A Roorkhee in Authentic Canvas

Several readers have asked what a Roorkhee chair would look like with canvas seat covers. This week we finished up a pair of these chairs for a customer who wanted us to strive for the most authentic look from the early chairs in the late 1800s.

Finding canvas is one thing. Finding canvas of the right weight, color and weave is another. I have an old military machete sheath that is made of just the stuff we wanted. So Ty Black went out one day to a massive fabric warehouse to compare and contrast.

He got lucky.

The good news about canvas is that it is much cheaper than leather. This stuff – a remnant – was $4 a yard. So we bought all they had. The bad news is that it is a lot more work to sew it and get it right.

Some interesting details about this chair:

• We riveted the seams of the back with No. 10 copper rivets. We had to use that longer rivet because the material folds over a lot at the seams. It looks great, however, and was worth it.

• We put a buckle and strap on the rear of the seat cover for the back. This allows you to put on or remove the back cover when the chair is assembled. It also gives you some control over the lumbar support.

• All the buckles on this chair are a black malleable iron. We picked them up from a place that sells supplies to the saddle industry.

• The arm straps are an oiled latigo. This is our favorite leather. We bought it from Wickett & Craig, and you have to have a wholesale account to buy from them.

• Using canvas for the seat covers shaves off considerable weight. I’ll be interested to see what these chairs weigh when we pack them up for shipment.

Bottom line on the canvas: If you have someone in your harem/circle of friends/church group who sews, then this is an excellent option. If you are on your own, I’d opt for leather seat covers. They cost more, but they require less skill and tooling.

One more thing: Several people have inquired about who might supply finished seat covers for their Roorkhee chairs. Ty, who sewed these chairs, is happy to provide that service. Drop him a line at ty.black@gmail.com for details.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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12 Responses to A Roorkhee in Authentic Canvas

  1. SteveR says:

    While the Roorkhee chair history is interesting, it just proves to me that military practicality and beauty do not mix. This is not a chair I will ever want to own.

  2. tjhenrik says:

    I examined the canvas version unclose at WIA. As a lifelong camper/hiker I have had my share of experiences with well made and not so well made canvas structures. I was impressed with the look and quality of Ty’s work. That boy can sew! I encouraged him to consider other projects as well such as chisel rolls or a sleeve for my oversized pig sticker.

  3. billlattpa says:

    Would the garment industry in NYC have a supplier of quality canvas? Or would that be a logistical issue.

  4. rwyoung says:

    Why isn’t is “helper.monkey@gmail.com”?

  5. Paul says:

    Chris Hughes at http://ArtifactBags.com works in waxed Canvas and leather, I bet he could help people out with the construction of their canvas seat covers.

  6. John says:

    Chris, Where can the hardware for these chairs be found? Cheers!

  7. Erds says:

    Why not make the arm rests out of canvas?

  8. Jim Lebans says:

    Just finished one of these chairs in leather & red oak. The seat is marvelously comfortable, but I find it pinches a bit at the shoulders. A couple of things seem to contribute to this. The rear legs tend to bow in very slightly, and I suspect I left a bit too much slack in the leather in the back – it’s a bit hammocky and loose rather than flat and under tension so you sink into the back and it folds around you. I’ll probably try turning slightly longer dowels for the front and back to spread things out to try to fix this.

    Chris is this something you’ve experienced in any of your chairs?

    By the by, I found some nice brass drawer pulls to use instead of your gas strut posts at Lee Valley for a buck each.


    • lostartpress says:


      As easier fix would be to run belting between the back legs, right below the seat. I’d try that before turning longer dowels — the longer the dowel the weaker the chair.

      And could you share an item # for that knob so I could take a look?

      • jlebans says:

        Hi Chris,

        Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll try the belting first.

        As to the knobs, the item number was 00D47.20. They come with #8-32 screws that I cut the head off with a hacksaw, and I tapped a hole in the legs to take the screw. The screws are 3/4 inch, so once screwed into the pull you end up with about a half an inch of screw to work with. It seems solid to me, but but you could always get longer screws.

        The nice thing about your ball-knob automotive parts, of course, is that the match the rest of the hardware. But he brass and leather is pretty…


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