The Acceptance Speech

ADB_WEB_armchair2_IMG_7110

Whenever I finish an important project, I feel I should give a cheesy “acceptance speech” like you see for awards programs (“I’d like to thank all the world’s mentally defective sea turtles…”). Though my speech (said quietly to myself) always thanks certain tools and fellow woodworkers.

Were I a wanker, I would post photos of my latest chair and say things like: Check my new design, brh. Then a series of acronyms – FISKET and YAMLO. Then the hashtags – #gravycouncil #billyraycoochierash #sponsored.

But that’s not fair. Every piece of furniture is the culmination of the designer’s experiences, influences and previous work. We’re just the blender that takes these ingredients and frapps the frothy result. And so I try to acknowledge these influences whenever possible.

For this chair, the most obvious inspiration is the later chairs of John Brown, author of “Welsh Stick Chairs.” In learning more about the life of John Brown, I discovered Christopher Williams, who worked closely with Brown on these chairs to refine and lighten the historical examples. (We are bringing Chris back in 2019 for at least one – maybe two – more incredible classes on building his chair.)

Chris’s chairs are very dramatic (and I say that in the best possible way). I don’t have the stones to use the rake and splay he does on his legs. So I started with an 18th- or 19th-century Welsh chair shown in a Shire booklet on Welsh furniture that was written by Richard Bebb.

ELM_and_ash_welsh_stick_chair_bebb_WEB

Here’s where some of the other elements of the chair come from. The raised spindle deck is a design feature I’ve been playing with for a year or more. I developed it out of frustration, really. I have always tried to get a crazy-crisp gutter between the spindle deck and the seat. And I’ve never managed to make myself happy. So by raising the spindle deck, I get that sharp shadow line I want.

The armbow is a typical three-piece bow. On historical chairs, the thicker section usually has a decorative detail on its ends – a bead, ogee or some such. I decided to use a 30° bevel to repeat the bevel on the underside of the seat and the underside of the “hands” of the armbow. Nothing earth-shattering.

ADB_WEB_armchair1_IMG_7113

The “hands” of my armbow aren’t from any particular source that I am conscious of. Many Welsh chairs have rounded hands, something I wanted to avoid. But I wanted the hands to get wider so the armbow didn’t look static, like a steam-bent armbow. So I used a French curve to accelerate the radius on the armbow until the hands were wider. Then I used a French curve to add a slight arc on the front of the hand to tip my hat to the rounded hands of historical chairs.

I beveled the front of the underside of the hands at 30° so the sitter had something to do while listening to a relative drone.

The crest rail is smaller than I usually make – only 1-3/4” tall. I did this so that it will be easy for other people to make this crest if they don’t have access to thick stock or steam-bending equipment. This crest is cut easily from solid material. The front of the crest is – surprise – a 30° bevel, repeating the other bevels on the chair.

The finish – black over red milk paint – is a process developed by Peter Galbert.

I am sure that there are other influences running through this design that I’m not conscious of. But I am told we have to cut for a commercial break.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in The Anarchist's Design Book, Uncategorized, Welsh Stick Chairs by John Brown. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Acceptance Speech

  1. Corey says:

    Very nice design Chris. I’m really looking forward to the revised anarchists design book.

  2. Kirk Vander kuy says:

    That is a very nice looking chair. Kudos To you

  3. A very nice acceptance speech. Congratulations on your finished project.

  4. Alex A. says:

    Is that the same black over red spelled out in the Chairmaker’s notebook? I was considering doing that on the stick chair dining set I am building.

  5. Sam says:

    I am in great anticipation, having just ordered a copy of John Browns book and being the owner of The Anarchist Design book! Thank you very much for sharing the design and publishing books! It’s how I’m edjucating myself on such things!

  6. Mike W. says:

    Well done. Something to be proud of there.

  7. Johnathan says:

    This chair really hits the ADB aesthetic perfectly. The photo uploaded on your personal site really highlights how well this design has matured while staying within the same language/dialect as the other ADB pieces. Curious how you controlled the crisp line around the raised spindle deck? Were you able to keeping that line clean with a cutting/marking gauge or something else? Thanks for sharing these finished results-

  8. Luke Maddux says:

    As someone who doesn’t always like WSCs, I must say that this is pretty great. I think the subtle changes and embellishments (for lack of a better word) which you’ve used really work well.

    Do the four spokes in the middle run through the arm rail and into the back rest? If not, would it add structural integrity to do that, given that you wouldn’t be thinning out the ends of the upper spokes for tenons? Any historical precedent for doing it one way, the other, or both?

    • Hi Luke,

      The four sticks in the backrest are tenoned into the seat, pass through the armbow and are tenoned into the crest. This is the traditional and common way to do it. (I am sure, however, there are examples where people did something different.)

  9. Josh Cook says:

    My favorite part is the hands with the discontinuous arc and the bevel underneath. Something about that just hits me in the gut.

  10. Bob Glenn says:

    Chris, I think Galbert has switched to the Real Milk Paint company. He says he gets more predictable results with this black over red burnished method.

    • Bob,

      He has outlined several processes on his blog and his books. I’ve worked with both paints. If find that the Old Fashioned stuff is easier to burnish.

    • jayedcoins says:

      FWIW I did a pretty nerdy and extensive scouring of Pete’s blog, and emailed him a few questions (which he kindly replied to) when I painted my first Windsor. Combining that with the finishing chapter in his book, I think it is safe to say that RMP is easier to use and more consistent than OFMP, but as such is more resilient to getting that bleed through look with burnishing. A spit coat of shellac literally right before you put you first black coat on seems to be the solution. It worked well for me.

  11. Hathan says:

    The boot prints are a nice touch.

  12. Pete Galbert says:

    Chris,
    the chair looks great. I must say though, that other folks have painted the black over red for many years before I came along. I did make a box with black over red in the mid nineties before I knew what a Windsor was, but that was my only paint with those before following in the footsteps of Sawyer and Chris Harter.

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