In the tool world there is an ugly (and erroneous) slur. When one company copies the tool of another company, they call it a “cheap Chinese copy.” Never mind that the copy was almost certainly commissioned by aggressive Westerners.
Anyway, I have no dog in this fight.
The real point was that today while I was pondering an odd mortise-and-tenon assembly I looked up at Senior Editor Robert W. Lang and said: “We just have to make an Ohio copy of this thing.”
In an interesting turn of events, we are building a copy of a fascinating, elegant and well-made stool that is supposed to be from China and is at least 100 years old. We’ll leave the provenance to the experts (or the Internet uber-skeptics), but this stool is definitely made using only hand tools and has seen a lot of real use. How do I know?
We have two stools, and we tore one of them apart.
I didn’t actually get to help take the antique stool apart (I have a reputation now after that handplane vs. hammer video). But once the sucker was apart I was permitted to go all Jack Klugman on it.
It’s an interesting piece of work. The entire stool is covered in witness marks from the craftsman who made it. There are mortise-gauge lines on every part. There is blow-out on some of the mortise rims. The shoulders of most of the tenons are undercut. And the tenons cheeks are definitely sawn by hand by a saw that wasn’t too aggressive.
After taking one stool apart and studying it carefully, I began making our cheap Ohio copies this morning. Of course, calling it a “cheap Ohio copy” is fairly hilarious. The staff has devoted at least 20 expensive hours to studying this tool and its joinery. Lang and I have both been sussing out the intricacies of its joinery.
(In an odd turn of events, both of us woke up in the middle of the night trying to reconcile the grain direction of the seat and the wedges driven into the tenons.)
This stool (and its copies) will be featured in the Fall 2009 issue of Woodworking Magazine. And though my name is likely to be on the article, I want you to know it was a group effort all around, from Lang’s design work, Megan Fitzpatrick’s nagging for us to get to the lumber store, Steve Shanesy’s offer to turn the seat and Glen just shaking his head as he watched Lang and I argue over whether the legs were angled at 13.5Ã?Â° or 14.5Ã?Â°. By the way, Bob was right.
- Christopher Schwarz