When I build chairs, I always make extra parts – spare legs, stretchers, arms and even seats. Sometimes I need these parts when I (or a student) takes a chairmaking dump. But mostly, the parts pile up in the background until a day like today.
I’ve been designing a lowback chair in my head and on paper for months. The next step is to make a half-scale model (I did that yesterday) and then build a prototype that can answer my questions about the model. I also want to try out some new techniques I’ve been pondering for drilling stretchers and cutting tenons.
So this morning I gathered up an armload of spare parts and started building a lowback while I waited for finish to dry on three commission chairs.
What is on my bench is a 100 percent disastrous failure of the chairmaking craft. The front legs do not have the same rake (it’s not even close). The back legs need about 10 more degrees (holy cow that’s a lot) of backward rake. The front medial stretcher is wildly cockeyed.
The experiment for drilling stretchers was a 50 percent fail. The tenon-making technique was a 100 percent success.
But despite all this, this evening I’m not drinking to forget. I know exactly what I need to do to make this chair work (at least from the seat down to the floor).
Tomorrow I will likely fail to make the arm and the short sticks that connect it to the seat.
When it’s all assembled, I won’t even glue the parts together. I’ll take the chair apart and send the bits to fireplaces, compost bins and chicken coops around the greater Covington area.
I am sure that some people will call me wasteful – I could make a sittable (if ugly) chair from these parts. Or I could fix all the mistakes with plugs and paint and build a half-decent chair with 20 extra hours baked into it.
The way I see it, wood decomposes and provides food for worms and other slimy creatures. It burns readily and can warm some locals who might not be able to afford a gas furnace. Chickens love to poop in it. And life is too short to make something ugly or half-baked.
— Christopher Schwarz