After building the green chair, I was compelled to build one more iteration. Instead of worrying about how easy the chair was to build, I wanted to make a chair that made me happy (technically speaking).
That meant some significant changes.
- The seat shape changed from a rectangle to a rectangle added to a 21-1/2”-radius arc at the back.
- The comb changed from a flat board to a sweeping 21-1/2” radius curve, positioned right at the shoulder blades.
- I added sticks to make the chair more durable.
- The arms are curved and have circular hands. But the hands are petite, and are difficult to wedge without cracking them.
- The seat is saddled, but I used a more contemporary saddle without a pommel.
- The legs are octagons but aren’t tapered. The joint between the leg and seat is a tapered mortise-and-tenon joint.
- Gorgeous unsteamed walnut.
The back is pitched at 25° (5° more lean than the green chair). The seat is pitched back 3/4” from front to back. And everything that touches the sitter is curved.
This chair is also cosmetically flawed (as I’ve mentioned before). The mortises in the arms are tight, but they don’t look the way I want them to. The problem is the drill bits I’ve been using.
I’m still getting used to the Star-M bits from WoodOwl. They cut so clean. Their only downside is that the bits’ flutes are so sharp they can also do a lot of cutting. That means if you move off-angle, the bit’s flutes will cut the hole to an oval shape. This problem is exasperated when you use a bit extender.
I’m getting better at holding still when I drill, but the arms have cosmetic gaps around the tenons in the arms.
In my heart, I know that vernacular chairs are supposed to have imperfections. In some cases, the imperfections are what make the chair special.
But I also know that I can do better.
When I finished construction (and the day of “make pretty”) I was ready to burn the chair. But I didn’t. I applied a coat of Allback (organic linseed oil and beeswax) and drank a beer.
And that was enough for me to make peace with the thing.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. This chair is the most difficult chair I’ve ever photographed. Too many curves and angles.
54 thoughts on “Irish Chair No. 3: By the Numbers”
First off Chris, that’s a beautiful chair, I’m so glad it’s not firewood. Second, I love your changes to the green design. They make it (at least look like) a more comfortable chair to sit in. I really like the choice walnut, I love walnut. Third and final, I know you want to present all the facts about the chair and I’m not able to inspect it in person yet, but defects are always more obvious to the maker.
Great work Chris!
Damn sexy. I like the little hands.
Looks great! This one appears inviting. Sit and chat while having a beer with you. The others, I thought, looked a bit like “time out” chairs. Get out when my times up.
That’s a swell chair.
I’d be happy with that chair
Only the first few 1/64ths are needed to cut the hole after that your wandering bit is cutting on the shank where you don’t want it to, Just take the edge of the flutes so the bit is more like a Forster bit. Although the shaft can still act as a guide.
Yes, that is what I was thinking as well – lightly detune the leading edge of the flutes so they follow rather than cut. I think though I would leave more of the cutting edge, ~ 1/4″, in order to get a clean chip / reduce tearing.
Okay… but I love the little metal straps on the back corners, and you don’t say even a word about them?? What are they? Why are they there? What inspired this?
Great work as always. Makes me hungry for more chair building.
Good question. I had some small cosmetic checking on one corner of the seat. In the spirit of these chairs, I decided to add metal strapping to both corners (symmetry!). I had our local blacksmith Mark Gilsdorf make them. They are my favorite detail of the chair. You can see Mark’s work here:
This is heading in a seriously good direction. I really like the little hands.
I wrote so much more about the relationship between flaws and vernacular pieces. But I have to get to work.
Does it make sense to dull the edges on the bit flute starting at 1/4″ or so from the point? A little 220 grit sand paper on a block of wood and 2 or 3 passes might make it less likely to cut ovals.
Just a though .
I find this chair very beautiful in the photographs , something to do with curves and sharp arrisses , maybe also the timber
THAT IS A DANG NICE CHAIR! ONE OF THE NICEST YOU’VE EVER MADE!
And somehow, Klaus aged 50 years overnight…..
I think Rudy must have hacked his account. That’s how chair chat wars start.
Lovely chair btw, I thought I had commented earlier but i must have missed the send button. I was also asking about the iron pieces, nice touch.
It’s a wonderful chair Christopher. I totally understand your struggle with the “imperfections”. Why are they acceptable in an antique vernacular piece, but so unacceptable in a new, artisan made piece? Why does a handmade chair have to not show any evidence of being hand made? And just because you might be capable of “perfection”, or something closer to it, does that mean that every piece you produce has to reach it? Is it even a part of the work that you enjoy or find meaningful?
In my own work I’ve come to relax and accept certain imperfections, whether in the materials, or the craftsmanship. I’ve come to value design and geometry more highly than surface finish. When I start a new piece, it’s always perfect. And then, at each step along the way, each time I work on it, it becomes a little less perfect. Every once in a while, though, the craftsmanship, the materials and the imperfections all come together in some special way, and the finished piece is perfect!
I’m not a woodworker or furniture maker. I’m a knife maker.
That’s a Corker!
Wow Chris, the iterations of this chair have been amazing to see. The sense of detail is truly evident. One question which I cannot tell from the photos, do the arms slope back as well? I know when I sit in a chair that my elbows feel more comfortable when they reside at a slightly lower angle than my hands. I think my height and longish arms are the culprit here. Again, beautiful to watch this progression.
I have never herd of unstreamed walnut. What does steam do to walnut?
When you built this or similar chairs, how many hours, over what time span do you invest?
