In the June 2013 issue (#204) of Popular Woodworking Magazine I wrote about Wharton Esherick (read the article here) and got a bunch of e-mails regarding some of the pieces pictured in the article. One piece in particular seemed to garner more attention than the others, however. Wharton’s three-legged stools evidently were not only popular with his patrons, but with magazine’s readers as well.
The funny thing about getting requests for an article on how to make Esherick’s stools is that no two are the same. He made them from figured scraps of wood lying about the workshop. Esherick would sculpt the seats and shop apprentices would make the turnings and do the joinery (he loved sculpting and hated joinery).
The stools were a small project that could be done singularly, or in batches, as time permitted. He sold them relatively inexpensively which helped with cash flow for his studio. The designs were all very similar, incorporating all the same elements, but the final size was dictated by whatever shape the seat ended up.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when Chris Wong’s (flairwoodworks.com) Shop Stool Build-off contest came to a close and he announced the winners (see them here.) I immediately got an e-mail letting me know the overall winner was a stool inspired by the article on Wharton Esherick.
As soon as I looked at the stool I was sure I knew the chair that had inspired the contest’s overall winner, Neil Cronk. Esherick had purchased the contents of a wheelwright’s shop not far from his studio. The wheelwright had gone out of business and had plenty of steam bendings in inventory at the time. Not wanting to see the material go to waste, he proceeded to turn them into many different items. One of the most renowned is the wagon-wheel chair.
I sent a note to Neil congratulating him on his stool and asked if the wagon-wheel chair was indeed his inspiration. His reply was a bit of a surprise as he informed me that his stool was inspired by the chairs Esherick had in his dining room. Immediately I pulled up a picture of the’s hammer-handle chairs and saw how they influenced Neil’s stool. In similar fashion to his wagon-wheel chairs, Esherick had purchased several barrels of hammer handles. In his typical style, he turned them into something useful; chairs.
Evidently Neil had so much fun participating in Chris’s contest, he’s putting one of his own together on coffee tables. You can find out more about Neil Cronk, and his upcoming contest, on his Twitter feed @CronkwrightShop
The strangest part of this whole tail is, I just wrapped up a project that is inspired by Esherick for the upcoming June issue. For more details on that, you’ll just have to wait a bit.