinet and get your book signed.

“Roubo on Furniture” is awaiting some final work by the translating team before going to the designer. And our massive book on Charles Hayward will head to the designer as soon as Linda finishes designing Peter Galbert’s book (sorry about the workload, Linda and Wesley).

We have another dozen projects in various stages of completion, but these are the most immediate.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in By Hand & Eye, Campaign Furniture, Chairmaker's Notebook by Peter Galbert, Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker, Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley, With the Grain | 11 Comments

Sandpaper and Shaved Legs


When I make early chairs, I prefer a surface finish for the legs and spindles that is faceted and created by shaving instead of turning.

I also use sandpaper to help me see what I’m doing (he wrote, pausing and waiting to be slapped by an unseen hand). So here’s what’s going on in the photo above.

I don’t own a shavehorse because I don’t have enough room in my shop. My shaving pony ran away many years ago, or is hiding in our basement. So I make spindles and legs in my leg vise. It is slower than using a shavehorse, but you get pretty good at it. Don’t let the lack of a shavehorse stop you from making chairs.

On the leg above, I have turned the tapered tenon on my lathe and have added a small V-shaped notch where the tenon diameter will more than fill its mortise. The notch is a reminder to stop shaving at that point.

I taper the leg with a spokeshave. Then I finish with a gunstock scraper, which is the tool I’m using in the photo. Once I get the surface looking semi-acceptable, I remove the leg from the vise and quickly hand-sand the shaved section with #150-grit (the grit isn’t really important). This creates a powdery, dull finish on the leg.

Then I put the leg back in the vise and shave the leg to its final surface with the gunstock scraper. The sanded sections of the legs peel away and I can see exactly what needs to be shaved and can make the facets nice and semi-regular.

In reading what I just wrote above, I sound like a fussbudget. But I do this operation to save time and prevent me from over-shaving sections of the leg or spindle.

— Christopher Schwarz


Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 28 Comments

First, Add No BS


One of the turning points in my writing was courtesy of Bob Flexner. Years ago we were discussing ideas for future columns that he could write, and Bob threw out this one: You don’t have to finish both sides of board.

I laughed because I thought he was joking. Everyone else, and I do mean everyone, had told me you had to finish both surfaces of a board to prevent it from warping. Bob dissected the myth, eviscerated it. Here’s a later column Bob wrote on the topic for Woodshop News.

Bob’s column was fantastic. And it changed my thinking process immediately. Whenever I evaluate or explain a technique, I ask myself: How do I know this? Am I certain that every word can be demonstrated? Am I just repeating something I’ve read elsewhere?

It’s the same strategy I used as a crime reporter for newspapers. Every sentence of my articles went through those filters because if I slipped up I would end up sued. But I hadn’t applied that to woodworking writing. After all, this stuff had all been figured out thousands of years ago.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. And I’ve been climbing out ever since.


This week I’m cutting up a bunch of joints to see what is happening inside. When I first learned this staked furniture joint, I was told that you should use a hard wood for the legs and a softer wood for the seat, and that you should hammer the legs home hard. Like John Brown above.

It makes sense, but why? My theory is that the joint works much like a cut nail. The leg or nail crushes the fibers in the seat, helping to lock it in place. But is it true?

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 40 Comments

Roorkee Chat No. 3


— Suzanne Ellison

Posted in Campaign Furniture | 4 Comments

The Skep: The Symbol of the Artisan

vintage beehive victorian

When we started Lost Art Press, we kicked around several ideas for what should be the symbol of our small company. We toyed with a saw and then a plane, and we eventually settled on using Joseph Moxon’s compass.

The dark horse candidate was to use a skep, a woven, basket-like beehive. The beehive has long been the symbol of the industrious, and I love its shape and the parallels between the world of the bee and artisans.

But few people (aside from Mormons, Freemasons and the history-obsessed) associate the skep with building things. I’d like to change that and have been working on a T-shirt design that marries the skep with the tools of the joiner.


To prove that I’m not nuts, take a look at some of these images. The cover of “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker,” a Victorian reprint of an 1830s volume, features a skep at front and center in the cover design.


Or check out this 18th-century certificate from the New York Mechanick Society. Yes, we all see the hammer and the butch muscles. But check out the little bird just to the left of the hammer.


Yup. It’s a babe with a skep. (Note: Lost Art Press does not endorse walking around while carrying a beehive and a shovel. There are easier ways to get someone to buy you a drink.)

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites | 13 Comments

The History of Wood, Part 38


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