Please note that we don’t have much background information on today’s three chairs. We don’t know their countries of origin nor when they were built. And we only have one picture for each chair.
We don’t authenticate chairs – we just talk about what we like and don’t like based on the photos. One more note: A few of you asked why the second chair chat was more tame than the first. Answer: We’re still finding our groove. As always, salty talk follows. Don’t read any further if watching “Animal Planet” makes you blush.
Chris: Okay, let’s start today’s chat with something different:
Klaus: Oh, Lord.
Rudy: What the…
Chris: OK. I’ll start. This one should see a fire, and real soon.
Rudy: I like how the arms are tilted away from the sitter. Much easier to grab a beer.
Chris: Or the guy who made it was EXTREMELY fat and the arms bent that way.
Klaus: Or he didn’t have arms. Even when he made the chair. He made it with his feet. I tried that once, it ended up like this.
Chris: Bespoke foot-made furniture.
Klaus: That was a very short-lived trend.
Chris: I give this chair an A for technical execution. But a D- for design. Too much junk in the trunk.
Klaus: You don’t like junky trunks?
Chris: I actually DO like junky trunks. But this one has two tumors.
Klaus: For a man without a butt you do know a lot about trunks.
Rudy: To be fair, he did do a pretty nice job on the back sticks.
Klaus: Yes, the sticks are quite nice. The comb, too.
Chris: It’s two separate things. A door that was made into a stool. Then a nice chair on top.
Rudy: But the question is, did this chair really start as a door or did the maker intend to make the chair this way?
Chris: I would guess it started this way. There are lots of Irish chairs made this way to conserve thick plank material.
Klaus: I’ve seen many chairs with this door-ish seat.
Chris: Me too. But not this ugly.
Klaus: I’m leaning towards charming here. Is this what’s called a hedge chair?
Chris: There are lots of names. We don’t even know if it’s Irish do we?
Rudy: I believe it is Irish, yes.
Chris: Would you want to build one? Own one?
Rudy: You mean have one in your house? Naaahh.
Klaus: Yes, to both.
Chris: Well Klaus, you are the Funky Spice among us.
Klaus: I’m up for anything that includes alcohol, weird arms and juicy trunks.
Rudy: Why did the maker not trim the edges of the seat to make it look less clunky?
Chris: It would weaken the through-mortises.
Klaus: Because he had to finish it before he passed out.
Rudy: I see. You’re right, Chris. There would not be enough material left. And now we are left with this junky trunk with two tumors….
Chris: Really, it shows great skill in making. But not in designing. Throw it To the Hedge!
Rudy: Burn the witch!
Klaus: But seriously, what happened to the arms here? And why is it so crooked? Was the wood wet and then the chair was placed in front of the fireplace?
Rudy: It doesn’t look like it started as green wood to me…
Chris: I think the arms are purposeful. If odd…
Klaus: Really? As an artistic attempt?
Chris: If it were a wet wood situation it’s unlikely both arms would do the same thing.
Rudy: I have seen several examples with tilted arms, but nothing this extreme.
Chris: I think he wanted to just drill 90° through the arms. And that’s what he got because of the splay of the front sticks and the back sticks.
Rudy: It looks like the mortise through the arm for the long sticks has been drilled at an angle.
Chris: Maybe a little.
Klaus: I think you’re onto something there.
Rudy: It could be the perspective but they seem angled.
Klaus: OK, so what about the legs, guys? Anything nice to say about them?
Chris: Nice… for broom handles. Should we move on to the next one?
Rudy: Yes, enough of this Door Chair.
Rudy: Ooohhhhhh wow.
Chris: I call this the Fat Man’s Armchair.
Klaus: Holy mother of chairs.
Rudy: It has five legs!
Chris: … at least!
Klaus: Chester Cornett would’ve liked this one.
Chris: Agree! This one is so weird but so wonderful.
Rudy: I wonder how wide the seat is?
Chris: We don’t know how wide, but it looks massive.
Klaus: I love the the front short sticks. “Love” is probably an exaggeration, but they’re nice.
Rudy: Funny how the front legs are turned.
Chris: It is funny, I was staring at that front leg.
Klaus: That front leg is special. Like a column.
