These Swiss are in Grave Danger


As we all know, three-legged chairs and backstools are inherently unstable. It’s really quite remarkable that they haven’t been outlawed in such progressive countries as Switzerland.

But, as you can see above in this photo from the Swiss National Museum, the three-legged chairs are not roped off. In fact, people are encouraged to sit in them.

These shots were taken by Mark Firley of The Furniture Record during a visit to the museum. He turned up a lot of very interesting furniture on this trip, and I am certain he’ll blog about it. So bookmark his blog.

I was amused when I first saw these photos – these Swiss examples look quite similar to the backstools I built over the summer for “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” The major difference is the way the backs are attached to the spindles. The maker notched the spindles and used screws or nails to attach the back.


Oh, and there are two fewer spindles.

I quite like the design and might incorporate some of those back details into my next chair.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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20 Responses to These Swiss are in Grave Danger

  1. Niels Cosman says:

    Won’t someone please think of the children!
    While you’re at it, keep Raney away from that table top. It looks like it could go at any minute!

  2. tsstahl says:

    They must have a lot fewer lawyers over there. 🙂

    • Toolnut says:

      I believe there is a disclaimer on the exhibit that states: These are professional stunt sitters in a closed exhibit, do not attempt at home.

    • Alvin says:

      I thought all lawyers were done away with, it now being the future and all.

  3. Dang. That furniture looks straight out of a Medieval engraving. Looks like the tables legs are bored into battens, but no indication of battens on the chairs. Interesting.

  4. mylordsladiesandgentlemen says:

    Anyone can see those chair legs are epoxied to the floor, and the figures are dummies.

  5. Bob Jones says:

    The table looks like the same style. I need to build a set like that. I think walnut and white oak will do the trick.

  6. fitz says:


  7. Roger Davis says:

    Those are clearly inexpertly clocked screws on the back of the chair in the second pic (although they are close). They are also big honkin’ screw heads.

  8. Greg Betit says:

    Here is another variation for a back on a stick chair.[image: Inline image 1]

  9. Love this. The carved look is fantastic!

    Slightly related question for Mr. Schwartz or anyone else (ok, not really related at all), but which saw makers are currently making the best panel saws. Not looking to get an old saw to tune up, but want to support a current maker or company and get a really nice new one that will be used regularly. Thanks!

  10. misterlinn says:

    I wish I knew what the heck you lot were on about…

  11. tpier says:

    Any semi-sober person can sit in a three legged chair. It takes real skill to sit a two legged chair.

  12. jmac406 says:

    These look a bit like Tage Frid’s three legged chairs although not quite as modern looking.

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