You can now download a free pdf of my Staked Armchair project if you have purchased a copy of “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” This download is given on the honor system. If you already own this book, no harm will come to you by clicking the link below.
If, however, you have not purchased “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” you will suffer a curse that involves an Aldabra tortoise with multiple felony convictions.
Here’s the link:
The design for this chair is regulated by the lumber industry. When I design a piece of furniture from scratch, such as this chair, I look carefully at the materials available to the workaday woodworker. For example, asking you to buy 12/4 spalted sapele for the crest is a bit silly. This chair can be built with one chunk of 8/4 red oak and some 5/8” dowels from the home center. Nothing fancy.
In short, I try to design my pieces around common lumber sizes so that the design can be built in both Los Angeles and Baltimore without too much fuss.
For many years, I wished that I didn’t impose restrictions like this on myself. What if I designed a project based on my desires alone, and I could use whatever crazy materials I wanted? I tried that approach for a while and it was uninspiring. For some reason, I prefer to work within strict limitations of what wood species are available, what lumber sizes are common and how few operations/tools are required.
This is my sport. And projects like this bring me a little satisfaction.
The wood for this chair is less than $50 – way less than $50 if you are frugal. You don’t need a drawknife, steambox, shavehorse, froe or hatchet to make this chair. Instead, you need mostly furniture-making tools plus a scorp and travisher to saddle the seat. The wood is from any lumberyard. You can build it with hand tools. But if you have a band saw you’ll find the work goes faster.
It sits remarkably well for an all-wood chair. I’ve had these chairs sitting around the shop for the last several months and lots of people have sat in them and offered feedback. The No. 1 comment: I didn’t expect this chair to be this comfortable.
The trick is the geometry, of course, plus knowing your way around the lumbar region of the human body. The armbow is designed to support the lumbar (a fact that surprises most sitters) with the crest rail hovering slightly above the curve of your shoulders.
The seat is lightly saddled to avoid casting your buttocks like a Jell-O salad. And the “hands” of the armbow are set back from where you would expect them on an armchair by a couple inches. This small change affects how your forearms interact with the chair – for the better in my opinion.
So if you’ve ever wanted to build a Welsh stick chair, this chair is an excellent introduction to the form. If you are into Windsors, this chair has a few lessons, but you are going to need some more estrogen to get the job done with the feminine baluster turnings (this is only my opinion; many people of sound mind love Windsor chairs).
So download the chapter – at the peril of the highly disturbed tortoise if you don’t own “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” And think it over. Chairs aren’t so hard. Even I can build them, and I’m just a journalist who grew up in Arkansas.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Anyone who complains about typos will also get a visit from the tortoise.