Some mills will steam walnut, redwood and other species to cause the heartwood color to migrate to the sapwood. This reduces the vibrancy of the board overall. Unsteamed walnut has deeper browns, red and even purples.
I can build two chairs in a week, on average. A new iteration, like this, can take longer. Designs that I know by heart take less.
I have seen all the iterations of “the chair.” This is the one that immediately spoke to me, Good work.
Did you glue the comb together or is it cut from a 12/4 board? Is it steam bent or cut with a bandsaw? I figure bandsaw, but I thought I’d ask.
It’s two pieces of 8/4 glued. Bandsawn.
Chris, this is a really great chair. The evolution is so cool to watch. You mention your inner dissonance about vernacular pieces. I have an architect friend who called me on using the term in relation to my work. I wonder your thoughts. Here is his comment to me:
I don’t think you can really do vernacular in an organic sense. Real vernacular is just the construction, only lightly informed by related high styles, if at all. So it’s a method evolving out of tradition and necessity. In your case, you’re fully aware of the high style in your medium, and it informs your approach (even to the vernacular object I’m guessing), so even if the result is similar, it’s a slightly different route. But, this may be the best route to growing your competence in both since you’re initiating yourself into the trade here in the 21st century (that tradition /necessity thing is just an abstraction now, no longer handed down to us anymore).
Interesting thought experiement.
I’m not one to argue with others.
People say I’m not an anarchist, I’m not a furniture marker and that I don’t run a real publishing company (among other things). Long ago I decided to reject the labels imposed on me by others. And I allowed myself to say what my work is and what it is not.
I call these vernacular chairs, and others are welcome to agree or disagree.
Beautiful chair. I think my favorite bit is the tiny curved hand holds on the arms. Is the comb at your shoulder height of Megan’s? I’m 6’2″ and have yet to sit in a chair where the supports are in the “right” place. They always seem designed for someone about 5’4″. How is the 5th back stick? Is it comfortable? In the little I’ve read about chair making seems the recommendation is for an even number of sticks to bracket the spine.
The comb is right at my shoulder blades.
The thing about odd vs. even spindles is mostly bunkum with comb backs. We don’t sit in chairs perfectly straight-on. And many chairs (like this one) are designed to have the comb cradle your back before the sticks touch you. You don’t feel the sticks unless you try to (by leaning forward and scrunching back).
Yes, there are times when a spindle is poorly placed. Thoughtful chair design, prototypes and experimentation can mostly avoid that problem.
Just my experience. Much smarter people disagree.
It’s comfortable for me, too…which might seem impossible, but I have a long torso.
So, how does it sit?
It’s an excellent chair for lounging. Maybe an 8 or 9 out of 10.
Well I just love the chair. My hat is off to you Sir.
That must be an exagerrating problem. . .
Interesting comment about the photos. I have had similar frustrations photographing my own work, and never come to the same conclusion about how to deal with representing a more complex form. Any tips on how you accomplished it- the photos are, at least, very satisfying on this end.
It’s really, really beautiful – and I say that as an Irishman who sits down a lot.
It’s a very nice improvement. Extra spindles make a huge difference.
But I can’t love a low chair. I was forced to Cap’n Bob’s Seafood Shanty too many times as a child, and I develop a nervous tick on seeing a chair in this style. And I like to lean back, and being tall with a long torso, all of these chairs seem to dig under my shoulder blades.
These faults are all my own though. And I am looking forward to making a tall stick chair when the book comes out. I already have my heart set on a 7 or 8 spindle back. They are just breathtaking.
I agree this chair looks much more inviting (my thought when looking at the earlier iterations was: “I would never want to sit on that if I had a choice”). Is it actually more comfortable or does it just look more comfortable?
It’s amazing what a good cold beer can do after the “make pretty” phase, I can relate to that feeling. This one really stands out, very nicely done! The seat shape and saddling looks awesome, beautiful arms and hands, and the black metal straps are a nice detail on the gorgeous black walnut.
In my humble (?) opinion: stunning!
That chair has what the kids call “Gangsta lean.” I love it!
Speaking as someone who enjoys your appreciation of these chairs but doesn’t care for them personally, I think you’ve really made something beautiful here.
Beautiful Chris. Your passion and pursuit of excellence is inspiring. In all that you do.
You probably don’t want to be a chair model but it would add some perspective to see you or someone enjoying a bourbon while sitting next to a fire or looking out at a view from the front porch 🙂
All the best,
Good idea, Dave. I’ll try to find a butt model around here.
And thanks! Hope you are doing well in your new endeavor!
I love it. I want to make this chair.
If I didn’t know from past posts what went into this chair/design, I’d think it one of the most consciously modern chairs I’ve ever seen on here. It’s beautiful, regardless of any authorial direction of our eyes to the flaws. (also, now waiting for Ikea to putt out a chair called an “irländska” or the like…)
Well I saw the first pic and came down to comment but everybody else beat me to it. My favorite one you’ve done so far. That wood is perfect! I’ve seen too much walnut lately but that looks quite different. Like the curve on the arm rests too.
Fantastic Chair! My favorite of your Irish Chairs. I think the other comments better express my thoughts, so just keep it up. I can’t wait for the book!
I vote for number 3 ,and as my grandfather would tell me imperfections show it was handmade
I guess that you were exasperated that you couldn’t think of exacerbated.
I guess you were exasperated to not think of exacerbated.
Please delete my send post.
Fantastic Good Work.
Best chair yet. Sell plans, stat!
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