The historical record is pretty clear. When it comes to chair joinery in vernacular furniture, most of the tenons and mortises are cylindrical. The most likely reason for this is you need only simple tools: a brace and bit to make the mortise, and a handplane to make the tenon. (You could also use a hollow auger, a lathe or several other methods to make the tenon. But using a plane is the simplest approach.)
To make a tapered joint, you need a reamer to enlarge the mortise to the correct shape. The tenon can be made simply with a plane. (Or you can speed up the process with a specialty tenon cutter, a lathe or other gizmos.)
Reamers show up in the historical record as a shop-made tool or something manufactured by a blacksmith or other metalworker. But they aren’t terribly common.
When I first started making chairs about 2003, I didn’t own a reamer. So I made all my tenons cylindrical. It’s fast. And when done properly, the joint is strong.
Chris Williams and I have long debated the merits of tapered joints vs. cylindrical ones. In the end, the reason I used the tapered joint in “The Anarchist’s Design Book” (and teach the method) is because it is more forgiving.
When you bore a cylindrical mortise, there is no way to fix an error in your angle. You are stuck with the result, like it or not.
When you ream a mortise, you can adjust a mortise that’s even 10° off (I’ve done it). That is reason enough to ream for me. And the extra expense of the reamer is more than justified.
We could spill endless pixels comparing cylindrical or tapered joints, pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. But in the end, I ream for forgiveness.
After all, isn’t this a Welsh stick chair of the kind made famous by John Brown? The guy who said there never ever should be a plan published for a Welsh chair? And who also said that people who sell plans should go out of business?
First, this is absolutely (and you know it hurts me to write an -ly adverb) not a Welsh stick chair. As I’ve written time and again, I call this form an American Welsh stick chair because it is designed for modern American woods and with details that make it as contemporary as I can manage. The “Welsh” part of its name is a nod to its origins. If you want to build a real Welsh stick chair, go to St Fagans, soak up the fantastic vibe there and get to work. Or get a good dose of it through Chris Williams’s new book “Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown.”
But still, why am I offering plans and templates?
OK, close your eyes and imagine… Wait, that’s not going to work because you have to use your eyes to read the next sentence.
OK, let’s say it’s your first ever day in music class. You’re sitting in a chair with your foreign-feeling trombone, violin or (God save my ears) a plastic recorder. The teacher then says: OK class, I’d like you each to compose a sonata in G, and please don’t forget to return to the tonic key during the recapitulation. I’ll be back at the end of the class to grade your work.
Before you can write music, it’s helpful to be able to play music.
Music class is the opportunity to learn your instrument by playing beautiful pieces composed by others. When I taught myself to play guitar about age 11, I played “Froggy Went A-Courtin” so many damn times I thought my sisters might murder me. So then I sang “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” about 60 times to torture them anew.
After learning hundreds of folk songs, standards and country tunes, I could feel their patterns in my hands as I moved them across the fretboard. I felt how suspended chords could brighten a progression. I knew so many songs composed with G, D and D chords that I also knew how odd (and wonderful) it was to encounter an A7 in a bridge. I could also spot chords that really didn’t have a name, made by people who had never formally studied music. Those were my favorites.
After a few years of playing other people’s tunes, I began to write my own. But I still continued to play other people’s songs in an effort to get inside their heads and make myself a better musician and songwriter.
So (if you are still awake at this point) this is why I offer explicit plans for this chair. If you want to become a chairmaker, it helps to learn the processes, joinery and setups while building someone else’s design. Some people do this by taking a class. Other people can’t afford that route, so plans and templates are an effective way to learn.
It is my sincerest hope that after you build a bunch of chairs that you will see the patterns and rhythms built into my designs (and the chairs of others). The language in my chairs is as straightforward as 12-bar blues. It ain’t jazz. Then, perhaps, you will be able to build chairs of your own devising.
And then maybe someday, we’ll have a world where every chair is different.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. We are working out the pricing on the templates that were designed and made by FirstLightWorks. We’ll have full details on them and their availability in short order. So I don’t have any more information to share just yet. Apologies.
Our warehouse has begun shipping out copies of “The Anarchist’s Design Book: Expanded Edition.” If you placed a pre-publication order, you will be notified when the book goes out. There were a lot of pre-publication orders, so it might take them a few days. (So don’t panic if you haven’t been notified.)
I received my copies today and am relieved. The bookmark ribbon came out nicely and the cover printing (which our pre-press people were nervous about) looks perfect.
Several of you have asked if we can include the bookmark ribbon in all our books. The answer is: Maybe. This is an experiment to see how we like it and to see if it’s worth the added expense and delay in printing. We had to send the book blocks out to a third party to install the ribbon, which added significant time to the whole process.
You can read all about the book, what’s new and what it’s about here.
If you own the first edition and would like to download a free pdf of the new edition, go here for simple instructions.
If you are not an anarchist and would like to complain about my deeply held personal beliefs, please click here.
And if you bought the book, thank you. Now I don’t have to get a job at the Big Boy down the street.
As a result, we have now eliminated the free pdf download for this book. The book is $49, the book plus the pdf is $61.25 and the pdf alone is $24.50.
Despite the fact that I am temporarily sick of this book (I get sick of every book after living and breathing it for several years), I’m excited to see the physical product. We did two new things with the manufacturing: We added a red bookmark ribbon to the book and we used a gloss black foil over the black cloth cover for the marriage mark diestamp. Black on black. The printer says the book looks great. I’m holding my breath a little.
While building the Staked Low Stool this weekend during a class, I discovered a significant keystroke error in my text. I also noticed an inconsistency between the cutting list and the text.
So yesterday I rebuilt the stool to confirm there weren’t other errors (there weren’t).
Here are the two known errors:
On page 92, the correct resultant angle for the stool is 21°, not 11°.
On page 99, the correct size of the legs is 1-1/2” x 1-1/2”, not 1-3/4” x 1-3/4”.
We will include an errata sheet inside every copy of the expanded “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” That sheet will also include a url for downloading a corrected chapter. The chapter will be updated electronically for customers who purchased the pdf.