Editor’s note: The chair chat you are about to read this time features a backstool wearing leg warmers. If you already feel hot, please don’t read on.
We don’t authenticate chairs – we just talk about what we like and don’t like.
We don’t know much about this chair. Its age, where it’s from, who saddled the seat… it’s all unknown. All we have is the pictures you see here and this short description from the seller: “Height 29”, Width 24”, Primitive ash back stool with chunky seat, good colour, strong and sturdy, English or Welsh, early 19th century, Paul Dunn antiques, West Sussex.”
Klaus: This one is interesting. And pretty.
Rudy: Nice lines. Chubby legs, though!
Chris: The legs do look chunky. Like they’re wearing 1980s legwarmers.. But they aren’t terribly out of proportion.
Rudy: It makes the chair look robust, if anything.
Klaus: How about that underbevel?
Rudy: It looks like the grain follows the bevel at the front.
Chris: The underbevel is nice. It might be what looks out of balance with the legs
Klaus: Good eye. Would be a much cleaner chair without it.
Chris: I think the waviness on the bevel is a natural edge.
Rudy: Yup, think so too. At the front at least.
Chris: Maybe the seat was close to the bark. So they cut a huge underbevel to try to blend it in. I’ve done it.
Rudy: Yeah, I’ve done that, too.
Chris: It’s a guess. But it fits in with the waviness on the crest. I think the top end is a natural edge, too.
Rudy: People back then often used wood fresh from the tree, the seat edges often have a natural bevel because of this.
Klaus: Good point. Did you see the saddling?
Rudy: The saddling looks as if the maker intended to make a spindle deck.
Chris: The seat shape is the one thing I don’t really like. Even a little angle or curve would help so much.
Klaus: Doesn’t look good. It looks like a toilet chair.
Rudy: Yes, it looks like a toilet seat!
Klaus: The square shape of the seat doesn‘t fit the chair.
Chris: The saddle is odd to me. So curved. And then put it on a square plank?
Rudy: Looks like a spindle deck without spindles? He could have shaped the outside of the seat to make it balanced. But instead we have two things, a curve and a square.
Chris: It has back sticks. But it’s like the maker was copying a saddle he/she saw somewhere. But didn’t follow through with the seat shape.
Klaus: A very weird combination.
Rudy: Did you see that the back sticks are square?
Chris: I did. And one looks like it’s from sawn wood. The second from the left.
Klaus: You’re right.
Rudy: I like the visual effect of the facets.
Chris: And I like how the sticks go all the way through the seat. Again, a sign of sturdiness.
Rudy: Yup, wedged from below.
Klaus: I’ve done that too. Makes a rigid back, for sure.
Chris: I couldn’t see wedges. I’ve seen a lot that went through the seat but weren’t wedged. Here is the underside of a Gibson. I don’t think the sticks are wedged.
Rudy: I think you’re right. are the sticks tapered then? I mean do they stay there because they are jammed in there from the top?
Klaus: Sounds risky.
Chris: It’s a long mortise… The sticks look like they are square-insish when they enter the seat.
Rudy: Aha, fitting a square peg into a round hole…
Chris: Usually sticks are round when they enter the seat. Or the mortise is square.
Klaus: Ah, of course.
Rudy: When I look at the picture from above, the square sticks look like they enter a round hole.
Chris: I’ve seen a few vernacular chairs (there’s one in Claudia Kinmouth’s book) where the maker used square mortises.
Klaus: Have any of you tried it?
Chris: Nope. It seems like a lot of work. I’ve done it to put in a backsplat. But not sticks.
Rudy: It would be a pain to chop four angled mortises (says the guy who chopped four angled, pentagonal mortises through his armbow once). Not worth the pain in my opinion. But then why did this maker do it?
Klaus: Someone is going to study your chair in the future, you bet.
Rudy: Haha, Chair Chat in the year 2078.
Chris: Might be a carpenter who dealt in square mortises?
Klaus: Maybe he didn’t have glue? But he would have wedges, so..
Rudy: True. why not just wedge and be done with it.
Chris: It’s another mystery!
Klaus: Maybe he was stupid.
Rudy: Or drunk. Or both.
Chris: Or we’re stupid and don’t get it.
Klaus: I’m not stupid! My mom said that!
Rudy: Well, the chair survived, so that’s enough proof his method worked.
Klaus: Looks like the stretchers are blind tenons too?
Chris: They might be.
Rudy: The stretchers look so thin compared to the legs…
Klaus: They’re actually quite nice. OK, so should we look at the crest?
Chris: Yes, how about that crazy crest rail?
Rudy: Yes, yes, the crest rail
Chris: It’s wavy as heck.
Rudy: Okay I’ll start. The crest is made out of wood.
Klaus: Haha. Good start.
Rudy: Do you think it is from the same piece as the seat? It looks quite thick, but straight.
Klaus: It could be. I like the shape. I have a thing for natural curves. Interpret that as you like.
Chris: Hard to say. The crest is very flatsawn. Almost to the point of ugliness.
Rudy: Yes, very.
Chris: But it’s pegged to the sticks….
Klaus: And the sticks are flat where they enter the mortises, too.
Chris: Yup. I lightened the image that shows the underside of the crest and you are correct.
Klaus Skrudland: CSI strikes again!
Rudy Everts: Chris Schwarz Investigations?
Rudy: The chair shows many sides. From some angles it looks good, from other angles it’s pretty ugly.
Chris: I agree with Rudy. One of the difficulties with this chair is it looks very nice from some angles. Not so much from others. Chair design is hard.
Klaus: Good chair design is indeed hard. I had similar thoughts. At a first glance it looked very elegant. But when inspected closer, it’s quite crude.
Chris: Especially looking down at the seat.
Rudy: Ugly crest, thick fat legs. Sounds like some people I know.
Chris: I’ve definitely made uglier chairs than this one.
Klaus: Same thing with humans. From a good angle they can look gracious and nice. Then they turn around and you see their seat….
Chris: Square bottom.
Klaus: Like yours!
Chris: I have a concave bottom, thank you.
Klaus: You‘re welcome.
Rudy: One last thought about the wedgeless tenons, guys. Could it be that the seat was still partially wet and tightened around the tenons as it dried, therefore eliminating the need for wedges?
Rudy: Oh dear they have put me on mute again.