When I designed this chair for the revised edition of “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” the goal was to make a staked armchair that was decently good-looking but as easy as possible for a new chairmaker to build.
As a result, many of the details of the chair are based on what sort of material is available to every woodworker. For example: The crest rail – sometimes called the “comb” — is cut from 8/4 solid material. I think it looks quite good as-is, but my typical instinct is to make combs from something thicker or to steam-bend them. But 8/4 material is simple to come by. In fact, the entire chair is built from one board of 8/4 oak and seven dowels.
Yes, the sticks start out as dowels that have been selected for dead-straight grain. Again, dowels are not my first choice when designing a chair, but using them removes a barrier faced by many beginning chairmakers. Beginners might not have access to a shavehorse, lathe with a steadyrest or even rived material. The dowels are scraped and shaved so they have a little entasis, but yeah, they’re dowels.
I’ve now built a bunch of these chairs and have (I hope) made almost all the common mistakes this design presents. So I’m ready to teach classes on how to build it (the first class is in March) and complete the chapter on this chair for “The Anarchist’s Design Book.”
I’m also ready to push this design in a different direction. My sketchbook is clogged with details related to this chair that I have put off as I refined this single form. My next stick chair will be in black walnut and have significant changes to the armbow, doubler, stick arrangement and crest rail. I hope it’s not a complete fiasco. If it is or it’s not, you’ll find out here.
— Christopher Schwarz