Chris: The chair looks very low, too. I wonder if it was always that way. And almost no rake to the back legs. I wonder if it started as a four-legged chair but was too tippy…. So they added the fifth leg?
Klaus: That’s a very good theory.
Rudy: You know, that could be!
Chris: Even with the fifth leg it looks dang upright. Like it’s for sitting at church.
Rudy: The fifth leg barely has rake either.
Klaus: But if you’ve got such a huge seat and a large heavy back it’s very optimistic to think that the chair will stand steadily with four legs placed there.
Rudy: if it was me I would have made more rake to the additional leg if the chair was too tippy, just to be safe.
Chris: Agree. But this maker didn’t like rake at all.
Klaus: That’s a good point, Rudy.
Rudy: Do church people hate rake?
Klaus: He was probably a member of the Anti-Rake Association.
Chris: The undercarriage is odd because it seems like such a miss. When the top of the chair is so well defined and detailed. All the sticks look almost dead upright – like the guy just owned a try square. No sliding bevel.
Klaus: If the legs were longer and properly raked/splayed, this chair would become a huge, but beautiful chair, I think.
Chris: Totally agree, Klaus.
Rudy: There is a nice bevel going all around the top of the seat.
Chris: I do like the seat shape. The saddling. And the bevel…
Klaus: I’m liking the comb, too. It has a pommel in the middle there, I think.
Rudy: Yes, such a pity we don’t have a front view!
Chris: There is a lot of elegance here. But it just doesn’t have everything it needs to be beautiful (to me).
Klaus: And protruding short sticks on the arm. Faceted jewels, as John Brown would call them. Nice detail. And it’s really a mystery how it ended up like this?
Rudy: I would not use the word elegant to describe the chair as a whole. I find it too bulky for that. But it is definitely beautiful in its own way, especially everything above the legs.
Klaus: I do insist that everything above the legs is elegant.
Chris: The sweep of the arm is gorgeous. The comb is perfect. I love the tiny rounded hands.
Rudy: I agree.
Klaus: Same here. The sticks and their placement are very nice, too. Nice seat shape.
Chris: Last thought on this chair: Maybe it’s very upright and non-rakey so it can go in a corner or against a wall.
Klaus: Is the back very upright too? I can’t really see the angle. At a first glance I thought it looked comfy, but as Chris says one needs to sit in it.
Rudy: That’s true.
Klaus: The chair sort of reminds me of a caterpillar.
Chris: OK. It’s the Very Upright Caterpillar Chair. You named it
Klaus Skrudland: Haha. Cool.
Chris: OK. So chair No. 3…..
Klaus: Oh, mama! That is as sexy as a chair can be.
Chris: I know. This one gets me right in the soft spots.
Rudy: That is the most beautiful lowback I have ever seen.
Chris: Give me splay or give me death.
Klaus: My Speedo area is expanding.
Rudy: I. can. not. stop. looking. at. it.
Chris: I know. I want to see it from every angle.
Klaus: Mm, yes, this one needs close inspection.
Rudy: The simple yet powerful lines really make it look modern.
Klaus: Indeed, Rudy.
Chris: And the wonky sticks give it charm.
Rudy: I would like to call this one “The chair that makes your blood leave your brain.”
Chris: The arm is fascinating. It looks like it’s not only curved, but like there are a couple significant facets.
Klaus: Yes ! I was staring at that, too.
Rudy: Yes, I love the facets and the arm is beautifully finished.
Klaus: Should we break it down from the top? Starting with the arm, since we’re on it already?
Chris: Ya. I wonder if it’s a curved branch? Or sawn out of curvy stock?
Klaus: I was wondering the same thing. Can’t see a joint. Can you?
Chris: I lightened it in Photoshop and it looks like one piece.
Klaus: … CSI style.
Rudy: It’s hard to say without knowing how deep the seat is, but it could definitely be a curved branch. It looks solid.
Klaus: Those facets are perhaps the natural curves from the branch.
Chris: The chair is a survivor, so that’s info enough.
Rudy: There is no warpage at all when you look at each individual arm, like you often see in lowbacks like this. This one is nice and flat.
Chris: And it’s thick. As thick or a little thicker than the seat.
Klaus: There seems to be a stick pattern here as well. Three equally spaced in the middle. Then almost progressively smaller intervals going out toward the ends of the arm. Same on both sides.
