One of my hobbies is chairmaking. That statement might sound kinda dumb. After all, I’m a long-time woodworker and making wooden chairs is woodworking. No?
Making stick chairs uses another part of my brain. And any time I venture into building chairs I have to re-learn some of the rules. In some ways, chairmaking is more demanding than building cabinets. You have to create great joint strength with little material. You have to use wack-tastic unmeasurable angles. And curves…¦ everything is curved. It’s like a high school cheerleading team , and just as difficult to comprehend.
But in other ways, the craft of building stick chairs is forgiving. If the end result sits well, looks good and endures, then it’s a great chair (no matter how odd the building process). There is less measuring and more “cutting to fit.” The work requires as much eye skill as it does hand skill.
As I legged up a Chinese stool on Wednesday I uttered several unprintable curses. When I drove the first leg home into its mortise I blew out the seat’s grain around the exit hole. I always do that on my first leg.
In fact, I have a theory about chairs. I wonder if people began scooping out their seats (called “saddling”) to remove this blown-out grain. Then they found that these seats were more comfortable than flat seats.
This idea has just as much merit as my “early man had abrasive buttocks” theory of scooped seats.
After messing up the first mortise, I repaired the damage, got some coffee and waited for the glue to dry , and for my head to shift into the proper chair-making gear. It did. The next two legs went in perfectly. And by perfectly I meant that they will be tight when wedged.
– Christopher Schwarz
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