The American Welsh Stick Chair

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I try not to call my chairs “Welsh stick chairs” for several reasons. I don’t live in Wales. I don’t have access to the craggy timbers used for the seats. And I don’t have hedgerows where I can harvest sticks, armbows and crest rails.

You might also be thinking: “Yeah, and you’re not Welsh – Herr Schwarz.”

My opinion: I don’t consider blood to be the sole requirement to become a member of a community. People can be accepted into – or rejected from – a community despite their DNA. I’ve got a fair amount of English, Welsh and Irish blood (47 percent), but that gives me no claim to the Welsh stick chair – or any other.

I’m an American. I’ve lived here my entire life. And my design aesthetic, wood choices, tool selection and goals are typically American (for better or worse).

And so I’ve decided to describe my chairs as “American Welsh Stick Chairs.” To my mind, this fits in with the long American tradition of taking furniture forms from the U.K., Europe and elsewhere and adapting them to our tastes and our timbers.

We took U.K. styles such as Jacobean (1603–1625), William and Mary (1690–1730), Queen Anne (1702–1760), Georgian (1714–1830) and Neo-Classical (1750–1830) and taught them an American accent. This continued into the later 19th century with both the English Victorian and Arts & Crafts styles.

When all those styles landed here, we altered them to suit us. (Note: This is not a uniquely American practice. Locals have always played with imported styles.) In many cases (but not all) Americans tended to simplify the styles. We removed ornamentation. We used local woods (or exotics).

In my heart, I think that’s what I’ve done with my beloved antique Welsh stick chairs. I use New World woods, because this is what is available. Getting timbers with swirled grain for the seat is a struggle for me (so far), and so I use what I have – street trees, mostly. But they don’t compare visually to the Welsh ones.

Because I have access to dang-straight wood, I make my sticks, legs and stretchers so they follow the straight grain. A old Welsh chairmaker might have used a branch for strength in these cases, and the branch might have had some wiggle to it.

I’ve also tried to lighten the older forms, which I consider both an American trait (historically) and a modern one (in general).

And so for me, the term “American Welsh Stick Chair” fits. “American” because it was made in the Americas. “Welsh” because that’s the tradition it was derived from. “Stick” because sticks. And “Chair” because I don’t make love spoons.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to The American Welsh Stick Chair

  1. Andrew Brant says:

    A rose by any other name. I love the walnut chair!

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  2. skiroy56 says:

    Chris This is a chair that belonged to my Grandfather and was passed down to me and then to my son. I remember this chair as a child and always reveled in it’s design. It looks a lot like a Welsh chair but have no idea of it’s lineage. Laurence

    Pylinski Arms LLC. Quality Gunsmithing Since 1984 967 Anderson Hwy. Cumberland, Va. 23040 (804)357-2393 http://www.pylinskiarms.com In God We Trust, all others pay cash!

    >

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  3. Kevin Almeyda says:

    I really hope this doesn’t come off as a backhanded compliment but seeing these American Welsh stick chairs (I will gladly use this term) on your blog in the past and they never really did anything for me. Seeing it in person this past weekend changed all that as I absolutely fell in love with the design. I had to remind myself to listen to your lecture and not just stare at the chair a few feet from me. Thanks, as always, for the education.

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  4. Alex A. says:

    I have long said that culture is not genetic. Beautiful chair and great name.

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  5. snwoodwork says:

    Call it a car if you want, that design looks great. I am not sure if this is the “final form” (should even a thing exist), but this has to be close.

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  6. Cordell Roy says:

    Beautiful chair. Its looks invite sitting.

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  7. Just…. wow. That chair is strikingly beautiful. I have a list of projects as long as my arm, but an “American Stick Chair” in walnut just got tacked on.

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  8. thospenner says:

    Would not “Welsh American” be the more politically correct phrase here

    I don’t care what you call it, it has a graceful and lithe look, I bet it is a joy to sit on as well!

    Lechyd Da!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thospenner says:

      Note to self, sarcasm does not translate well over the internet, the interwebs decided my bracketed “grin” after the first line of my comment was inappropriate and deleted it along with the question mark. Read this way, it might be interpreted that I was SERIOUS, I am not, at least about the name, I still think the chair is great. And now I sound like a bad Fraser skit…

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  9. Pascal Teste says:

    Is this the chair you made using a street tree you talked about awhile ago? That’s a really good looking American Welsh Stick Chair! Bravo!

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  10. toolnut says:

    Anybody else look at that chair and want sit in it with a pint of you favorite beer and just relax?
    ( I mean that as a huge compliment. That chair looks very inviting.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pascal Teste says:

      Totally, and if I did not live so far away I would run over there now and buy it off of Chris before any of you guys do!

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  11. kerry Doyle says:

    We use the resources around us. Consider regional housing styles utilizing available resources. Where stone is prevalent and wood is scarce, we see homes of stone. Roof lines, porches, fenestration: all somewhat functions of location. Even the scourge of vinyl siding is responsive to environmental factors.
    So use local woods- just not vinyl siding on your chairs.

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