Chris: And it looks like the front sticks pass all the way through the seat, which adds strength.
Rudy: Yes, you can clearly see the tenons at the bottom of the seat. Are those rasp marks on the arm or is that just wear?
Chris: I see dark brown sludge over a green. They could be rasp marks. There is a LOT of finish/makeup on this beauty.
Klaus: Could be rasp marks; very hard to tell.
Rudy: I definitely see green, also on the leg.
Klaus: Damn, what a sweet, pretty, elegant chair. I just can’t take my eyes off it. Chris, would you like to own one? And make one? Rudy? Obvious question, I guess…
Rudy: I am actually making a tiny version of this one right now..
Rudy: how about you Klaus?
Klaus: Yes, I would LOVE to make one like this. I have a knack for lowbacks. Every time I make a chair, I’m thinking… hmmm… this could be a lowback instead. But I often end up with a longer back. Not sure why.
Chris: Funny, because John Brown didn’t like them as much as comb backs. Said they didn’t sell as well. Or for as much money. Not that sales are everything.
Klaus: That’s true, I remember reading that about him. The first chair I ever sold was a lowback.
Rudy: That one stick in the back definitely looks like a long constipated turd.
Chris: Someone really had to pinch that one off.
Klaus: We gotta talk about the splay here, guys. It is screaming at us.
Rudy: It wants me!
Chris: It looks like it pushes the limits.
Klaus: Definitely. The maker had guts. Or he was just reckless.
Chris: Well he/she proved everyone wrong because it survived. I think we sometimes are too conservative with rake/splay.
Rudy: Perhaps people are afraid of the structural integrity? Without adding stretchers I mean?
Klaus: Well, it could seem that you’re right. I’m actually surprised this one didn’t break.
Chris: EXACTLY. I’m going to measure this splay for the future.
Klaus: There can’t be much run-out grain here in these legs.
Chris: Might be a branch. Or rived out.
Klaus: Yup. One out of two, I’m guessing.
Rudy: See that back leg, is it sawed off at an angle? I mean where it touches the floor. As if he forgot that leg when levelling the chair.
Klaus: Yeah, that back leg is not cut parallel to the floor like the others. I wonder why..
Chris: I might posit that the back leg was cut shorter later on. By someone without skills. The front splay is 23°. Dang.
Rudy: Pity we don’t have more pictures. It would be interesting to find out the rake.
Klaus: That’s nice. My last chair had 22°. That was by mistake. And I didn’t dare not put a stretcher in there.
Klaus: That back leg looks very branch-y.
Chris: As do the sticks.
Rudy: About the sticks. I find it funny how the maker made such a beautiful armbow and yet used hedge sticks.
Chris: Ya. But it works.
Rudy: Not to say it is not beautiful! In some way it adds to the charm of the chair.
Chris: Thin sticks are hard to make. Branches are not. This is a pretty simple chair all in all.
Klaus: It sure is. The primitiveness makes a lot of the beauty here.
Chris: And it looks alive.
Rudy: Do you think the pith is still in those sticks? i.e. just bark removed?
Klaus: They could be rived, too.
Chris: Both could be true.
Klaus: This is a prime example of a primitive, yet tremendously beautiful chair that would be hard to copy without removing the soul.
Chris: Agree. You almost have to be in a barn in Wales to make it.
Klaus: Yes. Beer and folk music in the workshop won’t get you there.
Chris: Agree. But still worth a try.
Rudy: Zooming out a bit, it strikes me how nice and symmetrical the chair is.
Chris: It fits in a square. And squares are nice.
Rudy: I think this chair is a thing of beauty, period.
Klaus: I love how thin the seat is. A lot of these old vernacular chairs have thick slabs for seats. Which would give this chair a completely different look and feel.
Rudy: That summarises the chair. Elegance, lightness and charm. Which is for a big part due to the thinness of the materials used.
Klaus: I would LOVE to sit in this chair.
Rudy: What is so striking is the thin seat in combination with the extreme splay.
Klaus: Good observation. It kind of makes it look impossible, like it defies natural laws. I would be careful to sit in it, yet it has survived for >100 years.
Chris: I could talk about this chair all night long. But now it’s time to make some flank steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli.
Rudy: Chairs are important, but food is also important.
Klaus: Enjoy, Chris!