Chair making is an equal-opportunity agonizer. After the first day of dealing with spindles and steam-bending, we came back to our beach-town bungalow (price: $300 for the week!) and collapsed on the couches.
We each had a beer in hand and sat immobile for a good 30 minutes before we could get up the energy to scratch our noses. We were whupped like rented mules.
Today we got up, chugged the ibuprofen and headed back for another day at the salt mines, Dunbar-style. We started the day by saddling the seat. And I was wondering if I was going to have to visit a massage parlor on the boardwalk. (Piece of advice: Never order anything at a massage parlor with “happy” in the name. Happy Dragon, Happy Grapple, Happy Happy. Just don’t.)
But the seat saddling was easy and fast. Why? Eastern white pine. The other seats I’ve saddled have been elm or tulip poplar. The tulip poplar is OK. The elm makes me want to curl into the fetal position and suck my toes.
After saddling the seat, we started “legging-up” the chair, which is where you drill the holes for the legs in the seat at some wacky compound angles. Then you fit the stretchers. If you tried to describe it with geometry, your head would implode.
But Michael Dunbar at The Windsor Institute has a way of explaining this process that is clearer than anything I have ever encountered. I’ve read every book on Windsor chairs I have been able to get my hands on. I’ve taken two other classes on the topic. But Dunbar’s explanation is like someone propping your eyes open with toothpicks. You cannot help but see what needs to be done.
I legged up my chair in record time. I’ve built several Windsor-style chairs, but this was the fastest, most empirical and easiest time I’ve ever had legging up a chair. Kudos, Mr. Dunbar.
Of course, my head started to ache by 4 p.m. So I asked some really dumb questions. Kudos, Mr. Dunbar, for not laughing in my face. And as I plopped down in the couch in the beach bungalow tonight, I could barely think straight.
For the first time, I really, really understand the leg geometry. And it hurt.
Hope I get some more pain tomorrow.
– Christopher Schwarz
Other Geometry, Chair and Beer resources I recommend
– Founders Brewing (foundersbrewing.com)
– “Practical Shop Math” by Tom Begnal
– “Chairmaking Simplified” by Kerry Pierce
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