During his long career as a chairmaker, Chris Williams has heard stories of people filling up shipping containers of Welsh stick chairs and sending them to the United States. (You also hear stories – shudder – of people chopping them up and burning them for fuel.)
Last week, I saw another piece of evidence that the migration of Welsh stick chairs to North America was something that has really happened. As I was packing up to leave the shop at Wyatt Childs Inc. last week after a week of building French workbenches, Bo Childs drove up the shop in his white pickup truck with two stick chairs in the bed.
His father had brought them over from the U.K., and he wanted me to have a look at them.
We took the chairs over to the lawn behind his house and gave them a quick inspection. I was trying to get on the road to catch a plane to London (crazy life), so I didn’t get to document them completely. Maybe next time.
What I saw was one chair (above) that clearly is a Darvel chair, a Scottish stick chair. And based on the turnings, it’s likely one that’s earlier in their history.
For me, what was most interesting about the Darvel chair was the spindle deck. It’s slightly raised and rabbeted, like the deck on my chairs. I’ve not seen this detail on an old chair. I hope to investigate this chair a little more next time I’m in Georgia and can look for tool marks.
The other chair bears all the hallmarks of a Welsh stick chair (Chris Williams also said it looked Welsh to him). The armbow looked like it was made from a curved branch. And the seat’s shape matched the arm. The seat itself is massive and thick with a slight bevel on its underside.
Also interesting to see was that some of the mortises in the arms were blind. And when we looked under the arm it was apparent that the maker had made a few mistakes in locating these blind mortises (there was also evidence of this in the chair’s seat).
These “errors” didn’t take anything away from the appearance of the chair. I love it.
Other details I noticed on my quick investigation: The chair had an H-stretcher and was missing the middle bar of the H. Also, what is difficult to convey with these photos is how massive the components are. The legs are quite thick – much thicker than I would typically make in a chair.
As always, seeking out and encountering the “real thing” is an education that’s worth more than 1 million clicks on the internet.
— Christopher Schwarz