The ‘Dugout Chair’ Begins With a Rotted Stump
I first encountered the form in one of the many furniture books we had at Popular Woodworking Magazine. Soon after I started working at the magazine in 1996 I began poring through the books whenever I had a spare moment – attempting to get up to speed with all the different furniture styles out there.
The book that discussed the dugout chair said the makers – English or Irish – would literally dig or burn out the shape of the chair from a whole tree. The author marveled at the amount of work that would require. As did I.
As my woodworking library got bigger, I discovered other books that suggested the dugout chair was probably made more by Mother Nature than a woodworker. A rotted stump could be cleaned out and shaped. Then a seat could be fitted inside.
That made a lot more sense to me.
Today I picked up a rotted silver maple tree from a friendly local tree service and transported it back to my shop. Right now it’s about 48” long and 30” in diameter. But that’s going to change as I get out my chainsaw and hatchet.
This is going to be a fun piece that uses skills I don’t get to practice often – I’m going to fit the seat using Carl Bilderback’s “ticking stick” method, that he wrote about in a 2010 issue of this magazine. And I get to debark the stump and probably install some metal straps to keep the thing together (vintage examples all seem to have metal straps).
I’ll document the process here, so be sure to check back. And if you are totally nuts, be aware that the finished chair will be for sale. If you’re interested, contact me through my personal website: https://christophermschwarz.com/.
— Christopher Schwarz