Stumpy the Art Stump Project – in a Weekend


With only days before the Christmas holiday, I stumbled (literally) on a project idea in the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Step 1: Find a stump as big as your bottom.
Step 2: Cut it to about 18” long.
Step 3: Paint the end a funky color.

These were not on exhibit. They were for the patrons to sit on while viewing the collection. I give the design a “10” for solidity and permanence. And a “1” for comfort.

Also, I found some interesting early stuff in the permanent collection that was in the not-Modern Wing.

— Christopher Schwarz

The simple chest is listed as circa 1692 from Marshfield, Mass., in red oak and pine.

The chest with the split turnings is dated April 15, 1704, and is listed as a Connecticut piece – possibly Weathersfield.

And the third chest is considered 1710 and from the Hatfield/Deerfield area in Massachusetts.

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21 Responses to Stumpy the Art Stump Project – in a Weekend

  1. John Switzer says:

    Looks like they might be a bit expensive to ship.

  2. Dave Jeske says:

    Lots of Latent projects locked up in those logs

  3. Clearly, they don’t want the likes of you hanging around the modern section. Were there comfy chairs where the art was?

  4. Steve says:

    Thank you Chris for a great year of woodworking wit and humor. Merry Christmas to everyone.

    • Michael Doughty says:

      Thank you Steve for being the first in this string at least for a Merry Christmas and a heart-felt thank you from me for your insight, humor, and wit during the year. This is one blog I always look forward to reading and must say you are the most prolific writer I’ve come across in a long time. Thank you again and best wishes and holiday greetings to yours and everybody out there.

  5. Eric Bennett says:

    I’m sorry Mr. Follansbee, froes are not allowed in the galleries! This is the lazy man’s way to make a stool from a tree.

    • George R. says:

      Actually, Mr. Follansbee, please do bring your froe. I know you could improve on the existing design(?)

  6. Jon says:

    Used them many times out cutting firewood (before splitting the logs), but I never thought about painting one end.

  7. Sawdustmaker says:

    Those chests are very impressive in that they have survived over 400 years. I hope my stuff lasts 1/4 that time

  8. Sawdustmaker says:

    Very Impressive Chris. BTW i received my Art of Joinery today

  9. pfollansbee says:

    Chris, thanks for saving me a trip to Chicago. Unless Muddy Waters returns from the dead, now there’s no need for me to go. Things to note on the joined works you shot here – the so-called “Hadley” chest is the one with the mitered shoulders meeting beveled mortised pieces. These things (might be 200 of them in captivity) have some of the best joinery of the period. Perfect stock preparation, perfect joinery. And in my opinion, some of the worst carving. It is the only work from early New England laid out with a template. Usually painted too. Worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars if you have a good ‘un lying around.

    The Marshfield one I have never seen, there is a related chest w drawer in the Plymouth Antiquarian Society. These are oak board chests, usually N.E. ones are white pine. Might be just the front is oak. These are some of the very few pieces from Plymouth Colony that have carved decoration, most use applied moldings and turnings.

    The 1704 chest from Wethersfield is part of a large group – but very late in its history. Note carved decoration, applied turnings & moldings, and painted designs. It has it all.

    As for the gallery seating, the less said the better. I remember the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston used to have modern (i.e. living) woodworkers’ chairs and benches scattered throughout the American Decorative Arts galleries. You could sit in a Maloof, et al to rest your weary bones. It was great.

    • Brian O. says:

      The Boston Museum of Fine Arts does indeed have chairs and benches made by famous (some no longer living) woodworkers that you can sit on. My wife thought I was nuts wanting her to take my picture seated on the works of Hank Gilpin, Sam Maloof, and George Nakashima!

      By the way, the Maloof loveseat was the most comfortable but the Nakashima cantilevered chair was also quite good.

  10. Step 4: Let paint dry.

    Just thought I’d mention that.


    • Josh B says:

      Oh now you tell me, after ruining a perfectly good pair of pants too.

      Wait I’ll let the paint dry and then sell them as modern art viewing pants and make a mint 😀

    • Patrick says:

      Step 5: Collect a large sum of money from museum for creating such a fine seats that fits so well within the modern art collection that people mistake them as part of the exhibit. (Additional upcharge for multple color seats.)

  11. Tom Pier says:

    I can’t wait to find out how the French have improved the stump.

  12. abtuser says:

    Cool stuff. Just at the Art Institute this summer too. Love visiting the place. I spent a bunch of time in the furniture collections too. Nice examples Chris.

  13. Sawdustmaker says:

    So Let me see if I have this right – Chris has presented us with french stumps that we can sit on and get our pants full of paint. Chris really, do try a little harder next time LOL

  14. Thomas D says:

    That’s funny, I work in a college sculpture studio, and we seal the ends of bits of fresh-cut logs we get using random paint from the dump mixed with glue – so they all end up looking just like that while they’re drying!

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