After making the first prototype of a boxy Irish armchair, I sat in it for a long time. I circled it like a shark and took pages of notes. The goal with my second prototype (shown here) was to make the chair sit and look better without adding any complexity.
The biggest change was to tilt the back to 20° (the original was at 10°). I’ve found that 20°-25° is ideal for a stick chair for lounging. (The Gibson chair in my office is tilted at 31°, so there is a lot of ground to explore there.)
I raised the seat to 16”, which is still low but not as shockingly low as my first prototype (14-1/2”). All my other changes to the chair are cosmetic. The legs are octagons. The shaved sticks were made a little differently at the bench, and this really improved their entasis. Instead of rounding over the chair’s corners, I beveled them throughout the piece. The backrest, however, is rounded over for comfort.
Like the first prototype, this one was made with kiln-dried oak scraps. The legs and sticks were split out. The other parts were sawn. I might have $40 of oak in this chair (there is a lot of waste when splitting).
The paint is General Finishes (Fake) Milk Paint in Basil.
This design will be in my next book. I can’t think of any way to improve how it sits without adding complexity. However, I wanted to make a third version that represented how I would build this chair for myself. So I went to C.R. Muterspaw and picked through the piles of unsteamed walnut.
— Christopher Schwarz
20 thoughts on “Irish Chair No. 2: Simple, but Better”
I really like the reduced taper on the back sticks kn this chair vrs the the other one. It looks more proportional. As well as the octagon legs. Would you consider saddling the seat on the third version of this chair?
I really like the look of this version of the chair and look forward to trying my hand at it . Funny thing about the GF ( fake ) Milk Paint was that I wanted to dislike this product , but , it has become one of my favorite finishes .
Both versions look good. This one looks a tad more inviting.
I would like to make one of these. May I have the numbers to build this chair?
I’ll try to put up some numbers this evening if my Monday doesn’t go completely to pot. I haven’t drawn this chair up for the book yet.
Here are the numbers and some sketches for this chair. Good luck.
Apologies if this is a newb question. Is the seat tilt created by shortening the back legs, or do you have to change the rake and splay of the back legs, or do you do both, change the rake/splay angle and leg length?
It’s a good question. The seat tilt is made by cutting the legs. I typically add some more rake to the back legs to make sure there is enough of a footprint. Otherwise the chair will be tippy. The seat tilt isn’t much, about 3/4″. But it makes a difference.
This one looks more elegant. It’s interesting how a couple of inches on the legs and more back tilt can make such a visual difference. I like how you left the end of the sticks showing under the seat.
Your reminder that these chairs likely had cushions, sheepskins or folded blankets on the seat explains why they were intentionally low. I imagine as deep and wide as they are, children may have sat in them with their legs drawn up and crossed as they are inclined to do anyway.
This chair is “simply” gorgeous. The simple lines and functionality are inspiring. Not to over flatter but, its beauty is in what you didn’t do. Like in music; the art is in the silent parts.
Make the legs and the sticks square in cross-section, to echo and emphasize the boxiness?
Some Irish examples do exactly this. In general, square legs look too heavy to me. But others disagree.
Maybe if the edge is toward the front? But I guess it might look really weird.
The photos look a bit unreal, colour and clean lines make it look like some cad model rather than a real object. But it looks intriguing and maybe even simpler to build than the chairs in the Anarchist’s Design Book.
A quick mock-up would answer your question. I have not seen a chair that has square legs with the arrises facing front. That doesn’t mean it won’t look good.
I have built some tables with square tapered legs, which look good. So I think it’s worth trying!
I guess a kid sized back stool might be a nice project to try that. Kid #1 wants a chair for his room. I’ll tackle the arms another time.
Thanks for the encouragement! (and LAP in general)
So is the third version that you would build for yourself going to add the complexity you were trying to avoid with this version or is it cosmetic differences?
Also will the third version be in the book if it does add a little more complexity? (For those of us that might try the challenge if the added complexity.).
The third version (which will publish on Wednesday) adds the complexity I introduce for customer chairs: saddling, curves, shaped hands, a more complex seat and a sweeping comb.
Plans for both will be in the book. The goal is to take people from a basic chair to designing their own vernacular chair using a wide selection of seat shapes, leg shapes, arm shapes and comb shapes. And show how you can do it with a simple tool kit or some advanced tools and a band saw.
Cool and thanks for putting the goal in your response. Seems to be a good definition of “gorilla chair making”, which I was having trouble getting into my head as to what that actually was.
Oh C’mon! I skipped all chapters dealing with chairs in the Anarchists Design book because I never felt the urge to build one, nor do I need (another) one.
But this design is so right up my alley….
I’m going to buy the book, build it and put it in my backyard to watch it slowly rot away, decorated with flowerpots, entangled in ivy.
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