English Roorkhee chairs are one of the missing links of modern chair design.
The form has its roots in the 19th-century late-Victorian era of the British Empire. It was the symbol of the changing nature of war (it’s lightweight and quick to pack). And its simple lines influenced generations of chair designers, from Marcel Breuer to the person who developed the ubiquitous camping chair.
I started building a run of these chairs on Tuesday for an upcoming article in Popular Woodworking Magazine and a forthcoming book on campaign furniture. My version is based closely on an historical example – many modern versions are skimpier and have joinery that is unnecessarily complex or just silly (more on that later).
This Roorkhee (rhymes with “dorky”) chair has conical tenons and mortises. And all the stretchers are the same length so they are interchangeable. Also a plus: The seat slopes down from the front of the chair to the back. That makes it nice for lounging. Some of the historical examples I studied had horizontal seats or even seats that sloped forward – perhaps to help keep you awake or to allow you spring from the chair for battle.
As I have no battles planned for 2013, I chose the version that is best for a beer or cigar after safari.
My joinery design is indebted to Greg Miller, a woodworker in Australia who built many of these chairs commercially. He shared his tricks for the joinery and his leg layouts with me.
I should have the chairs all framed up by Friday and finished by Saturday. So here is the plea for help: If there are any leather workers out there who could do the seat and back (for pay, of course), drop me a line this week at email@example.com. Otherwise, I’ll head up to our local leather store – they have kindly offered to help me out.
And now down to the shop. I have mortises to bore.
— Christopher Schwarz