For the last few years, I’ve studied the world of campaign furniture and the history of the Roorkhee chair, an English form of military seating that appeared in the last days of the 19th century.
Most people have never heard of the Roorkhee. But many people have seen the chair that evolved from the Roorkhee chair – Kaare Klint’s famous “Safari Chair” of the early 1930s.
The chair is spare, comfortable and was ubiquitous in homes in the 20th century. Klint, who is considered the father of Danish modern furniture, took the design of the late-19th-century Roorkhee and simplified it.
This week I am in Germany with a class of nine students from all over Europe who are building an adaptation of Klint’s famous chair. Like Klint, we are building the chair from beech, with simple lines and nice leather upholstery.
Today we spent our time in the company’s Munich workshop turning down the dowels we need for the stretchers and cutting all the holes we need to make the chair pull itself together when one sits in it.
On Thursday, we head to a workshop dedicated to turning that is maintained by Dictum GmbH, the company that is sponsoring the class. I’ve never taught in the classroom Dictum has devoted to turning, but I do have one consolation: Most of the students have never turned chair parts so I might not look like a total dumbkopf trying to explain the process to them.
One of the saving graces during this trip has been the fact that I’m teaching the turning parts of the classes with Easy Wood Tools, which are made down the road from me in Kentucky. I’m a huge fan (I pay full price and blah, blah, blah), and it’s particularly gratifying to see woodworkers who have never turned before take to the tools and the lathe like nobody’s business.
That, quite frankly, is reason enough to teach here. And the Weiss beer. And schnitzel. And getting to drive on the autobahn. A lot.
— Christopher Schwarz