Another Early Chair (Without Antlers!)


With the dugout chair complete and installed in the Lost Art Press Mechanical Library, I can move onto the next item on my long list of things I need to build before I die.

Next up is a Klismos chair, an elegant form of seating that emerged in Greece in the fifth century B.C.E. Its popularity as a form has waxed and waned as Classicism and Gothic have grappled through the centuries.

gilded DP144105

At times it has been interpreted as a study in form. It also has been carved, gilded and padded so as to be almost unrecognizable. The curve of its saber legs have been flattened to add stability. The backrest has been made smaller to make it easier to mass-produce. In fact, the only indignity it hasn’t suffered is to have been injection molded and sold at a Walmart.

My approach will be similar to that of Nicolai Abildgaard (1743-1809), the Danish painter, professor and sculptor who designed the chair shown at the top of this blog entry.

Researcher Suzanne Ellison and I went through a heavy “Klismos and Curule” phase together several years ago. That’s because my early drafts for “The Anarchist’s Design Book” had a large section that explored classical forms such as the Klismos and Curule and wove those forms into the long history of high and low styles. Then I realized I wanted to finish that book before my hair grew all the way down to my hinder. So I nixed that section (which could be a book in itself).

I’m returning to the Klismos because of one simple change in the world: I now have a reliable supply of cold-bend hardwood from Pure Timber. This stuff allows me to make extreme bends with a high level of accuracy and resulting strength.

But first I’ve got to get “Ingenious Mechanicks” to the printer (plus three other books that are almost complete). Oh, and some commission work so as to stave off ramen.

But it will happen in 2018.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
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About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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13 Responses to Another Early Chair (Without Antlers!)

  1. Rachael Boyd says:

    wow fun stuff can’t wait to see..also I read the info on cold bending very interesting.


  2. Nilzeitung says:

    Thank you and all the best for 2018


  3. Kent Ryan says:

    The Klismos chair (top of your blog) would seem to have been an inspiration for some Samuel Gragg chairs. Though Gragg opted for a straighter chair leg. Both chairs seem more art than sitting surface. A functional Klismos would seem a challenge to build. I look forward to your build. Is it possible that a Gragg style chair lurks somewhere on you life list?


  4. Neat, I just learned about Klismos chairs this past week when I saw a Samuel Gragg “elastic” chair at a local museum. The form really pops when you see it in person!


  5. Kansas John says:

    I know the struggle. I’ve been working on this one for years.


  6. charleseflynn says:

    The best replica I have seen of the klismos is on the cover of T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings’ “Furniture of Classical Greece”. The author spent a lot of time copying depictions of furniture from vases in the British Museum, then tried to make plans for the furniture. His results are still produced by Saridis of Athens. (spectacular photos under “Products”)


  7. burroborracho13 says:

    Never heard of these chairs. Love the education I get here.


  8. Richard Mahler says:

    It has always seemed remarkable to me that such radically tapered legs that are also feet can support a person when made only of wood. It is beautiful to look at but takes some courage to sit upon! I have an early 18th century ladies chair turned in the chinese bamboo style with hand gilded decoration and caned seat that is so delicate that no 21st century person will attempt to sit on it even though it is in excellent condition and has no damage at all. Humans were smaller than we are now – so now it is merely a lovely object of the furniture makers art.


  9. Bruce Lee says:

    My suspicion is that the leg timber was grown to shape – many trees grow quite fast and can be ‘trained’ to grow to often fantastic shapes, either as the whole trunk or just branches – if you use the whole limb ‘reaction’ wood is not such a problem. In Australia back in the 1800’s and 1900’s they used to grow boat timbers to shape from the native ‘Tea Tree’, a quick growing shrubby tree which is pretty decay resistant that is used these days as a source of anti-septic oil.


  10. leeboyz86 says:

    I really liked those antlers – but, of course, antlers are probably not appropriate for every chair 🙂


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