Commonplace Chairs

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People – both woodworkers and the less handy – often ask me what kind of chairs I build. Lately I’ve been calling them “commonplace chairs” instead of diving into an eye-glazing lecture on the British Isles, vernacular furniture and John Brown.

The word “commonplace” suits them in both the literal definition – not unusual; ordinary – and when you happen to pull the two root words apart – common and place. These chairs are both common and come from a place. What about this one?

This one came from my scrap bin. When I design a new chair, I rummage through my 5-gallon buckets filled with leftover ash and oak legs, stretchers, sticks and such, some of them years old. This seat was a backup seat left over from a class. The arms and crest were some straight, bendable sassafras.

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I set out to give this chair a formal silhouette, like a Scottish Darvel chair. I got to examine one in person this fall and loved its presence. I wanted a low-slung undercarriage to belie the age of my design. But most of all, I pictured this chair in my mind as belonging to the head of a household. So it should have some height, arms and a just a whiff of throne.

But still be a stick chair. And not too damn fancy.

It’s comfortable and cozy (thanks to some negative springback after the steambending). The back sticks taper gently from 5/8” to 1/2” and bend ever-so-slightly out to cradle the shoulders of the sitter. The oak seat is lightly saddled, as per my usual way. And it’s painted with General Finishes (Not) Milk Paint in Coastal Blue that has been brushed on.

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If you want to see this chair in person it will be in the gallery at Fine Woodworking Live in April (the event is almost sold out). I wish I could offer this chair for sale. Nothing would make me happier. But the head of the household (Lucy) wants it for the dining table. It will be the nicest chair of mine that we own – everything else around the table is dogmeat and prototypes.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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21 Responses to Commonplace Chairs

  1. Justin R says:

    I really like this chair with its low positioned stretchers and the shot from the front where the view angle is such that the front legs, back legs, stretchers, and floor make a trapezoid within a trapezoid. Wow…that’s really sharp. I wonder how trapezoid shaped legs would look?

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  2. Don Hardeman says:

    Lucy is a smart girl. Very majestic. Nice job.

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  3. Lucy has great taste!

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  4. Kevin Adams says:

    Very nice chair, the paint definitely highlights the silhouette. And I know you know this, but very lucky with your head of the household. Mine has begun to suggest I try pen turning for a while and “please, not another chair!” However, being Irish, there’s never enough chairs for your friends to come for a sit!

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  5. Clarke Hambley says:

    Very handsome. Wish I could sit in it now.

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  6. fedster9 says:

    Lovely chair. Lovely colour. Especially lovely colour.

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  7. Richard Mahler says:

    …everything else around the table is dogmeat and prototypes.

    Lucy should have this lovely chair. The cobbler’s family has no shoes, or gets the ones he cannot/won’t sell? 😁

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  8. asarumcanadensis says:

    Impressive without being overbearing. Nice. Just so interesting to see the subtle changes in your incarnations of what is now called a commonplace chair, thank you. One question always keeps coming up for me: how is the design of this chair (for sitting at a table) different to the other versions that you’ve previously described as being for chilling?

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    • Mostly the difference is in the tilt of the seat and the position of the armbow. This seat tilts back about 1” front to back. The backrest is tilted less than for a relaxing chair.

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  9. Pascal Teste says:

    Nice chair! Beautiful work, very strong and confident stance, superb lines. The studio shots are top notch, good use of the soft box (I’m guessing that’s what was used).

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  10. Thomas says:

    I love this chair. If I was to build an army of stick chairs and needed a table to go with them what style of large dining room table do they tend to go with? Something that would seat 12+ people. Something unpretentious, maybe a trestle table?

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  11. Patrick says:

    As much as I like all these chairs “really I do” many of them are not to my taste. This one though, this one is perfect!

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